This is the sermon I preached yesterday. Please ignore grammatical and other writing issues. A sermon is an oral event!
The good news — God provides.
The bad news — God provides.
As good ole Scooby Doo would say, “Ruh Roh?” How can that be? How can the same statement be both good and bad news?
Well, for a change let’s look at the good side first. God provides. From the beginning of the beginning, we believe god created this, all of it world upon worlds, all that there is. And God gave all creatures what they needed, a lush garden to live in to sustain. One of the points of the story of Adam and Eve, of how they messed everything up is that God didn’t abandon them. God was saddend by their betrayal, but God didn’t just zap them where they stood, God didn’t walk away in disgust. God fashioned and formed their bodies, and fashioned and formed what they needed to cover-up.
Fast forward in to our story from Exodus. God is providing these former slaves, runaway, rescued slaves with a way out, a way of freedom, and here they are free to create their own systems, their own ways—different from the pharoah’s, different from the power piled up at the top, different from a society filled with slaves at the bottom meeting the needs of a few wealthy and powerful. In this wilderness, this open space, not ruled by anyone, the people are hungry, so hungry for food, so hungry they want to go back, so hungry for something they change their own mind, they change their history—the pain of slavery and oppression-becomes a place of plenty—in their hunger and in their complaining.
I’m not sure about you, but as I read this story, I find my patience running thin—I don’t like to hear whining and complaining. I’d be tempted to just turn and walk away from such ungrateful folk. But the good news is God doesn’t. God provides. Manna in the morning, meat in the evening. It’s a new food for a new day. God provides enough for everyone. Their needs are met.
Let’s fast-forward again, now the story is changing the people are not in a place and land of freedom. By now they’ve developed their own group of landowners, and managers, and poor and to top that off-they are ruled over by strangers, by an emperor in Rome who declares himself king, king of the world. There are systems, customs, and norms in place. But God provides.
Jesus comes with his message of an alternative way, this thing called the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God. And to help us enter this kingdom, this new dimension Jesus uses these parables, these stories. This morning is the story of workers in the vineyard and whether they worked all day long, or half the day, or just for one hour of the day—they are given their reward. Everyone gets the same, everyone gets again enough.
Isn’t that cool! Isn’t that amazing! That’s so different from today. Where entertainers rake in mega-bucks and nurses and teachers, and child care workers those whose job isn’t playing a game, those whose job isn’t just singing and dancing, these folks who care for the oldest, the sickest, the weakest, the youngest, the most vulnerable and the most precious—these folks often don’t earn enough to raise their own families. God’s kingdom sure is awesome isn’t it? Wouldn’t we all want to just sign-up and move-in that reality? What’s stopping us?
Oh yeah the bad news. God provides. God provides the same. Doesn’t matter if you’ve been working in the vineyard, doesn’t matter if you’ve been getting up early for Bible Study, for worship every week, doesn’t matter if you’ve faithfully given your 10% of offering back, doesn’t matter if you’ve given up partying, fighting, drugging, God provides.
Face it, manna in the morning and meat in the evening didn’t stop the people of God from complaining. Now that they had enough, now that they all had just enough. There was no way for the some to gather and collect up more. That’s what we like to think, that’s what we tell ourselves, that’s what is told to us—we deserve more and if you can grab it, keep it, and what if you know—what if it’s a rainy day—that manna won’t last—so get out and get as much as you can, hold on to it, keep it. Too bad if that means someone else doesn’t get enough—that must mean they didn’t deserve it. They must be slow or lazy. Something’s got to be wrong with them. But that’s not how God’s stories go. God provides to all and for all enough. So, I bet the cries of I’m hungry were exchanged for whispers, and the sideways glances, and grumbles. Can you imagine everyone receiving the same bounty—the good the bad, the nice, the crabby, the one’s who worked all day, and the ones too sick, or too old, or too tired, too weak, and let’s be honest the too lazy. There’s always some of those right, some who will find any excuse to not work, to not carry the load. Yet God gives everyone the same, no one gets more, no more, no less. No one is more deserving or better.
So that’s the bad news. We people, all God’s people have a hard time with just being fair, we have a hard enough time just trying to be just to all. I think that’s what makes these words so hard for us to hear. So many of us, see the injustice in the world, and we all we can wish for is just to get what we deserve—punishment for the evil and rewards for being good. Face it so many of us are there. Hey, let’s be honest, that’s where I am. That’s where our society is. Somehow we’ve defined the good as those that have lots and lots. We are starting to call them job creators, and all we hear are folks who just want to keep every penny for themselves, they think they deserve it, that they’ve earned it. We think we should be able to hop in a car anytime and drive anywhere; we want our gas our energy and we want it cheap—doesn’t matter the cost to others, to our grand and great grandchildren. We want it all now.
We call this a Christian nation, yet poverty is on the rise, and the wealthiest are getting wealthier. Hate and violence is seducing us to into thinking they are the way. God provides us with another way, another way to see things, another way to live. But we’ve got a word for them, a message for them that they’ve forgotten, or perhaps never really heard–God provides. That’s what has sustained the hungry in whatever wilderness they’ve found themselves—those truly hungry. That’s how God wants it enough for everyone God provides us with forgiveness, grace, and mercy, and besides food, clothing, shelter that is something we all need. Because the moment I can’t rejoice in these stories of manna for everyone, the moment I am not hungry for food for all, that’s the moment I, you and me, have put ourselves first. When these words turn from good to bad, that’s when we need God’s grace the most, and you know what God provides. Amen.