Tag Archives: complaint

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 20

Track 1: Complaining against God

Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

The children of Israel had seen signs and wonders by God that no one else has even seen, either before or after. But they did not trust God. They weren’t sure that he was on their side. They complained to Moses about having to cross a desert without a food supply. God replied to them through Moses:

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’“ And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’“

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”   (Exodus 16:9-15)

The Israelites even complained about the food that God miraculously provided them. Moving on the the New  Testament, Jesus told a parable about people complaining:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’   (Matthew 20:1-12)

Do we seem to have difficulty understanding God’s ways? He does not always do the things we expect him to do. As a result, God often gets the label of being unfair. Our viewpoint is not God’s viewpoint. God spoke though the Prophet Isaiah;

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.   (Isaiah 55:8-9)

What is the beef of the disgruntle workers? Reading the landowner’s reply to his workers:

“‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”   (Matthew 20:13-16)

A good work ethic is commendable. But the kingdom of heaven is not about works. We want to earn our way and we resent others not having to work as hard as we have had to do. We compare ourselves to others to see how we measure up. Are we better than they are? This is the mindset of those who want to prove themselves worthy before God. They forget that God has already approved them, not by their works, but by his Son.

Perhaps the children of Israel did not want to be so dependent on God for their supply. They wanted to prove themselves worthy. Never mind the miracles. Miracles get in the way of those who want to do something on their own, by their own talent and strength. This mindset often cannot understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Moreover, it may extend to an actual unwillingness to receive the generosity of God even when it is extended. Receiving it means that they really do need his help.

The Apostle Paul has written:

For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.   (Romans 7:32)

We cannot justify ourselves before God. The sooner we can understand this, the sooner we can receive his great, with thanksgiving. In the Apostle Paul’s words:

Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!   (Romans 7:24-25)

Today, are we ready to receive te mercy of God? Are we ready to acknowledge our sins and our need for his forgiveness? Are we ready to receive our salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ? Or do we want to complain against a God who has paid all our debt to him? If so, we just like to complain more being set free. Jesus came to set us free from our bondage to sin. Often times that means being set free from the bondage of our own thoughts and attitudes. This is not the time for an attitude. Today is the day of salvation. Thanks be to God.

 

 

Track 2: Our Sense of Fairness

Jonah 3:10-4:11
Psalm 145:1-8
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

Jonah sent God to Nineveh to preach repentance he did not want to go. Nineveh was a notorious city, hated by the Jews. The last thing he wanted was to see the city spared. Reading from Jonah:

When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.   (Jonah 3:10-4:11)

Jonah could not believe that God would spare Nineveh. They did not keep the law of Moses as he did. When we believe that life is unfair, this means, of course, that we think God is unfair. Jesus told this parable:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vinoseseyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standhere idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’    (Matthew 20:1-12)

The workers who went into the field early were disgruntled. The landowner had been unfair. They were keeping score. The landowner was not playing by their rules.

But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”   (Matthew 20:13-16)

The psalmist wrote:

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
slow to anger and of great kindness   (Psalm 145:8)

That i what made Jonah mad. God was stilll dealing with him:

The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not  be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”   (Jonah 3:10-4:11)

Let us ask ourselves, how fair was it for God to take the punishment for our sins? This is, perhaps, the most unfair act of all.

Do we want to judge and condemn people, as did Jonah? Let us compare this thinking with that of God:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.   (John 3:16-17)

Let us thank God that his fairness is so much more than ours.

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Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 7

Track 1: Finding New Life

Genesis 21:8-21
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
Romans 6:1b-11
Matthew 10:24-39

In today’s Old Testament we have the story of Hagar and her son. Sarah, the wife of Abraham had given her slave Hagar to Abraham so that she might have children. Sarah had been barren. Hagar had a son Ishmael by Abraham. But this lead to complications. When Sarah later had her son Isaac, the child promised Abraham by God to be his heir, jealousy arose. Sarah said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.   (Genesis 21:14-19)

Hagar was in despair. She had been thrown out of her home along with her son. She lacked basic resources needed to sustain her life. Her future was uncertain. She had no one to turn to. Just when she was about to give up. God intervened in our lives. Has that ever happened to you in any degree? Ever felt like an outcast? Ever felt abandoned? You may not have experienced anything like this in your life. I, personally, can relate to what Hagar was going through. There have been times in my life, that without the intervention of God, I am not sure I would have ever found my way.

