September 30, 2020

Today we come to the end of September 2020 and to the end of James 4.  It is hard to read verses 13-17 about boasting what someone can accomplish tomorrow without pondering our presidential campaign and last night’s debate where two men shared (we won’t say boasted) about what they could accomplish better than the other guy.   Oh my!  Who will be able to control disease and the virus in our midst?  Who can best provide income for families?  Who can keep our environment healthy?  Who, who, who?  James clearly points out that the future is in God’s hands and life can change in a moment with a car accident, a phone call, or -a loss. 

         Chapter one compared us to a toss waving in the sea driven by wind and unstable in doubt or to a wild flower that blossoms and fades.  Now James uses the image of a mist that appears and vanishes.  A presidential term is even shorter on the stage of history.  James claims boasting is arrogance, placing our trust in ourselves rather than in God.

         Yesterday I went to get a new state license and to register our car.  I thought I had my ducks in order and had all necessary documents.  My husband and I were assigned to different windows but our documents of residence were to both of us, oops.  Fedex delivered the title deed to our temporary address three doors from our permanent address so our temporary shuffling of houses became obvious.  Then when they looked at proof of insurance it became clear that insurance was issued at our old address so that we had to run to the lobby and call the company and get everything updated with addresses.  A seemingly straight-forward process somehow drained all my energy.  Life is like that.  We think we have things  in order to tackle huge issues like environment or welfare and suddenly we are masking and finding new ways to do church.  Only God holds tomorrow.

         James concludes that when we know what we should do and don’t do it, we sin.  The focus returns to the present and the reality that God holds our lives in his hands and our task is to live with integrity in that knowledge.  I do not know your plans for today nor which ones will go side-wards but God does.  Let’s keep our eyes on him for he is faithful.  Blessings.

Fact Checking

September 29, 2020

“Channel surfing” from yesterday’s thoughts transitions to “slander” for us to ponder today.  Tonight, I believe, is our first presidential debate and for sure the “fact checkers” will be on duty.  Both parties will find as many distortions of truth as they can.  James warns against judging others.  Of course James is talking about within the body of believers but perhaps there is an element of truth for politics also?  When we judge, he says, we put ourselves over the law and assume the authority to enforce it.  But if we have no power to enforce the law, he reasons, by what right do we tear apart another with the law?

         The Biblical story that comes to mind involves Moses, Aaron, and Miriam in Numbers 12.  All three siblings were significant people in leading the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land.  Moses, the leader, Aaron the first high priest, and Miriam the song leader worked together.  But Moses took a new wife, a Cushite, and Miriam grumbled against Moses.  We don’t know underlying causes but we do know Miriam and Aaron starting speaking against Moses and his new wife.  God stepped in and punished Miriam and Aaron.  God reiterates that he is working with his leader and Miriam is out of line.

         Slandering others seems to be a form of self-justification.  Ooops, that word “self” has slipped in again and my focus has turned from God unto me.  Slander is not God-focused but self-focused because I place myself in the seat of God and judge.  We diminish this on the everyday level by calling it “idle gossip” but slander in all its forms is dangerous, divisive, and destructive.  The tongue (Chapter 3) undisciplined destroys fellowship and communities

         As we listen to all the information we hear surfing the news channels, may we be careful that we do not ignorantly slander others by passing on information to make ourselves look informed and knowledgeable.  Lord, help us during elections!

Channel Surfing

September 28, 2020

I like the image of “channel surfing” or “surfing the web” which our generation can employ.  I sit back  on the couch and flip through the alternatives available to me until I settle on something that fits my mood, fits my fancy.  James returns to the theme of chapter one which we might identify as channel surfing through life.  We are like that wave tossed and turned by the wind, sometimes up and sometimes down, searching for advice that fits our fancy at the moment.  James challenges us to choose or be forever divided.  He advises we seek God and the Devil will flee.  As we repent of the adrenaline rush, the thrill, the chase after our wants and turn to God’s wants and God’s wisdom, God draws near to us.  As we humble ourselves before God, he brings about true fulfillment and peace.

