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Use it or lose it

by davesandel on March 9th, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

Matthew 21:43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

I read this and begin to weep.  The Pharisees listening to Jesus thought they were protecting their vineyard from a thief, but the One they called a thief owned it all.  Their righteousness was completely misplaced.  Their point of view became so ingrown they could see nothing rightly any more.  They forgot they were only caretakers and were responsible to the One who cared for them.  They mixed up God their source with Satan their deceiver.

In the hands of mercy-mongers, the mercy of God can become a twisted awful thing.  People are tortured and murdered in the name of the love of God.  In the name of truth, judgment and wrath roll out like molten lava across the landscape because the righteous do not recognize the local residents, and think they are soldiers of the enemy.  These Pharisees are about to murder Jesus, certain they are saving their nation from a disaster.

God is not pleased.  I think of the parables in Matthew 25, all of which are about losing what we thought belonged to us, what is “rightfully” ours.  If we don’t use it, we lose it.  If I think I have it, I don’t.  Jesus leaves little room for any high opinion I have of myself when it’s based on anything but service and sacrifice and love.

I’ve served you all my life.  I was born into the chosen people.  I conserved what I had and took no risk.  Who are you to tell me I’ve been wrong, or that I need to change?  I have sought truth and found it.  I know that my redeemer lives.  What could be missing?

“Depart from me,” Jesus says.  His words are gray and cold, the color of mountain rock as the sun fades.  Jesus represents his father and ours.  In this moment of disappointment, to my calculating selfish ego, God seems like a distant accountant who cares only about the bottom line.  And perhaps that is true.  But this accountant’s bottom line is love.

Do you love me, Jesus asks?  Do you love my children?  All of them?  Do you?  How do you? Show me.

Jesus, I want to receive this teaching – this admonition – not reject it.  Your standard is higher than the one I have for others, or that others have for me.  Your vineyard is ripe and full and life-giving; give me the humility to enter it, work it, drink the wine of it.  To be loved by you, and to love.

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