Original post at http://sacredise.com/blog/?p=1506
As we gather for worship this coming Sunday, we may come seeking “blessing”. Or we may hear someone who has experienced some fortunate event in their lives praise God for God’s “blessing”. We may also be tempted to wonder, as we consider those who are “less blessed” than we are, what they may have done, or failed to do, in order to miss the blessing.
There is a dangerous delusion in our world that we get what we deserve. But, of course, grace tells us the xact opposite – we all get what we don’t deserve. But aside form an undeserved welcome into God’s family, we still don’t get what we deserve. As we so often tell our kids, the world is, in fact, not fair.
And this, whether we like it or not, is the Story of our worship this week.The Gospel reading is Jesus’ parable of the labourers who, though they started work at different times in the day, all received the same wage at knock-off time. Much like Jonah (in the related Old Testament reading) we may feel offended at the idea that some, whom we feel deserve punishment, don’t get it, and some, whom we feel do not deserve what they receive, get it anyway. But, as we enter this story, we are called to two responses:
- We need to release our need to be offended at those who receive what we feel they don’t deserve, even as we release our superiority over those whom we feel have ended up in trouble because that’s what they deserve.
- We need to recognise that, in the Reign of God, no one is deserving and we all come by grace alone. And this should lead us into celebration, gratitude and compassion.
Of course, this story seeks to teach us a new Language - that of generosity, sharing, and the valuing of people for their divine image, and not for thier achievements, wealth, or status. This is not just about the words we speak (especially to, and about, those whom we consider less than worthy), but about the tone we use, the actions we perform and the ways our lives communicate our faith (or lack thereof) in God’s economy of grace. Expect to be called to express thanksgiving, generosity (both in sharing our material possesions and in Spirit), and a sense of kindness and welcome toward others.
Symbols and Images of grace can be difficult to find in a world where meritocracy rules, but in our worship this week anything that speaks of the gratuitous generosity of God would touch our hearts. Of course, Jesus’ own image of labourers all being paid the same is powerful enough to carry our worship without adding anything else.
But, perhaps the toughest questions is how we can participate in Rituals that express this gratuitous, un-meritocratic grace of God. It may be fun to celebrate things that are not usually considered praiseworthy. Perhaps you coujld have a prizegiving of sorts in which people are awarded prizes for their warm smile, or their willingness to help, or the loudness of their laughter. This would be especially powerful if everyone received a prize, no matter who they are. If, in some way, people can be drawn into the story of this week in a physical, experiential way, that could be very powerful.
So, what ideas are you exploring for this Sunday’s worship? Which reading are you planning to focus on? How can you create an experience of God’s unmeritocratic Reign this Sunday?
For further refleciton on the Gospel reading, check out this blog post. And for other ideas for the worship, see this Lectionary Worship Resources blog post.