         Having spent my youth at the ocean in California, I love the thrill of catching that big wave that will carry me almost to shore.  I only body surfed and I must admit that more often than not I was too early and ended up tossed and twirled about in the crash or too late wishing I could have paddled a little faster and had better timing.  It is a bit dismaying to think that my moods often correlate to my focus of faith at the moment.  Am I seeking God or my wants?  Am I resisting evil or at least my selfish desires?  The cake looks so good but as soon as I eat it, I berate myself for my weakness.  Double-mindedness is real.

         I am reminded of C. S. Lewis in Screwtape Letters where a greater devil is writing to his nephew working in the world and admonishing him to remember that people are amphibians.  People live in highs and lows.  Screwtape says in effect, God is happiest when the person at a low point when God does not seem present, that person prays in the darkness to the God he is trusting. Spiritual maturity is like learning to walk.  We are not drones controlled by God but his children learning to use our spiritual abilities and we must learn to choose to seek him.

         Today, as you go through the ups and downs of the challenges you face may you humbly trust God and he will lift you up.  Blessings.

The struggle is real!

September 26, 2020

Contention and idolatry, that’s an interesting combination.  James proposes in chapter 4 that we have arguments because we are focusing on our own selfish desires and wants.  As we wind into our political season here, we politely call all the differing points of view, politics, convincing us that one candidate can do the job better than the other, help us achieve our dreams if their party has political control.  Are they different paths to the same outcome, different ways of approaching the aame God?  At best it is confusing.

         Jemes calls his friends an “adulterous people” because he points out that friendship with the world is being at odds with God, the kingdom of heaven.  Wow.  That is hard for us to hear and easy to dismiss as “back then” when siding with Rome was not siding with faith in Jesus.  We are far more tolerant and embracing of diversity in culture today and slide over these verses.  It seems though that a core question niggles at the back of my mind.  Am I seeking to please me, achieve my desires, or am I seeking to God’s desires, and perhaps do I have the two confused? 

         When we think of blessings, we can merge the ideas of blessings of God with blessings of this world.  For sure God does not want us sick, poor, warring.  So now we are back to chapter one again.  It is during times of trials that we have trouble sorting out values for suffering tempts us to put our eyes on the values of this world.  Then we hear that little voice whispering in our ear, “IF…”  If God is the God certainly he would not want you unwise or sick or poor or…. Name your problem.  Trials have a way of sorting our values.  Hence the charge of idolatrous, having an idol, making something more important than God himself and seeking, worshipping that outcome.  I justify lying on income tax because…  I justify luxury because…  I justify compromise.

         James ends with a promise.  The Spirit of God is battling for us “intensely” and we are given grace.  “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  When we find ourselves pondering choices, may we take that as a clue to stop and reflect.  Who am I seeking to please?  God bless you as you prepare for Sunday tomorrow.  Blessings.


September 25, 2020

Arguments!  There is nothing that corrodes relationships like arguments and James jumps from discussing how an undisciplined tongue (not unsimilar to the man driven and tossed by the wind like a wave in chapter one) destroys and undermines wisdom.  Faith is what we believe but arguments is the works that reveal the condition of the heart.  James talks about the “desires that battle within” us. That throws us back to chapter one where he says temptation comes from our desires that battle within us and give birth to sin that leads to death.  Here he specifically names the death of relationships and fellowship in our groups.  Again our eyes shift from God’s desires in a situation to our wants.  Perhaps our famous saying is, “my way or the highway!”

         The patriarch Jacob who had twelve sons by two wives, gave a beautiful coat to his favorite son, Joseph, by the second wife.  The other brothers are jealous, envious, and hurt.  Favoritism has led to actions that hurt.  The brothers plot against Joseph, sell him into slavery, and Joseph’s life goes into turmoil.  As far as I can tell, the story is about family conflict, desires for parental love, and sibling rivalry.  Many of us can identify with those kind of family dynamics.  The church is a similar microcosm of people struggling for recognition, affirmation, and power.  We are people.

