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Getting back up!

  • Posted on Oct 3, 2017

Meditation on Sunday Sermons of September 24 and October 1, 2017

So the last will be first, and the first will be last. Matthew 20:16 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

That’s not fair! We’ve heard that phrase from our young children and our teenagers. We’ve said it ourselves. As adults, it seems like we should be able to control the fairness of our own little worlds from time to time. Maybe not the greater world, but in our own little corner of the great universe, we should have some sense of order and fairness. Not only do the Israelites complain to Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, the disciples surely cried “It’s not fair!” when Jesus told them the parable of the workers in the vineyard. How could those who show up at the end of the workday be paid the same as those who come bright and early in the morning?

The kingdom of God is all abut a new way of being–of living in God’s love. And, at first, newness doesn’t seem quite fair. Let’s take a common place example of newness—our car. Newer models come with a great many innovations. I do love my heated seat! But I find one thing about my car frustrating–in fact, I find it UNFAIR. The CHECK ENGINE LIGHT! I have always dutifully taken my car in when the check engine light comes on. But I am also finding that when I take in my car for its semi-annual check and drive home….in the next few days, the check engine light comes on! Then goes off. Then on! Something doesn’t seem fair about this. It feels like a racquet to get me to spend more money on non-essential parts for my car. An inconvenience of my time and an extra unnecessary cost.

Most days I pine for the local trusted mechanic of days of yore (kind of like the Israelites pining for Egypt) In my youth, I would drive my little simple car down to the Esso station and get the trusted mechanic to check out the car. Back then, things weren’t so complicated. Like the local grocer, bank etc, most things seemed to run according to plan with trusted folks. Life seemed fair. In fact, folks that bring their car in regularly shouldn’t have the Check Engine Light come on and those that aren’t caring for their cars properly should break down!!!

So why does Jesus tell this parable? What is it about God’s Kingdom that trips us up? It’s that God cares about each one of us equally REGARDLESS OF HOW WE CARE FOR OUR CARS OR OUR LIVES. In fact, GOD IS NOT ABOUT MERITOCRACY OR WHAT”S FAIR. Tit-for-tat is not in God’s lexicon. In fact, God will care for each one of us no matter when we show up.

Sometimes life seems infinitely unfair in deeper ways. Ways that make us fall to our knees because we don’t know what else to do. Surely the people of Las Vegas are falling to their knees in grief and disbelief over the senseless tragedy of the last days. In fact, it seems like there is a boatload of tragedy to go around these days–the flooding of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the complete devastation of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria and Mexico City by the earthquake. And now Las Vegas and the mass shootings. It is enough to bring us all to our knees. The discussion of kneeling for our National Anthem seems less important now. Falling to our knees is sometimes the only thing we can do.

Kneeling is a very vulnerable position going back to kneeling before liege lords, kings and queens. You cannot attack another when kneeling. It is position of humble reverence. There are so many important rituals of our lives in which we kneel. Perhaps most important is when we kneel to pray or receive communion. However, humble and reverent kneeling has never been popular in our secular culture. Kneeling connotes weakness and failure. Not so for the spiritual life.

When medieval monks were asked how they practiced their faith, they would often reply: By Falling Down and Getting Up. Again and Again. The great spiritual writer Mark Nepo says that “in the spiritual life, falling down and kneeling is not about failure, it is how we learn.” Mark Nepo should know. He is a cancer survivor and been through many cancer surgeries and treatments. The day after one of his surgeries, a nurse came in Nepo’s hospital room and threw back the covers, proclaiming: “It’s time to get you out of bed.” Nepo could hardly move. He ached everywhere. He shook his head. The nurse then reached over and moved his legs and body so that he was sitting on the edge of the bed. Nepo moaned. Then, the nurse took out a cool washcloth and wiped Nepo’s foreheard. She reached out her hand and as she lifted him to a standing position, she leaned over and said in a firm whisper, “THE REST OF YOUR LIFE STARTS HERE.” How many times have we thought…I just can’t get up again….from this failure, this illness, this situation. And the rest of our life starts in that moment when we make the decision to stand up once more and move back into life. Think of the people of Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Las Vegas. They have fallen. They will rise up again. And God will be by their side. On our side too, when we fall. (c)2017 The Rev. Martha N. Macgill