Jesus Wants to Know…Why Should I Not Give?

(Hand up) “‘Xcuse’ me! I got a question.” Across this week, kids back to school interrupted their teachers like this. Those teachers, who’d spent a week getting their classrooms in good and perfect order had a sinking feeling. From this question on, things are gonna be outta control. ‘Never the same. True. Jesus does the same to/for us as that little kid. Just as we ask him questions, he has some questions for us. Sure, Jesus comforts, soothes and saves us. But, especially by his questions, he also insists on turning our world upside down. The expected order is disordered. We get schooled in how to see and live in a whole new way. Three of his questions have focused our worship lately. “What do you come to see?” he asks. Focus. Guard your heart. Open your ears. SEE ME, says he. “Didn’t you just know? I have to?” asks Jesus. “I have to know/do my Father’s business: lost and found! He urges: Know this business. Lost and found! It’s yours, too! Teach it to your own! And today, Christ asks us one more thing. “Why should I not give?” It might be the most demanding question of all. Clearly, it’s the most surprising!

We just heard the story. Jesus says God’s Kingdom’s like the vintner who goes out hiring workers all across the day. He agrees to terms with each. The longest and shortest servants are paid equally. The 8 hr. folks complain the 1 hr. folks got too much. They got jipped! In our day, that owner’d get hauled before the National Labor Relations Board for unfair hiring practices. Jesus says, “Not so fast.” Here’s the thing. The Vintner in the story stands for God! And God asks us, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Do you begrudge my generosity?” Jesus says, in the Kingdom the last will be first, the first last. Christ leaves us with a question ringing I our ears, “Why should God not give… as God chooses? As a result: all order is disordered. And, like the teachers in the classroom, we are shown: we are not in charge!

You and I can’t begrudge God’s giving. Not by our meager sense of order/fairness. Not by our traditions. Not by our rules. God rewards as God rewards, rejects as God rejects, forgives as God forgives, loves as God loves. I guess I can say from the pulpit what

my grandma said in our living room. “Love lands on a cow pie.” (Not her exact words). She simply but colorfully meant: there’s no explaining it. “It’s too high, too deep for words.” That’s how the Bible says it! And God’s love is more amazing still. If there’s a boundary we don’t set it. ‘Can’t see it. ‘Don’t know it. Our rules don’t apply. Not even our church rules. We’re moments from the Lord’s Table. I appreciate the tale of the new preacher after a long-beloved pastor. Within weeks: trouble. The complaint: You don’t do communion right. “What? Why?” “You don’t go over and touch the radiator before you serve us!” (Gesture: question.) The young soul called the old saint for the right in this ritual. Explanation. “Nothing holy about it! I just did that to clear any static electricity before putting that fluid-filled metal cup to anyone’s lip!” Thus endeth the Holy Mystery. Congregation: spared forever being “The Church of the Holy Radiator!” God’s holiness is more! God’s rules are unruly. Ours, not so much. The church says only the Elder can pray the central communion prayer! Would it not work if we did not? [Donatists 3 c.] We know better: there weren’t holier hands @ M.O. than Eleanor’s, or here than [TJ, BM, MM] many. It’s not who holds the bread/cup, but who is in them!

We cannot always understand God’s giving. If I live to be 1000, I will never understand why Jesus would do the cross for me! And I admit sometimes, ‘not too sure why for you, either. (No offense!)  All I know is Jesus says of the communion bread, “My body, given for you; my blood, for you.” I imagine the galaxy of all the galaxies, in God’s hands, so big is God. ‘And the Solar systems, black holes, quasars and quarks. I imagine our system, our earth, all living things, and a carpenter of Nazareth, and a deathcross looming. And a piece of bread, into which somehow God squeezes; and in a cup, up to the neck and more. And every time I come to this place [Table] I look right and left and say, “How could he?” And I always hear the same question in return, “Why should I NOT give?” Do you ever hear that? If you don’t, won’t you cup your ear when you come today? Strain a little? Don’t strain to understand? Just to hear, “For YOU. Why not?”

Now I know: I should end here. But I can’t. See, we are called to imitate God’s giving. To be the light, not just receive it. If all we do is take it in, we are ourselves, black holes. But we are not that. At least not called to be. Jesus says, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And again, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nobody lights a lamp and puts it under the table, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine, that others may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Jesus bids us, in the name of the Light, to ask what God/Jesus asks, “Why should I not give?” …When my kid asks for that one more time of my time; when some soul who never asked for it (or admitted fault) requires our forgiveness… for mercy’s sake. … ‘When our partner has a need, but not the heart or voice to ask; when the church is behind and its bills are ahead, and all you really wanna say is, “Me, too… and it feels like more.” ‘When you see troubles all around ya, and the news says, “‘Ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” These are the times to ask what Heaven asks, “Why should I not give?” See, the thing is, we’ve taken the bread. We will again. We’ve drunk from the cup. We will again. All of Christ is in all of us. And all of God is in all of Christ. And we have said and sung, we wanna follow him. And it’s still his story to ask of us, as those so long ago, “Why should I not? And why not you?”

 

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