         The beautiful part of all this is that even in the midst of all our fights and quarrels, God does not abandon us but continues to walk with us.  Joseph eventually rises to power in Egypt and saves his family but the brothers carry guilt for much of their life.  It took decades to heal that wound.  Some families never recover

         James points out our duplicity.  We think we are praying and asking for God’s help but in reality we are asking God to give us what we want for our advancement.  For sure, some time today there will be that irritating encounter that rubs us the wrong way.  May we stop and think about our motives, how our faith is being challenged by the trial, and what response we give would glorify God.  So easy to say and yet so hard to do.  Keep my tongue in check, look for favoritism in my heart, and acknowledge that all good gifts come from God!  Blessings as you walk through your day!


September 24, 2020

James summarizes chapter 3 with a final statement, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”  As I ponder the Bible, it seems like so many stories are tinged with finding peace through violence, through war, through wiping out the enemy.  And yet Jesus says in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.” 

         Webster defines peace first as freedom from civil disturbance.  The world is not at peace as refugees flee and our cities have riots.  OR: Peace is not being bothered mentally by disquieting thoughts or emotions.  Suicide rates speak about a lack of that kind of peace.  AND: Peace can refer to harmonious relationships socially as when Jacob sought to appease the anger to Esau by offering flocks of animals as he returned home.  I suspect peace is different than appeasement.  Fourthly, peace can be a period of time when we mutually agree not to shot each other.  In the book Peace Child a tribe in Papua New Guinea would give a child from their tribe to their enemy to care for and as long as that child lived, there would be peace.  The author points out that God gave his child, his son, to us to create peace and since Christ is God and lives eternally, relationship with Christ is eternal peace with God.  Lastly “peace!” can be an interjection to stop an argument, perhaps similar to “be quiet.” 

     Peace means a lot of things to people and James shares that peacemakers, those who do not fall into the traps of doubt, favoritism, and gossip but can navigate through life by a spiritual north star, by wisdom, will reap a harvest of righteousness.  Righteousness is being right with God and people, not being in conflict within or without, harmonious, content that our lives are in God’s hands. God does not tempt us nor lead us into evil.         As we go about today may we find the solutions to whatever confronts and challenges us by returning our focus to a God who sees the big picture and who works outside our little boxes to bring peace with him for all.  Blessings.

Two snakes in one day!

September 23, 2020

Yesterday I was T-boned by fear.  I summoned all my courage to cross the street and join the women, whom I know mostly, to do water exercises.  With all my back pain, could I get in and out of the pool without making a fool of myself?  I crossed the road and suddenly saw sitting at the foot of the column of the porch, a long black snake head raised!!  I admit it, I yelled and froze in place.  After a few seconds the fellow sped under the bushes and out ran a lizard.  I was not going to outrun that snake even as a youth!  In a few moments the director came to work and put his motorbike between the snake and me and I ooched into the building.  Fear without and fear within.  Late in the afternoon I went to see the cottage being rehabbed for us.  There on the cement car port floor lay the snake’s twin sibling!  Everyone else knows about all the black racers on our compound  and know they are friendly but I did not.  My day was undermined.

         James 3 continues in verse 17 to say that wisdom from God is “first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”  I consider this my litmus test of wise advice and wise strategies.  Still seeking comfort for yesterdays trauma, toay I read Proverbs 23 and finally turned to Psalm 23, forgetting that it was the classic “Good Shepherd” psalm we always quote.  I reflected on the psalm in light of my snake experience.  Christians equate the good shepherd with Christ and how he leads us.  Psalm 23 tells me I can lie down and rest without fear of an unseen snake, be refreshed by water that does not toss to and fro unstable, be guided on the right path, be accompanied by the shepherd, be fed and anointed, and eventually enter the Shepherd’s home.  Unlike my morning and afternoon walk that were T-boned by fear and caution because of perceived danger, Psalm 23 resonates with James 3 confirming the wisdom of the God who guides my paths – even when there are snakes.  As you are surprised by the unexpected today, I pray you will stay grounded in the truth of wisdom that comes from above that leads to life.  Blessings.


