Jonah, Jesus and white male privilege; a poem by Emma Lazarus; and the Lessons for Sunday, September 24th


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

PRAYER OF THE DAYAlmighty and eternal God, you show perpetual loving kindness to us your servants. Because we cannot rely on our own abilities, grant us your merciful judgment, and train us to embody the generosity of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

The concept of fairness seems to be built into our human DNA. Small children are acutely sensitive to what’s fair and what isn’t. They notice when there happens to be a tad more orange juice in a sibling’s glass than their own. Everyone knows that when you visit a three child household, you bring three gifts or none at all. Kids have a low tolerance for disparate treatment. So do adults. Everyone knows it is not wise to share the amount of your bonus with co-workers. Unless you are the sort of person who likes to flaunt your wealth or bemoan your poverty, you don’t disclose your financial affairs or inquire into those of other people. Envy and resentment are likely to rear their ugly heads when it comes to who makes how much. For that reason, financial matters, like politics and religion, are routinely avoided in polite company.

Nothing riles us more than to see people get more than we think they deserve. Though I have never run the numbers, I have a sneaking suspicion that the government would save a ton of money if it just provided food assistance to everyone who seeks it without qualifications and without financing an elaborate system of verification and enforcement to prevent fraud and abuse. Again, I don’t know whether that is actually the case. Even if it were, however, I doubt the public would ever approve such a measure-no matter how much money it might save us. The idea that somebody else might get an undeserved share of our tax dollars is just too hard on our moral sensibilities. We all had to work for what we have. So should everyone else-or at least those who can.

The same kind of righteous outrage seems to be at work in the hearts of the prophet Jonah and the day laborers in Jesus’ parable. Jonah cannot fathom why God should pardon Assyria, a nation so brutal and heartless it makes ISIS look like a church choir by comparison. This is especially galling when one considers that Israel’s transgressions were punished with national defeat and exile. The first hired laborers in Sunday’s gospel are fit to be tied when they discover that the slackers who showed up an hour before sundown take home the same full day’s pay they received for actually doing a full day’s work. What gives here? Is there no fairness at all?

Actually, no. Life isn’t fair and most of us wouldn’t want it to be if we took the time to think it through. Read more


  1. #1 by revolsen on August 16, 2017 - 5:48 pm

    Well, John, he did say both sides-at first. Then he came out and said white nationalists were responsible. Then he came out today to say that what he said at first is what he meant and added, for good measure, that these original protesters were actually “decent people” who came to peacefully protest the removal of the Lee statue. Just because they were protesting the removal of a statue doesn’t make them racists. Seriously? What kind of decent people march along with a crowd under the Nazi flag-even if they don’t happen to be holding it? Do you find that credible? Seems you and some folks do. But your numbers are shrinking. It seems that Donald Trump has finally done something that tickles the gag reflex of even his most staunch supporters. And yes, God surely does hold us individually responsible-for everything we do, including our vote. Finally, I think you are being a little hard on the public officials. They issued a permit for a peaceful demonstration against the removal of a statue. They got an armed gang shouting racist insults and threatening Jews, people of color and just about everyone they don’t like with deportation and death. Under the circumstances, the authorities seem to have done what they could. Two officers lost their lives responding to this situation. You can hardly ask more than that.

    • #2 by John Mirenda on August 16, 2017 - 6:29 pm

      Pastor, thanks for your reply, but I do not buy your spin, nor do I think you have all the facts needed to make the judgements you pronounce. I have no desire to debate this or anything with you, I overcame my natural reticence to comment publicly on this blog only because,beyond the appalling events themselves, I am outraged at the mischaracterization of the President’s comments and misreading of his intentions, which you have so eloquently contributed to. I don’t find it helpful, or particularly Christian, to rush to judgement without all the facts, and will wait to see if the justice department can manage an objective and complete investigation of this, from start to finish, and lay blame where blame is due. God bless you, Pastor, and everyone in the congregation of Trinity Lutheran Church.

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