Readings 22 Sep 2002
25th Sunday of "Ordinary Time"
Exodus 16: 2 - 15
On their way to the promised land, the people of God reach upon a wilderness place. Its different, sparse. Perhaps they worry. And so they begin to complain! They want to go back to slavery under the Egyptians. At least life was 'known' there. God answers with a miraculous supply of food to eat from heaven. Isn't it easy to follow our faith when the going is good, but harder when life gets difficult? And that's when we need it most! This account of the history of faith bears the strong reminder that 'Its OK. God is still there'. Manna from heaven is the sign! Later it will be loaves and fish.
This psalm is a recital of all God's good deeds and blessings amongst the Israelites - in and through their collective story. It was likely written as a festival song of the people. Its first six verses establish how deserving God is of our praise. Verses 37 - 45 specifically recall God's leading of the people in the Exodus, recounted above, God's protection and provision.
Phillipians 1: 21 - 30
Paul encourages the Christian community in Phillipi to keep going in the face of hardship and opposition, to "live out your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ." As an old piece of wisdom said, “When things go bad, don't you go with them!" There is this quality of the process of christian living inherent in this rather than the end goal; its the getting there and remaining faithful in that which is important.
Matthew 20: 1 - 16
Matthew's Gospel reading today is the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. It strikes at our strongly-held notions of justice. The story might be told by Jesus in response to Peter's question of verse 27. Tales of workers employed in vineyards are common Middle Eastern stories, but this is by no means a typical one. Note the repetition of the phrase for people receiving "the usual daily wage". There is no injustice in this. But people do complain against God, crying, "Its not fair". This story is a reminded that none of us has a case before God. Instead we all rely on - and will receive - the compassion and grace of God.
Comment: [Early Sermon thoughts]
Like the early workers in the vineyard parable, these readings remind me of selective memory. I wonder if we suffer this in relation to God? Often we can begrudge God's goodness to others or overlook past blessings in bringing our complaints of unfairness before God. Is this a universal human behaviour? Certainly my children didn't need to be taught to utter, "Its not fair!"