Here in Southern Maryland, fall is my favorite time of year because I finally get the relief from high temps that I feel I deserve after the heat of summer! The first colors of the season appear for me when the foliage of the sourwood tree in the backyard turns bright red…right about now. Unfortunately, the beginnings of Autumn 2017 coincide with weather around the world that is so UNdeserved for those who’ve suffered through it. In the Southern United States and Caribbean alone, no less than four major hurricanes have come along in the last month. Some lives have been ruined, as a result…while others have been spared. A few weeks ago, I distributed a survey after a sermon, asking you to record any question you might ask of God, and several of you asked: Why does it seem like God punishes some people in ways they don’t deserve? Our default mode for encountering disaster is to connect the dots between bad outcomes and bad beginnings. We expect an illness to be the result of a moral failing, or a home ruined by rising river water the result of its being built in the wrong place. Good stuff is what you’re supposed to get when you’ve paid your dues and done everything right. We expect God to be on the side of “good people” turning events in their favor, and ill disposed toward the wicked, seeing that they get their just deserts. The reality, of course, looks different. Life right now is a reminder that “God’s ways are not our ways” (Is 55:8).
Yet it is precisely the undeserved call to receive the abundant Life in Christ that we celebrate today. In God’s kingdom…yet to be revealed…there is an attitude of generosity at work. Jesus told a parable about a generous landowner who gave unemployed laborers who worked one hour the same salary as the jobless who agreed to his terms to work for 12. It should come as no surprise that those who bore the heat of the day should grumble that they are treated the same as the new hires. But there’s something else going on: The call to go to work and receive pay for an unexpected job was undeserved by ALL. That’s what we celebrate today: the call to work on behalf of the kingdom of our generous God who has forgiven our sins and given us eternity, in Christ. Though we will never fully answer the question of why some undeserving people must suffer, none of us has done anything to deserve the call to the Life in Christ we now enjoy. Our generous Lord has put us to work on behalf of his kingdom. What difference will that generosity to you make in the life of another person this week?