September 22, 2020

Forty-five years ago I became interested in James because he talks about wisdom, the gift king Solomon asked of God.  Wisdom is a key theme permeating scripture.  The person who finds it, is blessed, and the one who does not is defeated and in danger of being foolish. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom,” say James 3:13.  Hearts filled with “bitter envy and selfish ambition” do not come from God but are marked by “envy, selfish ambition, disorder and every evil practice.”  Pretty heavy stuff. 

         I did not want to be known by those adjectives but I struggled.  I had a younger sister who was brilliant with long straight blonde hair to her waist.  There was nothing she couldn’t do or so it seemed to me.  Short, brown curly hair was not the vogue in those surfer days.  It seems silly now as I look back for God has certainly blessed my life. It seems that the wisdom that James talks about comes from above, from God which means I must not be trapped by self centered whining about my trials, trapped by stereotypes that tempt me to think I am better or worse than others, nor trapped by gossip from other’s tongues that take by mind down a rabbit trail of lies and imaginations.

         Certainly I count to ten when I become angry but I also count to ten when I encounter disorder, selfish ambition and envy.  I must ask myself where I find God in the overflow of rhetoric that seeks to justify violence and disorder.  James links wisdom with humility.  I think of humility as the ability to look at oneself objectively, acknowledging truth and not being blinded by comparisons to others.  It is standing in the truth of God’s light and accepting his leadership.  Tough stuff in a world that wants us to be self confident and empowered.  I pray as you reflect on the events of your life today that you will see your life through God’s eyes and not be blinded by looking at others.  Blessings.

The Tongue

September 21, 2020

Ouch, we have reached James 3, the chapter that convicts me.  James starts the chapter warning us not to rush to be teachers.  I would like to think that he is not speaking about teachers as a profession but the temptation to consider oneself more knowledgeable and hence responsible to set another on the “straight and narrow, the right” path.  That falls in line with chapter two on practicing favoritism, that is living by stereotypes that define one sort of person as better than another, and needs to be taught.  In any case, teaching is when I open my mouth to share words of “wisdom” that I hope might help another.  Parent to child, we think of correction and discipline.  Between equals, teaching often feels more like criticism.  We allow the worship leader to preach because the person is teaching from the Word.  All those examples involve use of the tongue to communicate to another and so James has much to say about the tongue and its potential danger.  In the shadow of the last chapter, talking about faith and works, perhaps we can consider the use of the tongue as an example of how our faith, a matter of the heart, works in the expression of the tongue, our communications.

         Tongues can be so healing and constructive as shown by the example of a bit in a horse’s mouth.  When my friend gives words of encouragement and affirmation, my heart is turned to health and life.  The tongue used for good, motivates us (the Gettysburg Address, our leaders) and heals us (no cancer!).  But likewise the tongue is used for gossip to destroy lives and motivate people to war and hate.  I often find myself reflecting on orators today and pondering how what I am hearing is motivating me to act, to work.  Am I being directed to life or death?

         Interestingly Proverbs 21 for today also says much about the tongue.  Verse 2 reminds us that we often think our words are right but God is looking to see if our heart is right.  Verse 6 shares, “A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.”  Twice the writer warns about living with a wife who is quarrelsome and contentious.  And verse 23 shares, “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.”

         James pleads for consistency and the avoidance of duplicity.  That is not unlike the image of the wave driven and tossed by the wind in chapter 1.  There is no wisdom when we are tossed about and no blessing when our tongues are undisciplined.  So today I ponder my role, not only as a teacher, but also as a wife, partner.  To what extent do the words of my mouth reflect the faith of my heart?  Does my speech build or is it idle chatter?  As you go about your tasks today, I pray you will hear words that build you as you seek to live with others.  Blessings.

