Sunday, 24 September 2017

A workers reward

Equal pay for equal work.  That is a motto for today and has been for an extensive period of time.  Indeed it is or should be equal pay in the world around us for an equality in work and contribution.  Yet it is often the case where some are more equal then others and where there is an inequality in power the likelihood of an inequality to exist increases.  In Christ's parable about the workers in the vineyard (Matt. 20.1-16) there is an inequality in pay and work and power.  Or is there.  Yes, perhaps what the owner does is of consequence in levelling the playing fields but he is using an inequality in power to do so.  I think if I had worked in the fields for longer than everyone else I would also be a little bit peeved in seeing the inequality that power has created to benefit the "lazy".  Do I not have rights as well?  I was able to be up at dawn and willing to work just as much as the others could have been.  There is a certain amount of inequity in this situation even if the owner can do with his money what he likes.  We always consider it from the owners point of view not from the viewpoint of the workers.  What does this largess mean for those who have worked?

There is no question that the power of the owner is sufficient that he can do what he wants.  That is not an issue.  If we are to be concerned about equality what question needs to be asked in terms of those who have been employed?  I am sure a rights lawyer would quite rightly say that one has to look at the contract before signing. True.  We also know that the contract with the later workers was a bit loose as the wage mentioned was "fair".  From the later workers perspective the wage received was probably a very fair one but each group was probably somewhat miffed that each group after received the same.  The question I ask is what justice is there here when power is greater and it is at the whim of power that generosity is created?  Is the expectation then for us that no matter what we contribute we should receive the same reward?  That would certainly rock the economics of the system that we currently have.  If those with power were expected to have the largess to contribute equal wages to all.  Then we could truly realise that any and all contribution to our own commitments should be as equal by all.

Did we come late and is our pay equal?

We would then ensure that everyone has the ability to contribute to our faith endeavours, our social endeavours and our environmental endeavours as equally as everyone else.  That would be an expectation which we could hardly deny and our ten percent would be equal to everyone's ten percent of giving.  However, this is not the economic reality.  We live in inequality of both power and finances.  Our true dilemma is not one of equality but one of sacrifice.  How much are we willing to sacrifice to ensure that there is a semblance of equality or at least a striving for equality?  The Philippians author in his struggles of commitment (Phil. 1.21-24) brings this to the fore.  It is a struggle to determine what is the best for the community rather than ourselves.  Power inequality notwithstanding suggests a certain amount of "I" in decisions. In our circumstances the greater faith demand is for the "We".  Our sacrifice is for the greater good.  Those working early need to realise that it is there sacrifice to allow for a greater equality for all as they do not know the circumstances of the later arrivals.

We ourselves do the same when we try to make statements around equality.  We do so from our own power bases rather than looking at the good of the other and the community.  What we believe to be right as far as we are concerned is the right answer but this may and often is not correct.  In looking at the whole we actually need to factor in the experiences of the other which we cannot do without listening and loving with a compassionate heart.  We have to sacrifice something of ourselves to enable community to form.  We actually have to sacrifice our power and our authority to enable community to form.  We cannot expect others to do the work and expect to get the same wage.  We must contribute our own worth to enable the whole to come together as a functioning whole.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Forgiveness through different eyes

We all know what forgiveness looks like, even if we do not wish to entertain it when things go against us.  Peter asks how many times to forgive and Christ ripostes with a parable (Matt. 18.21-35).  This hard response is what we consider to be forgiveness.  The ability to give a person the benefit of the doubt and to ignore the hurt to ourselves.  Or at least subsume it in a way that will not effect our own psyche.  To reach out in a loving manner knowing that it hurts to embrace someone who has wronged us and is capable of re-offending, time and time and time again.  What about the person who has done the wrong thing or voiced the wrong concerns or demeaned the other and thus requires forgiveness?  Is there something here in this action of this person that requires us to rethink ourselves, for it is us we are referring to when we are in the wrong as much as the other?  Forgiveness also has to rise within our own selves when we are that person who is acting so against Christ and not loving as we should.