King David spoke to the Lord the words of this song:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold and my refuge,
my savior; you save me from violence.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.   (2 Samuel 22:2-4)

David had been anointed to be the next king, but he was not yet king. King Saul was hunting him down to take his life. David had more enemies than friends at the time. What David knew is something that I have not always known. God is there for us. All we need to do is call upon him.

Crises may come to many of us in life. They can be devastating. But crises do serve a purpose. They often enable to find ourselves or to discover more about ourselves. Better than that, they help us to find God. Or they help us to discover a greater understanding of God and his love.

We do not like crises. We want to avoid turmoil and persecution. Jesus told his disciples:

A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!   (Matthew 10:24-25)

We cannot really avoid them. Jesus said: In this world you always have tribulation, but fear not, I have over come the world (John 16:33). Jesus is our overcomer. He is our rock. He is our deliver. He is the one we can trust and he is the one we need to call upon

And often we do not. Why? Perhaps it is because we want to hold on to the status quo. We may not like what is happening, but it is familiar. The alternative is an unknown, or at least that is what Satan tells us. Can we let go of what is holding us back? Jesus said:

Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.   (Matthew 10:39)

With Jesus everything is new and possible. The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!   (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Hagar discovered the goodness and mercy of God. David did also. God is there for us: Jesus said{

So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.   (Matthew 10:26-31)

 

 

Track 2: The Fire Within

Jeremiah 20:7-13
Psalm 69: 8-11, (12-17), 18-20
Romans 6:1b-11
Matthew 10:24-39

I love reading the Book of Jeremiah. The Prophet Jeremiah did not sanitize anything. His humanity came through. He wrote down the prophecies of God. He also wrote down his complaints against God. We have one of his complaints in today’s Old Testament reading:

O Lord, you have enticed me,
and I was enticed;

you have overpowered me,
and you have prevailed.

I have become a laughingstock all day long;
everyone mocks me.

For whenever I speak, I must cry out,
I must shout, “Violence and destruction!”

For the word of the Lord has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.

If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”

then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.   (Jeremiah 20:7-9)

The prophet wishes he could stop being  a prophet, but word of God constrains him. It is like a fire within him. What is that fire?

One of the resurrection appearances of Jesus is when he met two men walking on the road to Emmaus:

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”   (Luke 24:28-32)

It is the word of God that sets our hearts on fire. They were listening to the Word made flesh. If we listen to him he has a baptism to give us. From the Gospel of Matthew:

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   (Matthew 3:11)

To be set on fire is a glorious thing. But, as in the case of Jeremiah, it will cause us reproach. The psalmist wrote:

Surely, for your sake have I suffered reproach,
and shame has covered my face.

I have become a stranger to my own kindred,
an alien to my mother’s children.

 Zeal for your house has eaten me up;
the scorn of those who scorn you has fallen upon me.

I humbled myself with fasting,
but that was turned to my reproach.

I put on sack-cloth also,
and became a byword among them.

Those who sit at the gate murmur against me,
and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, this is my prayer to you,
at the time you have set, O Lord:

“In your great mercy, O God,
answer me with your unfailing help.   (Psalm   68:8-15)

Have we ever had a complaint against God? The devil does all that he can to stoke our anger. We can rebel against God or draw more close to him by meditating on his word. True disciples of Jesus will suffer reproach. That will not stop them from their boldness in the Lord’s word. Jesus said:

A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!   (Matthew 10:24-25)

Let us hold fast to the truth in this day, because God is with us. He holds us n his everlasting arms. He needs our testimony to set other hearts on fire. Let us daily get fired up by his word. Then boldly allow ourselves to be directed by the Holy Spirit to speak the truth of God’s word in love. Others are waiting to hear the good news that someone shared with us.

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