Our history together and our future still ahead depends much on your response to the Jesus whose stories we have been sharing with one another. John, Jesus’ most beloved friend, says that he wrote his gospel stories in order that you and I might, “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:31). Life in Christ—the apostle Paul’s favorite phrase.
Kingdom is a big idea word. We may talk of building our own kingdoms today, but in truth we own little and control little. We are not queens or kings of much. Kingdom is no small thing. Even an insignificant kingdom—such as Israel for example—would have history, wealth, organization, institutions, hierarchy, celebrations, traditions, military and power. Thus, one kingdom overtaking another kingdom is no small thing either. Such an invasion and overcoming would require spectacular means—whether through cunning, coercion, violence, or stubborn fortitude—kingdom work was glorious and grand.
A story out of its context, especially a story that includes morally questionable or outright immoral behaviors, leads the most reverent amongst us to make up all kinds of excuses for the seemingly out-of-line notions conveyed. After all, only good people and good behaviors lead to truth – so we are prone to believe.
Imagine you are in south Texas, a place with no shortage of people in need. You are there with a well-known and respected physician going about his work of healing and serving his fellow Texans. He is, by all accounts, a servant, sacrificing acclaim and prosperity to serve his neighbors in need. One day a clearly desperate woman enters into his healing tent. She is not a Texan. In fact she is from Mexico and while no one is sure if she is here legally, odds are by her dress and her broken-English that she is not. The woman walks up to the physician and begs his assistance with the plea of someone who is in obvious pain.
What would you expect this respected and servant-hearted man to do? What if he did nothing? Literally. He said nothing and completely ignored the woman without even a glance her way.
We often let our society and our own fears convince us that we live in a world of scarcity, a world that doesn’t have enough of what we need. In doing so, competition, success and money become the lenses by which we see and treat one another. Not only that but we get ourselves caught in what seem like endless cycles of lies, not realizing how absurd it is that we are going around and around, never receiving the joy and fulfillment we think is coming to us.
Against this world of scarcity, Jesus tells the parable of the Compassionate Employer in Matthew 20:1-26.
“(…) the minute we abandon (God’s) story, we reduce reality to the dimensions of our minds and feelings and experience…” – Eugene Peterson
We have to make decisions about the everyday stuff of life – money, taxes, schools, houses, etc. – but, in Christ, we are now free to make choices based on a much bigger story. We are free to not depend on those things to bring us goodness and wholeness.
Sometimes you run across an expression that captures what you are thinking or feeling in a much more clear and comprehensive way then you ever could. Have you ever read a paragraph that summed up your thoughts on an idea with perfection? Ever heard a stanza in a song or dialogue in a movie that described your exact emotions in that moment? Sure you have, we all have. Well, I ran into one of those expressions a week or so ago in preparation for today.