We are so guilty, especially in the small things in life, let alone the greater.  How many times I wonder do people complain about others, in a faith setting, when it comes to the contribution that they are making?  or perhaps when things do not go quite the way we want them to and we lash out at authority simply to rid ourselves of our own frustrations?  We are so judgemental of those around us that we forget to look closely at ourselves.  Paul in his letter to the Romans makes this clear (Rom. 14.1-14) and yet we are still so dreadful at fulfilling our obedience in Christ that we blame everyone else.  We are asked to give of ourselves.  We are not asked to make a judgement on whether others are doing the right or wrong thing in the eyes of God.  Yet, we so often do, we make judgement calls on what everyone around us should or should not be doing.  We do not respect other's decisions with regard to what God has asked of them but wish to impose what we think they ought to do. Or more often what we think God wants them to do. We often make decisions for others because 'we know them' rather than allowing them to make their own decisions.  We often assume a response rather than allowing others to express a response.  Even a negative response is a response that needs to be taken seriously.

Only when we begin to forgive ourselves do we truly forgive

Once we begin to look closely at our actions we then need to actually begin the process of forgiveness by loving ourselves.  In the acknowledgement of our judgementalism we begin to see our own interactions in the light of God's love.  We begin to understand that God has called us out of our own slavery to the hubris, pride and sin of thinking that we are up there with God.  In beginning to understand our own faults and loving ourselves we begin the process of redemption.  Just as the Israelites had to trust in God fully and leave their wants and selves behind in the flesh pots of Egypt They had to journey away from self repression towards the fullness of God allowing God to dispose of the delights in the waters of the Red sea (Ex. 14.19-ff).  Only when we truly surrender to what God requires of us we will be able to give to the extent that God requires.  By giving way our judgements we allow God to judge.  By allowing God to flow into our lives we are able to allow our love to flow into the things we give.

In asking how many times to forgive we forget that each time it means that we have to for give our selves.  We need to have the humility to accept God's wishes and give ourselves fully.  It is we who are so often on the wrong side of Christ that need to learn how to forgive our own selves before we begin to turn to others in hope of their forgiveness.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Rendering and submission

The passage from Romans (Rom 13.1-10) has Paul telling us to be submissive to the authority of governments and those who have a valid authority over us.  This is a fine sentiment but when it comes in a time when our authorities appear to have no sense of justice or enabling peace we doubt the wisdom of this course of action.  Yet, for us this is a point that we need to ponder especially when that authority asks us to give taxes, financial support, etc to the rule of law.  As Christians are we right to withhold such things if the financial offerings are not going towards the cause of justice and righteousness?  We may say yes and others would say but hang on we all live in this world and some of the money is being used correctly and so we should go with the benefit of the doubt.  What pertains to the wider community also pertains to the smaller communities that make up our society.  How can we ensure that justice and righteousness prevails within our faith community if we are not brave enough to stand up for what God wants?

In Matthew's gospel Christ speaks about going after the one rather than the many (Matt. 18.12-14).  We have a greater tendency in our lives at both the societal level and the faith level to turn towards the majority rather than going out of our way for the minority or even the embattled singleton.  Either that or we overlook the faults in one rather than looking to those who suffer as a result of power.  In the one case we render to the will of a large group what may be undeserving and in the latter we submit in fear to the implied power of a minority, which is the reverse of what following Christ implies.  We are asked to render to those in need not to those who have.  Our sacrifice in terms of money, power, time, etc is for the benefit of those who are unworthy in our eyes but are worthy in the eyes of God.  It means going out of our way to respond to those in need over and above our own.

Have we rendered or submitted to evil rather than to God's promises?

