Monday, September 26, 2011

Matthew 21:33-46

Pentecost + 16 - Year A

Matthew 21:33-46

Parable upon parable reflects the facets of what it means to do business with one another in a framework of community. Economic models are often used in parables to break open our captivity by whatever economic model is currently idolatrized.

Here in Wisconsin we are sensitive to the landowner being too easily identified with the current reigning governance by governmental privatizers for the gain of corporate profit that reaps rewards without concomitant responsibility for sustainability. A union of “slaves” is unacceptable to entitled plutocrats.

This week’s hardened landowner (religious leaders), expecting their due reward for investments made (purity kept), might be seen as the stone upon which people have broken themselves for generation upon generation - the unearned profit, the individualized profit, the prideful profit not recognizing it is a product of exploitation of others rather than the strength of one pulling on their own bootstraps while never rising.

And so an alternative reading of this raises the question of what is rejected. Remember the judgment or interpretation rendered by chief religious leaders was “Death to Unions”. Might this attitude be what is rejected.

An inequitable economic system and religious leaders might be seen as the stones rejected by last week’s generous landowner.

Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders who were stonily crushing those outside their inner leadership. Those who live by the stone will die by the stone. Let those with ears, hear. Awareness of this brokenness just might be a worthy cornerstone to build differently. A non-physical cornerstone may be the most helpful.

Rejection of profit and slaves as a cornerstone leads to a new framework of being in an endeavor together - Unions might be a renewed cornerstone in today’s attempt to use globalization to increase the number of “slaves” available to landowners.

6 comments:

  1. Matthew 21:33-46

    Parable upon parable reflects the facets of what it means to do business with one another in a framework of community. Economic models are often used in parables to break open our captivity by whatever economic model is currently idolatrized.
    ...Rejection of profit and slaves as a cornerstone leads to a new framework of being in an endeavor together - Unions might be a renewed cornerstone in today’s attempt to use globalization to increase the number of “slaves” available to landowners.


    I am profoundly, intensely interested in alternative models, have scoured everything I know and have not come up with enough to go on. Ideas? Anybody? I know this is a lection reflection but my seminary training urges me to look for the intense relevance in that which we take as "scripture" or else what is it worth?

    I am co-owner of a small business, a service business that helps people with their hurting bodies, their hurting minds, their hurting spirits, their hurting lives. I live on $500 week (most weeks - some get skipped). What we do is more like a ministry than a business yet we live in a commerce-driven economy. The business model just does not fit very well. I served the church for many years, and that model seems unworking as well.

    We will never be global so no option of increasing the number of slaves... no employees anyway. I am a "land/business owner" yet I have no slave workers who might organize against me. I wish I could support some employees.

    Do we need something new, stunning, never done before yet integrating and transcending everything that has come before?

    How do we do this if we are not to be locked into Union vs Management stalemate? What does "endeavor together" look like if we were to hammer out a business plan?

    Tom

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  2. Tom -

    I’ve struggled with this one for 50+ years from the perspective of sociology as well as the scriptures. I note that these informational bases are different enough that translation between them is no easier than that between eastern and western medical modalities. A variety of ideal communities have risen and fallen over time. I’ve even been a part of several.

    While appreciating the importance of intensity of interest, my suspicion is that a part of the difficulty of something new to lead us closer to a promised land is that very intensity. In one way and/or another, a demand for internal consistency and limited models of what it means to flourish keep getting in the way.

    I was struck by today’s “Thought for the Day” from Wordsmith.org — Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. -John Kenneth Galbraith, economist (1908-2006)

    The Union v. Management distinction appears to be a polarity that shows up in many different ways and is basically unresolvable, but perhaps is managable.

    Endeavoring together needs both a forward look to what is possible and a rearward look at the way survival issues keep cutting the possible off because of the level of risk to arrive beyond where we are. Without taking into consideration our failures, we cannot build success upon success. In Christian theology it may be that we not only need something “new, stunning never done before” but a more realistic approach to sin and forgiveness before integration and transcendence of the past will settle into a new plateau.

    I agree that endeavoring together is a worthy goal and the specifics you are looking for matter a great deal. I hope I and we will continue to work on both clearer articulation of the issue at hand, putting in place steps to arrive beyond where we are, and dismantling the distractions to a communal goal of Loving Neighbor in practical terms.

    Many, many thanks for engaging this question in the particulars of your life. They reflect the particulars of many.

    Wesley

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  3. While appreciating the importance of intensity of interest, my suspicion is that a part of the difficulty of something new to lead us closer to a promised land is that very intensity.

    Point well taken. But at some point G*D and intensity become synonymous (consider Moses' encounter which required that YHWH shield the divine face from Moses, leaving Moses to gaze only at YHWH's backside).

    And bland mediocre never accomplished anything. But you know that, my friend. Beneath your thin veneer of eirenic persona lurks raw revolutionary intensity. Yes?

    In one way and/or another, a demand for internal consistency and limited models of what it means to flourish keep getting in the way.

    Yes, yes and yes. But everybody knows that evolution does not proceed by the principle of internal consistency. Something happens that is a quantum leap, an emergent un-looked for, unexpected. A Christ-event.

    I am getting really, REALLY tired of one damn advent after another. Can we not, at least internally, in thought-space we-space, toss internal consistency to the four winds? Even the Israelites (well, some of them) actually made it to the promised land (we'll ignore the ensuing genocide that followed...).

    I was struck by today’s “Thought for the Day” from Wordsmith.org — Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. -John Kenneth Galbraith, economist (1908-2006)

    Yes, so that means that "almost everyone" is not going to get us where we need to do. I opt out of being an "almost everyone." Anyone else out there? A bunch of us opter-outters might try to endeavor together... After "metanoia" (changing one's mind" is a fabulous (if not intense) spiritual practice... oops, this is Matthew, not Romans... sorry...

    Endeavoring together needs both a forward look to what is possible and a rearward look at the way survival issues keep cutting the possible off because of the level of risk to arrive beyond where we are.

    Time has come, seems to me, that the risk of surviving has become unacceptably high, and looking forward to what is possible, arriving beyond where we are, is the less risky.

    T.

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  5. Opter-outers - how delightful. I'm in.

    I'm in cahoots with the status quo.

    I'm in with opting out.

    Some days I'm up to being down with taking a risk larger than any I've taken so far. Some days, not so much.

    My eirenic predisposition does need jacking up. And slowing down even further. Some revolt with a full action plan and some with sitting in a desert.

    May each of us find the edge of our map marked with "Here be dragons" and sojourn awhile in that fair land.

    A part of the lection I didn't deal with the first time around was Moses speaking to the folks when they were trying to back away from an experience of G*D, an identification with G*D, and place Moses and subsequent religious leaders between themselves and their identification experience. Moses correctly responds with the angelic refrain, "Don't be afraid". Don't be afraid of moving beyond your past. Don't be afraid of the vagaries of life with a living G*D. Don't be afraid of tests. Don't be afraid of awe. Don't be afraid of sin. Don't be afraid.

    Opters-out reveal the wisdom of breaking a barrier, even a G*D-imposed one, to near a one-to-one correspondence with that which is able to lead out from slavery. "Don't be afraid" is not the same as "No fear". One is communal encouragement to one another and the other is individualistic braggadocio. We can still be scared at not living up to our own best ideals, but assured past fear of being in tune with the music of the spheres regardless of a bump or two or death.

    Thanks, T for your engagement. May your ministry bloom and grow.

    Wesley

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