Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Year B Proper 7 WED Not Karma, Grace

Year B Proper 7 WEDNESDAY, 27 June 2018 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“Not Karma, Grace” 
Collect: O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Matthew 20:1-16 ‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard... 

Wrestling with Grace. We always have and we always will. For many of us, that little voice of “Not Fair!” or “They Don’t Deserve That!” rears its ugly head. It comes out of the best of us, and it is so insipid.  

In Jesus’ parable, those who were laboring in the Vineyard all day thought that because of the Owner’s generosity that would get incrementally more, even though the contracted wage was what it was. The calculations involved make sense in the world we find ourselves in, but in the calculations of the Kingdom of God things are different. The Economics of the Kingdom are about the Process more than the Outcome.  

When I am with my daughters, and they are making something, I am with them, doing it, not because of what they will produce. I am with them to be with them. Play is the work of children. It teaches discipline, stick-to-it-tiveness, resilience, persistence, and joy in accomplishment. As they get older, they create things worth keeping. But if you had children, think of how often your fridge is covered in some work of art or another. We cover our fridges because of love, not the stick figure that looks like it might be a dog. But as they grow and develop, that work, and those creations are more about the outcome than being together. And I think that is where the shift happens. When we begin to think about the bottom line, and listening to that dreaded station: WII-FM (What’s In It For Me?) 

The people in the Vineyard were working, and somewhere along the way it became a drudgery and not a privilege. When we are working in the Kingdom, we are invited into Holy and Wonderful work. It is precious and wonderful. But, it is still work. We do it out of love, not out of duty. When it becomes an obligation we need to rethink, recommit, re-envision. We may have to stop, and let someone else do it if it is not done out of love. 
Our faith is not built on doing enough good to get a reward. That is karma, getting what we deserve. We teach and preach Grace, a wonderful, surprising, undeserved gift. And that is what Jesus is trying to show us, again and again and again. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “...I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45) 

In the story, everyone got what they were supposed to get, what they promised that they were getting. “Are you envious because I am generous?” the Owner asks. Sometimes we are. We forget that God is a God of Abundance. We do not follow a tit-for-tat God, where the Universe is some Zero Sum game. We follow a God in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  

In our Journey, we find that the Destination is not the Reward, the Journey is. My favorite quote, you have heard it before and you will hear it again. “We are put on earth but a little space to learn to bear the beams of Love.” -William Blake And part of that is a revamping of how we see things, and how we see our part in it. 

Are we here to be good enough to get our reward, heaven? That is Karma. And if the outcome was all that was important, if that is the case, then God could have snapped celestial fingers and granted our wish like some cosmic fairy godfather. But God is wanting us to be in on the adventure, and invites us to be friends and colaborers. What a privilege! What an adventure! “We are put on earth but a little space, to learn to bear the beams of Love.” Amen. 

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Blessings, Rock