In making our wants into the wants of God we are not submitting ourselves before God but rather placing ourselves on the pedestal to try and emulate God.  We know best. In coming to render to Caesar within our parish or faith lives we surrender to those whom we believe have power and not to God.  In submitting, we should submit to what God is asking of us not what others are asking.  God takes our lives and asks us to reach out in compassion and justice to those around us.  But it means submitting to God's ask.  In rendering our obligations both financial and service we render them to God and ask God to do with them as God wills not as we will.  God asks us to lay our lives on the line and go out of our way to assist those who are weaker and more lost then ourselves.  God does not ask us to look after the 99.  We reach out our hands here today to receive the sacrament of God's flesh and blood to strengthen us so that we may give to God that which God asks for. So what obligations are placed upon us at this moment of receiving?

It means a burden that is more than we think we can bear.  It means losing those things that we want and allowing those things that God wants.  It means fulfilling the obligations that are laid upon us, through our faith in God and our belonging to a faith community.  It means that the community of God comes before our own needs and it means sacrificing our ideals for the ideals of God.  Only then can we truly say that we have fulfilled what Paul would have us do and what Christ commands us to do so that there may be rejoicing in God's presence and here in our lives.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Picking up and laying down

Today we have such a storm of opinion running through the Australian public that is becoming increasingly audible and I am certain will become increasingly vitriolic.  The discussion around same sex marriage is hard to divorce oneself from at the present time but it is something that actually needs to be contemplated in terms of what are we prepared to give up to God?  In today's gospel from Matthew Christ is clear when he says "Anyone who wishes to be a follower of mine must renounce self; he must take up his cross and follow me." (Matt. 16.24).

In looking at the marriage debate all I see are those with egos trying to impose their own distorted views of what God wants on others.  They are holding on to their own egos to take the place of God rather than listening to God's heart and following in her steps.  If we call ourselves Christians and are so involved in our own fears our own misunderstandings and our own wants then we have failed in the first step that Christ asks of us.  In the end this way leads us away from obtaining those things that God has prepared for us.  If we look at the burning bush episode (Ex. 3.1-15), which appears to have very little to do with Gay rights or anything else, we can discern through the Judaic interpretations that Moses may have been clinging to other ideals apart from God that were relevant for his time and culture.  In doing so he angered God and started to fall away from the possibilities that God had in store for him.  The ideals which may have been admirable, concern for his older brother's status, in the culture were contrary to what God had in store for him.  It is something that he had to give way to, to give up, his own self perceptions in order to fulfil God's commandments.

Give your life generously. It is not the burden you think it is.

While we can think of the larger picture of the debate around Equality in marriage we also need to draw this understanding to our own views on our faith journey.  For example, one of the things we have difficulty with is giving to God on an individual basis. Moses eventually gives his all to God but as a result of his resistance to God's will he is actually barred from taking on the priestly role later in life.  In giving as God requires us to give we give of our all not halfheartedly as Moses did.  In not taking up the burden that God has set for us we do not reap the full benefits of God's grace as in the same vein as Adam and Eve we deny God's will.  Christ reminds us that we are asked to take up the cross, the burden may be something we think is hard but in fact is light as a result of God's grace.  It is when we make the sacrifice of our beliefs and begin to give ourselves over to what God wants is when we begin to grow.  This means that we need to pray because how can we know God's wishes if we do not talk to God.  It means we have to listen because if we do not listen how can we carry out the things God wishes us to do.  It means that we undertake to do those things that we have heard and commit to a path that God wishes.

So, if we are asked as we are every year to give of ourselves to God by the Church, the parish, the charity, the job, etc what do we do?  Well usually we are flippant and say that it does not concern us or we cannot as we are over committed or... and we make up our excuses.  We do not pray, we do not listen, we do not commit.  We choose for ourselves and not for God.  We turn away from the source of grace in our lives.  We believe that our lives are more important rather than the life that God wishes for us.  In these times of political turmoil and when we are asked to give more of ourselves we need to pray to God and listen to her response.  Our giving should be sacrificial but it may be more sacrificial in aspects that we least expect.  It is when we pick up the burden that God gives to us that we find ourselves guided and directed by God's grace.