Sept. 21, The Workers

Title:Sept. 21, The Workers

 Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 – "Rooflines of Port Royal" (full size gallery)

Catherine was celebrating her 60th birthday so were not at church this week to comment on the service or Gospel on the River

The following is the commentary for the week by Canon Lance Ousley of the Diocese of Olympia

Entitlement robs us of gratitude. An ungrateful heart is blinded to blessings and breeds discontent and a sense of entitlement. Entitlement, rooted in self-centeredness, causes parsimony. Likewise, it is difficult to share of yourself or your resources when you are discontented. Entitlement, ingratitude, self-centeredness, discontentment, and parsimony all create a barrier to our relationship with God, other people and the whole of Creation and thereby, create a barrier to being a good steward. Our readings this week each address the ideas of entitlement and ingratitude from one or more perspectives.

Our 1st reading is from Jonah in the wake of God’s decision to spare the people of Nineveh in response to their turning from their wickedness. Jonah is angered by God’s mercy upon Nineveh because he doesn’t feel Nineveh’s Assyrian inhabitants deserve it, after all they are not Israelites. Jonah’s attitude toward them reflects a sense of entitlement that hordes God’s blessing for Israel only. In his hardness of heart and corporate self-centeredness Jonah would rather die than see God’s mercy shared with Nineveh. How is it that Jonah’s own prophetic success with the people of Nineveh convincing them to repent of their ways still leaves Jonah in discontent? As God provided the bush for Jonah’s shade, the worm to destroy the bush and a wind to blow hotly on him, God gives Jonah a lesson about divine mercy and the source of all beings. Jonah and we hear that God loves all people, not just those chosen to be God’s messengers in the world. There is a clear message here to reflect God’s mercy and compassion in the world to all people, breaking down the barriers of entitlement.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians takes a different tack on the subjects of entitlement and ingratitude than the antagonists in our 1st reading options. Paul champions a selfless and grateful heart, even in the midst of suffering, for the sake of the "gospel of Christ" for the benefit of the world. Paul encourages the Philippians to continue to share themselves with others even in the midst of suffering, as he does with them. There is no entitlement here, only joyous gratitude willing to share the joy with others.

In our Gospel lesson Jesus presents a parable of the vastness of God’s kingdom to us this week in the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. Here we find the laborers who joined the workforce early in the day frustrated by the wages that the late-comers receive at the payout. The notion of what is "deserved" by oneself compared to others or vice-a-versa has overtones of entitlement. Jesus has the Landowner ask the complainant, "Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?" Two issues come to mind here for me. One is the fact that we all belong to God as created by God. And two, as created by God we also have been created in God’s image. In the Imago Dei, then, wouldn’t it reason that we, too, should be generous with all that we are and all that we have for the benefit of all whom belong to God? Entitlement is not a characteristic exemplified by God in Christ, nor is self-centeredness, ingratitude, parsimony, ingratitude, or discontentment. These are counter to the image of God. But practicing good holistic stewardship, sharing freely of our selves and of our resources and caring for Creation, reflects the image of God to the world.

How then, shall we labor and live?

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