Pentecost 16 Life is Unfair!

September 19, 2020

First Reading: Jonah 3:10–4:11

10When God saw what [the people of Ninevah] 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.
4:1But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. 2He 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. 3And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” 5Then 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.
  6The 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. 7But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. 8When 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.”
  9But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” 10Then 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. 11And 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?”

Psalm: Psalm 145:1-8

1I will exalt you, my God and king,
  and bless your name forever and ever.
2Every day will I bless you
  and praise your name forever and ever.
3Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised!
  There is no end to your greatness.
4One generation shall praise your works to another
  and shall declare your power. 
5I will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty
  and all your marvelous works.
6They shall tell of the might of your wondrous acts,
  and I will recount your greatness.
7They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;
  they shall sing joyfully of your righteousness.
8The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
  slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 

Second Reading: Philippians 1:21-30

21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
  27Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16

 [Jesus said to the disciples:] 1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6And 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?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8When 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.’ 9When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘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.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  One of Disney’s beloved fairy tales that has been into multiple movies is Beauty and the Beast.  Beauty, a young town girl, is captured by the Beast, a prince turned into an ugly monster by the wicked fairy.  He must learn to love her and get her to love him before the last petal falls from an enchanted rose.  There is much drama and beautiful music and magical love that sees beyond the scars of life.  Beauty wins the tender hear of the Beast who humbles himself.  In our text today we are tempted to see a landowner who unfairly pays all his workers the same wage though they have worked different amounts of time.  Can we see beyond his seemingly gruff exterior to the heart of love beneath?  Let us pray.

Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my rock and redeemer.


         Our text today jumps to the 20th chapter of Matthew.  Jesus tells a parable in the context of a young rich man coming to ask what he must do to inherit eternal life.  The man professes that he has fulfilled the law, tried to do everything as God would like, but yet the young man feels he has fallen short.  Hence the question, What shall I do to inherit heaven?  I suspect many of us, in the depths of our heart ponder if there is something more we need to do to inherit eternal life?

         The young man is admonished to share his riches and he leaves sad, for he is very wealthy. Jesus comments on how hard it is for the rich to trust God and not their riches and fruits of their work.  Jesus gives the famous saying, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, possibly implying kneeling and humbly crawling through a gate into Jerusalem, than for the rich to enter heaven.  The disciples despair as they have left everything to follow Jesus.  Jesus responds with today’s text, explaining the kingdom of God.

         A landowner, obviously God, the creator, the provider and the person for whom we work in the kingdom, hires workers at various times of the day – early morning, nine a. m., noon, and 3 p.m.  At the end of day, at the end of time, rewards are given.  The twist is that all the workers, the early morning and the late afternoon workers all receive the same wage. “Unfair” cry those who have worked all day. 

         Wait, did I hear an “Amen”?  Life IS unfair! and it is unfair that late, lazy or unqualified workers get the same wage as we who have tried so hard all day to do what is right.  Right?  Is that not what all the demonstrators are about today.  They want life to be fair for all ethnicities, all economic strata and all people.  But life is not fair and we demonstrate against that fact.  We want fairness….or do we?

           I think of Hebrews 11, the faith chapter where the writer talks about the martyrs through history who died in persecution for their faith, not receiving their reward, fairness, in this life.  I wonder if like Jonah in our Old Testament reading, they cried as they were sawed in half “unfair”.  In the face of God’s mercy, Jonah sits under a bush God provided and sulks.  A worm destroys the bush and Jonah whines.  Unfair.  God responds – should he not be concerned about the Ninevites who cannot tell their left hand from their right?  Should God make life revolve around me? Or is there a bigger picture I do not see and cannot understand?

         If we connect blessings in this world with God’s approval, as the Jews did, then we end up asking, “Who sinned, his parents or this man, that he should be born blind?”  When faced with a diagnosis of cancer, a bankruptcy, a wayward child, a setback in any area, it is easy to cry, “unfair”.  The truth is that life is unfair.  The workers worked different amounts of time and all received the same wage.  God works outside our boxes and has a bigger plan he is working on.

