Worship September 24, 2023 – The 17th Sunday after Pentecost
The bulletin for this week may be found by looking under "downloads" at the bottom of this post.
Discomfort: Sign of Grace?
Poor Jonah. The guy never could get comfortable. He was uncomfortable with his God-given call to preach to Nineveh; he was uncomfortable in the arms of the sailors as they hoisted him over the boat’s edge and tossed him into the sea; he was uncomfortable as the ocean’s raging waves flung him about like flotsam; he was—undoubtedly—uncomfortable in the fish’s belly; and he was uncomfortable and downright angry with God’s mercy on the people of Nineveh. Jonah had a hard time getting comfortable with himself, and, even more so, Jonah was uneasy embracing the wideness of God’s grace.
The same can be said about the laborers in Jesus’ parable here in Matthew 20. The laborers who came in the early morning hours grumbled against the landowner because they were paid the same as others who started later and worked fewer hours. These laborers are ill-at-ease with the landowner’s choice “to give to this last the same as I give to you.” Like Jonah, they are uncomfortable with the unchecked mercy offered by the landowner/God. God doesn’t play by our rules, and that can be very discomforting for us all.
Our discomfort with grace manifests itself in all sorts of ways. It can be discomforting for us to engage the poor and the outcast of our society. It can be discomforting for us to welcome immigrants into our communities. It can be discomforting to address the pervasive racism that still surrounds us. And it can be very discomforting for us to open our lives to the transforming power of the cross of Christ, whereby “the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matt. 20:16).
Could it be that the more uncomfortable we become with the reckless love of God, the closer we are to understanding the meaning of grace?
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