This week the Fall issue of Geez Magazine showed up in my box at the church. If you don’t know this magazine, you should check it out, it’s a Christian magazine out of Manitoba and it explores all sorts of issues with an eye to living more faithfully, intentionally and in my experience the articles that are to be found ask a whole lot of good questions. (I brought a copy for you to look at tonight). So it showed up in my box and this issue is looking at the notion of failure, or actually it’s called, “After Failure”.
I’ve been a bit obsessed with the notion of failure for a while now because I think that if you’re failing or if you have failed at something and lived to talk about it , then you’ve tried something and that’s part of living. And if you’ve tried something that was about inviting people to know about Jesus or live more faithfully, well I think that’s at least partly what the kingdom of heaven is like.
The disciples are actually really helpful in this because they try and get it wrong all through the gospels. Jesus is constantly trying to help them get back on course or better understand. He must have been a bit concerned to be leaving his ministry in their hands – or maybe not.
This parable is the last in a slew of parables that Jesus has been telling to try to help his disciples and others understand what he is on about and in the very next chapter, Jesus will enter Jerusalem on a donkey on his way to the cross, so this is it in Matthew. Pay attention! This is what the Kingdom of heaven is like…
The Kingdom of Heaven is open and we’re all invited no matter when Jesus may have shown up on our radar.
And we keep trying to find ways of being community, of sharing God’s love, of sharing the Gospel, of loving our neighbour so that we are signs of God’s love in the world. And we do not always get it right. In fact we sometimes (or if you’re like me – a lot of the time) get it fantastically wrong as our history shows, and we have to go back and try to make a mends and talk about it so that history does not repeat itself. OR sometimes we get some things right and we need to talk about that.
And it turns out that even then, God loves us anyways. Thank goodness because it would seem that part of the human experience is getting it fantastically wrong and finding our way back from that.
Interesting to me is our resistance to talk about how we have failed unless we are forced. We are pretty ok with talking about how others have failed – them not us – or if we do talk about us then we tend towards some personal failure and it is often not what we have learned from our failure or where to from here, but it is often about beating ourselves up and obsessing about where or how we might have done differently, or maybe that is just me.
At the beginning of the magazine’s piece on failure they address that fact that they struggled to find a diverse group of people to talk about this – that all of the people are white and most are men. This may speak to the need to feel safe before we can talk about our failures and it may be an interesting commentary on the power dynamics. If you are already not sure that people (others) see you as enough, you are not likely to talk about where you are pretty clear you fell down.
So what is the Kingdom of Heaven like, I wonder? And do we even have a clue? Is part of our failure, the fact that we really don’t get it? It seems to me that this particular parable makes it pretty clear. The landowner goes out in the morning, goes out again at 9 and noon and again at 3 to find labourers for his vineyard at at the end of the day, everyone gets the same wage.
This grace upon grace is open to everyone, all the time.
We like to be right, to know that our place is special – we want to believe that if we work extra hard, show up early, give all of our time that there will be a special place for us. And that is how our world works, it is certainly how we have set up our worldly organizations but that is not what the Kingdom of God looks like.
And that is something that is really hard for us to get our heads around. And it is one of the beautiful, amazing things about God: no matter when you show up, you are welcome – you have something to contribute, we have something to learn from you and God loves you.
We have to keep working at this though. We have to keep checking in with one another, we have to keep reading the Bible and asking questions because we will get it wrong that is just part of who we are. But that we are trying is important.
What we hold before us as the very basis of our community is that all are welcome. No matter when we show up, despite all our failures to do so in the past (and we all have them) God’s kingdom is for us.
We don’t get to choose. There is a place for each of us. But my place is not better that yours and your place is not better than your neighbour’s. God’s amazing grace just is and all are welcome.