         But wait, let’s look at this a little closer.  Those hired early in the morning, let’s say the disciples, walked and talked with Jesus in person.  The early workers had the privilege of working under a benevolent dictatorship under the owner, God.  They had the gift of prayer.  They had the blessing of fellow workers hopefully supporting each other.  Paul in our second reading ponders the choice of death to be with Christ verses the suffering of this present life.  For the sake of his fellow Christians he chooses life.  Life in the kingdom cannot be compared to waiting at the gate!

         Meanwhile, who are those other workers working for?  They are not working for the Lord, they are living in the world.  Perhaps we would not equate life without Christ as working for Satan but I would ask you to reflect on life without Christ.  What was your life like before you came to faith?  Those late arrivers have not just sat in luxury in the market, enjoying life but have worried about how to buy food for their families, worried about who is first in line to be chosen, pondered their faults that they were not chosen.  They have not had an easy life.  Comparing life working for God to life working for the world, is not a fair comparison.  For those of us who chose to follow Christ as youngsters, we have received benefits far beyond the wage at the end of time, life of eternity in God’s presence.

         All workers were paid the same wage at the end of time.  All believers receive eternal life.  How the rewards in heaven will work out, I don’t know.  I have heard theories about levels of heaven.  I like C. S. Lewis in the last book of Narnia, The Last Battle, where the heroes start running, crying “Higher up and higher in”.  That gives the feeling of continued relationship and adventure as we are able to receive and continue growing with Christ after death.  The dwarfs are stuck at the entrance grumbling and circled against Aslan and so it was in heaven.  Perhaps the workers who start at the  11th hour are such because of their own attitudes or their own issues in life but they will be in heaven.  We are all recipients of God’s grace and he will make it fair in eternity.

         Next, notice that the unfairness of life in this parable has the workers grumbling against God.  I do not see them reflecting on their choices that led to the results – we should have waited to the last minute to start working for God.  No that is not their response.  Their response is to blame God of unfairness.  Faced with the horrible circumstances of life, poverty, disease, war, I can hear that little voice on my shoulder whispering, “And where is your God?  Is he lost in the heavens?  Does he not care about you?”  All the doubts about God’s love rise to the surface in the face of unfairness.  Do you notice how our attention has gone from the blessings of working for God and his character to the pain of our own situation?  We become self-centered and not God-centered.  We must be careful that we do not end up like Job’s friends, accusing Job of sin and misbehavior, when life confounds us.  Grumbling blinds us from realizing the blessings we are receiving from the God of the universe.

         Finally, please note how God addresses those workers who are grumbling and out of focus.  He answers them, “Friend.”  Let me say it again.  “Friend.”  I must stop here and cry.  The God of the universe addresses me in the midst of my grumbling and laments and pulls me back to reality, “Friend.”  Abraham who got his wife to lie and become the Pharoahs concumbine to save his own neck, who irritated Sarah with his favoritism for Ishmael until God stepped in and corrected him, this Abraham, the father of the faith, was called the “friend of God.”  In this parable today, God calls his workers friends.  I hear warmth, I hear love, I hear acceptance.

         I do not know who you identify with in this story.  Perhaps you signed on with those early workers and you question God’s fairness?  Perhaps you are just overwhelmed at God’s mercy at the end of your life?  Perhaps you are just plain grumbling because life is hard right now and you want to demonstrate and bring justice to earth?  This parable reminds us that the kingdom of heaven is under God’s rule, a benevolent dictatorship that is run by his mercy.  Fairness will come but it will not look like what we think.  This life is unfair but when wages are paid we will receive what God has promised, eternal life in a kingdom without tears, without hunger, and without pain.  That is something to look forward to.  You are God’s worker and he addresses you a “friend.”  Thank you Lord.