IT’S NOT FAIR
Pastor Jean Owens
Two weeks ago, I stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with my grandchildren where Martin Luther King Jr. stood on August 28, 1963 and delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in the presence of 250,000 people.
In part, he said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”
Most of us have a sense of what injustice is. Having travelled around a few places in the world, I saw appalling injustices aimed at women and children and others that could be called the “have nots” as defined by the world we live in.
In June of 2019, I gave a report to the Enfield Town Board concerning the happenings at the pantry. I certainly am not comparing myself to a remarkable leader such as Martin Luther King. I was presenting my perspective on the injustices we as a pantry were addressing.
I stated in part, “Forty-five years ago, when I became the Director of the Enfield Food Pantry I saw hunger in Enfield. A lot. When I delivered food to homes, I found bare cupboards. I know the daily struggle of a family to provide food. It’s a real struggle. I’ve lived it.
My dream is a big dream. I have seen men, women and children in the dead of winter with no coat. I have seen preschool children with no shoes or even socks in pajamas wrapped only in a light weight blanket in the winter months. If only I had space for clothing. I receive offers of clothing donations often from residents and even businesses which I must regretfully turn away.
Some of our clients have no stove to cook on or refrigerator or freezer or place to sit or sleep. I receive donation offers which I once again can’t accept for lack of space. Some day. My dream is a big dream. But I know, all things are possible.
Do you agree we live in an unfair world? It’s strange how quickly children are aware that life is not fair. Someone has more sweets or a bigger present than another, having to go bed earlier than their older brothers or sister. Or especially if they can’t do something they want to do and of course “everybody else can!”
Teens are good at pointing out unfairness. “But Suzie’s dad lets her stay out late”. “All the guys are going to the party”.
Even adults have their comparisons to the “Jones”. The Jones’s have a boat. How come we don’t? It’s not fair. Bob got a raise and I didn’t. The grass was greener on the other side, so I jumped over the fence only to find out I was standing on the septic tank.
Do we ever hear ourselves sometimes saying to God, friends, ourselves and anyone else who will listen “It’s not fair!” And you know what, you are probably right! It isn’t. But the world has different ways than God ways.
Jesus addresses this in the Kingdom of God.
Matthew 20:1-16 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
World: Slackers fall by the wayside. The homeless, the forgotten, the crippled.
Kingdom: There is always room for more.
Luke :16-23 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”
World: First come, first served. Dog eat dog. The pecking order. Survival of the fittest.
Kingdom: First come, last served. The greatest in God’s Kingdom is servant of all.
In God’s Kingdom life is not fair, and we can be thankful. It’s not fair that a person can steal all their life and then confess in the final moment of life and be forgiven. It’s not fair that a murderer will receive the same eternal reward as a saint who remained faithful throughout life. It’s not fair; but we can thank God, it’s not fair.
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Titus 3:3-7 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
“Amazing Grace” is a hymn with words written in 1772 by the English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton (1725–1807). Newton wrote the words from personal experience. He grew up without any religious conviction. He was pressed (conscripted) into service in the Royal Navy. After leaving the service, he became involved in the Atlantic slave trade.
While aboard the ship Greyhound, Newton gained notoriety as being one of the most profane men the captain had ever met. In a culture where sailors habitually swore, Newton was admonished several times for not only using the worst words the captain had ever heard, but creating new ones to exceed the limits of verbal debauchery.
In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland.
The Greyhound had been thrashing about in the north Atlantic storm for over a week. Its canvas sails were ripped, and the wood on one side of the ship had been torn away and splintered. The sailors had little hope of survival, but they mechanically worked the pumps, trying to keep the vessel afloat. On the eleventh day of the storm, sailor John Newton was too exhausted to pump, so he was tied to the helm and tried to hold the ship to its course. From one o’clock until midnight he was at the helm. With the storm raging fiercely, Newton had time to think. His life seemed as ruined and wrecked as the battered ship he was trying to steer through the storm. He called out to God for mercy.
He wrote “Amazing Grace” to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day of 1773 for the Church of England in Olney, Buckinghamshire.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.