Readings For Year A / Proper 25A / Ordinary 30A / Pentecost +24
Music ideas for Year A / Proper 25A / Ordinary 30A / Pentecost +24
Together To Celebrate: Year A / Proper 20 / Ordinary 25 / Pentecost +19
Lectionary Song Blog: Year A / Proper 20 / Ordinary 25 / Pentecost +19
Worship Ideas for Year A / Proper 25A / Ordinary 30A / Pentecost +24
Mustard Seeds: “Focus and Purpose“
Other Lectionary Reflections for Year A / Proper 25A / Ordinary 30A / Pentecost +24
Dylan’s Lectionary Blog: Year A / Proper 20 / Ordinary 25 / Pentecost +19
More Ideas for Year A / Proper 25A / Ordinary 30A / Pentecost +24
Textweek.com: Year A / Proper 20 / Ordinary 25 / Pentecost +19
I preached this sermon at Wattle Park UCA, a small congregation (20) just out of Canberra back in 2005, I spent some time reading the passages and decided that instead of following the Exodus Readings I’d use the other Old Testament reading, from the story of Jonah.
Picture this… Jonah’s tried running away from God, but God’s gone through a heck of a lot of trouble to get Jonah to Nineveh, including having the dude swallowed up in a giant fish. Jonah finally came to Nineveh to do what he was called to do, tell the people that they must repent or their God would destroy them…
And you know what?
They repented… the world’s shortest sermon reaches an entire city.
And God forgives them.
And this angers Jonah, how dare God forgive this town, how dare God refrain from punishing them all, they were sinners and needed to be punished, Jonah was ropable, and he approaches God.
“God, I just KNEW that you’d do this!”
“I just don’t understand you”
And God retorts, Jonah, worn out sits and God plants a tree over him to provide shade… yet in the morning God sends a worm to kill the tree. Jonah, angry again says that he’ll kill himself, it’d be better to just sit in the sun and die…
But God asks “did you plant the tree or help it grow?”
And in the second reading we hear a story about a landlord who gives people who had been working for only an hour the same amount that he gives those who had worked for him for the entire day…
And the workers complain…
And God says “whose money is this, didn’t you accept the terms that I’d offered?”
Here’s the thing… I think that most Christians have less of a problem with the concept of Karma than they do with the idea of Grace. Grace lives beyond that area of our understanding, but Karma… Karma I can understand.
- Karma says that Jonah was right; the sinners deserve to be punished…
- Karma says that the workers were right, those people who have been there for less time deserve less money.
- Karma says that when you enter a church community you have to pay your dues to earn respect, to be asked to be a leader, to make friends or to receive a memorial plaque on the walls.
- Karma says that sinners will be punished (in the end) and those who are righteous and good will be happy (now and in the end)
Grace however, Grace is very different…
- Grace says that no matter what happens God’s love is unfailing, you receive love not because you deserve it but because you don’t, you are loved in spite of your failings, and weirdly enough because of them.
- Grace says that Jonah was wrong, the town repented and are still loved, God’s grace sent Jonah there to preach to them and get them to repent… But Grace also says that Jonah is still loved, even though he was wrong…
- Grace says that when you walk into a church community they welcome you with open arms, put a plaque for you on the walls and listen intently to everything you say, there are no rewards to be won.
- Grace says that everyone gets the same reward… God’s love.
We can understand Karma, and to tell you the truth I think that many of us believe, or hope in Karma, because we want to think that the bad people get it in the end, that if we’re good we’ll be blessed and that those who have been working longer get something extra.
But God’s grace…
The other week’s lectionary readings said that whatever is allowed on earth is allowed in heaven and whatever is not will be locked out…
I think that God’s grace is the fine print…
The fine print reads that “no matter what you do, no matter who you are, no matter where you are or who you are related to or what colour your skin is or how old you are or if you left one million dollars to the church or if you graffitied it’s walls God’s grace overpowers all.”
Even if you decide to not allow
And, as we pass through the pearly gates, I wonder what we’d think if we see the prostitutes and sinners and tax collectors and politicians and homosexuals and murderers and terrorists walk past us first… I wonder if we’ll shout to God, just like Jonah did “God, I just knew you’d do this.”
And I wonder if God’s answer would be, “yeah… but you accepted my reward a long time ago, you knew what the terms were and you’ve been faithful workers. but can’t I do what i please with what i own? Can’t I show my grace to everyone…”
I’ve got an image of a God who’s grace is everlasting, who, when the chips are down will say “I made you (Like I made the shade tree) and I just can’t live without you”
That’s something that I’ll never understand…
And that is why I think it’s easier to believe in karma than it is to understand, or believe in grace.
And as a reflection I played U2’s song “Grace,” because “grace find’s beauty in everything.”