Some Things are Too Important to have an Opinion

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Some Things are Too Important to have an Opinion
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Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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I think we are forced to accept the reality of original sin. Because there is one characteristic that humans possess that does more to deny God than the Dawkins of the atheist world: Envy.

Jesus tells a parable — a story about something small that has huge effects — about this sin. It’s a story about a vineyard owner hiring day workers. Matthew 20.1-16

He goes to the marketplace early one morning where they are hanging out, hoping to be hired. He hires some of them, promising to pay them minimum wage: a denarius — which was enough to buy wood for the fire to cook dinner and food to feed a family for a day. But at coffee break, he goes back and hires some more workers. Again at noon, and then at tea time.

At the end of the day, the workers line up for their pay. What happens? Do the workers who worked all day get their pay for the day? Yes they do.

How about the workers who were hired later in the morning? A little less? And the ones who were hired at noon, do they get half? And the ones who worked only a few hours, did they get the smallest amount?

NO! They all got the same pay. Boy were those full day workers hopping mad! ‘Why should they get as much as us? We worked hard and long for our money — some of them hardly worked  at all! It’s not fair!’

In Louis C.K.’s series Louis, his character gives his oldest daughter a mango pop for finishing her homework. His seven year old asks for a mango pop too. He says there was only one.

Her response is, “It’s not fair! Why does she get a mango pop and I don’t?”

“Because you’re a separate person. You’re never going to get the same things as other people. It’s never going to happen. You might as well learn that now.”

“It’s not fair!” — which she continues through the rest of the conversation …

“You should only be concerned about what someone else gets … I’m telling you something now … You should only ever be concerned with what’s in …”

“It’s not fair, Daddy!”
“The only time you look in your neighbour’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough.”

She doesn’t understand, he tries to explain, she asks for an alternative treat, he gives in, and the last thing he says to her is, “Make sure your sister gets one too.”

He failed to convince his daughter that life isn’t fair, but it shouldn’t be that hard for us.

Often in life we are not allowed to do what we choose with what belongs to us. — we have to use our money to pay taxes for instance — income tax, property tax, and then on our already taxed money we pay HST — there is a sound that money makes in our house: ‘whissssh’ as we hear it going out as soon as it comes in. In our world we don’t get to do what we want.

But God does. God gets to be as generous as God wants. And we don’t think that is fair.

What is fair?
We think what is fair is that my family eats and yours doesn’t because we are the hard workers. That’s what we think is fair.
But God owns the vineyard and gets to decide what is fair. “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?”

How do we deal with God’s idea of fairness? We grumble. We resent people who get more than we think they deserve.

But God isn’t ‘on that plain’.

“Are you mad at me because I am generous?” Yes we are. And that’s our original sin — the one that keeps popping up all through history. Envy. We can receive a lovely gift, but turn it to ashes because someone who didn’t deserve it got the same gift.

But God’s generosity will not succumb to human jealousy. And we just can’t see through God’s eyes. And as long as we can’t, we need to be very very careful about judging what is fair, what is right.

I know a little about a lot of stuff. I’m interested in everything from woodworking to raising chickens, but there are a lot of issues that are facing the world, that I really don’t know enough about, that I can’t see with God’s eyes.
I’m not generous like God so I can’t trust my own opinions about the things that matter.

Thank goodness we heard about forgiveness last week, Jim, because we discover that we really need it this week — forgiveness for all those times we have turned a lovely gift of grace not deserved into ashes because we don’t want others to have what they don’t deserve.

We have been caught up short this week. All summer we have all had opinions about Rob Ford, but now, well, he stands in need of God’s grace, just like the rest of us.

Instead of leaping to opinions about complex or important issues, we could be looking for what God’s grace looks like in the midst of difficult situations.

At a recent meeting of the Interfaith Council of Halton, we had a careful conversation about the situation in Israel. We shared information: groups of Christians, Jews, and Muslims are working in Israel for peace — together already — and we decided that we can say together, “we are appalled by the violence” and we can pray for the grace of God’s peace. This felt right, though would not be considered adequate for many who hold to their opinions passionately.

But Jesus so often helps us to skip the opinion stage and go straight to the need — perhaps this is a characteristic of the divine in Jesus — one that separates him from the whiny human envy that doesn’t want to see another person receive God’s grace.

As the ultimate “landowner,” God will use what has always belonged to the Creator for the good of all, even if humans fail to view the world through God’s eyes.

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