The Unfair Math of God's Grace
“That’s not fair.” Remembering what it was like to parent younger children, I heard that phrase regularly. As they got older it wasn’t always that direct, but implied as the counting and competing for time, resources, and my energy would be calculated by one teenager or young adult or the other. This weekend we hear the parable in Matthew 20:1-16 of “the workers in the vineyard” or “the generous landowner” or as one biblical theologian suggests in this reflection “The New Math of the Kingdom of God” . What is fair? Who is deserving ? What is the kingdom of God like?
As we continue our September preaching series on forgiveness, this weekend we will build upon the two previous weeks. Moving from forgiving ourselves to forgiving one another, we now explore forgiving God. Is that a thing? This aspect of forgiveness is more challenging to explore as shame or fear may thwart our admitting that there is anger or resentment when God does not act in ways that seem fair to us or meet our expectations.
In the Monday noon bible study when we read Matthew 20 we discussed what is sometimes called a “deathbed confession”. When at the very end of life someone asks God’s forgiveness on their deathbed is the slate wiped clean of a lifetime of sin and forsaking God? Is that fair? How does that work?
In the Wednesday morning Lectio bible study when we read this weekend’s gospel someone shared this prayer found in their bible next to story of the Workers in the Vineyard:
Are you for Real? Prayer from Catholic Youth Bible
Lord, could you really be such a generous God? I have heard that you offer the same welcome to the sinner as to the saint. That you walk with the angry as well as the joyful, and can embrace the hurtful as well as the helpful. That you even offer the exact same love for the last to to turn to you as you do for the first.
That’s just not the way it is done around here, God, so excuse me if I have a hard time believing. But then, I’ve heard it said that you are as patient with the doubtful as you are with the faithful.
If you are this type of God, then please be with me right now. I need to talk to someone who understands and loves me in spite of my doubts and sin. I need a God who breaks the rules to let me know how much I am loved.
If you are indeed this kind of God, thanks! Thanks for being so crazy with your love that you would allow someone like me to hang around you. Promise to stay with me as I learn to trust in you and your acceptance of all people. Amen.
The Catholic Youth Bible: pray it, study it, live it New Revised Standard :Catholic Ed. 2000
Join us this weekend as we explore some challenging territory and listen together to God’s word. May that prayer from the Catholic Youth Bible inspire your prayers. May tough parables like this one encourage you to step into the fray of the challenges of God’s grace and forgiveness. May this month of September with our focus on forgiveness be an invitation for you to learn some “new math”, make fresh starts and listen deeply for how Jesus is calling you to love, serve and grow.