Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Advent, Day 3: Praying for Time

Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.” But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, “This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.” So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’

When they heard this, they said, ‘Heaven forbid!’ But he looked at them and said, ‘What then does this text mean:

“The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone”?

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’ 

- Luke 20:13-18

Yesterday we talked about love, but love without adequate judgment helps nobody. Love isn't just a warm fuzzy feeling. Love is fierce when there are people who need defending.

Jesus' parables get harsher as they go. We might imagine that early on he wondered whether the people in power might actually come around to his way of thinking. But in Jerusalem during the last week of his earthly life, Jesus' parables turned very dark indeed.

Here's the thing, though, as I first heard pointed out by author Robert Farrar Capon in his book The Parables of Judgment: Nobody is excluded from the Kingdom who wasn't first included. It's not the notorious sinners who get the raw end of this deal; it's those who have always been considered upright and righteous. It's those who have always thought that they could arrange a heavenly place for themselves on their own steam who are in trouble. God has no use for them because they have no use for God. It's the great reversal.

When I'm honest, I have to admit that I, well fed and content, am far more likely to land in this category than in the other. Or as George Michael put it: "I may have too much, but I'll take my chances, 'cause God's stopped keeping score."

We are not saved by our actions, but we are judged by them. It's a crucial distinction. And those who truly understand that their actions cannot save them--that they are judged and found wanting--are far more likely to relax into the arms of their rescuer. As for the rest of us, well, "maybe we should all be praying for time."

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