My reflection this morning is based on Matthew 21: 33 – 42.

This is part two of the events that Matthew places in the Temple Courts shortly after Jesus rode that donkey into the city of Jerusalem, the time he was hailed as being the one to deliver the Jews from the oppression of Rome. The rallying cry ‘Hosanna’ – God save us – was an attention gatherer.

The truth of this is evident only a short time after. Jesus enters the Temple and clears out those buying and selling. We recall his words – “You’ve turned my Father’s house into a den for thieves.” By being hailed by the poor – the underclass – the children; and then disrupting the commercial activities in the Temple, Jesus now has considerable opposition from both the civil authorities of the day and the religious authorities. This grouping is formidable.

When challenged with the question: by whose authority do you do this? Jesus tells parables. The words used in other places: let those with ears hear, are missing from the script, but are very real in practice.

AMCP 27 September 2020

My reflection for today is based in those words we’ve heard from Matthew 21: 23 – 32

I must begin with a confession. When I first read this passage last Sunday afternoon, my first though was: really … what does this mean for us? My reading and pondering has, however, opened my eyes. This is a word for our times.

My understanding is helped by placing this often-overlooked passage in the context of what precedes it. Just before this, Jesus entered Jerusalem, and was greeted by crowds shouting ‘Hosanna to the Heir to the House of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Most High! Hosanna in the highest!’ We remember that this is not only a greeting to the one being honoured, but that ‘hosanna’ means ‘(God) save us – and from who, the Romans of course. It may be said that this was challenging the authority of Rome.

Then, this is followed by that tumultuous Temple scene, where Jesus rampages in the Temple and drives out those engaged in commerce – selling goods and changing money. This is a challenge to the authority of the Chief Priests and Teachers of the Law.

AMCP 20 September 2020

Matthew 20: 1 – 16

This sometimes-named parable of the labourers in the vineyard came alive for me in March 2018. Sonia and I were fortunate to be travelling in Rajasthan State, India. Early one morning, from the window of our bus, as we drove through a village, I noted a large number of men and women gathered near the village crossroads - waiting. Some seemed older and others very young. I asked our guide: “What’s happening here?” His response: “They’re day labourers – waiting to be hired.” Our guide then described the exact same employment relationships between those available to work and the landowners (or more likely the landowner’s agent) that I knew from the parable. The labourers were faced with all the uncertainties related to whether they would be chosen to work and for how long, opening themselves up to possible exploitation, mirroring exactly what I knew about this parable, but now some twenty-one centuries later.

With renewed interest, I now ask: “How do we remember the story; “what do we hear”; “what do we assume as we read the story”; “what does Matthew assume we know”; and “why is this story only recorded by Matthew?”

I’ve discovered that this parable has many names: the parable of the workers in the vineyard; of the labourers in the vineyard; of the generous landowner; of the gracious landowner; of the union-busting employer; of the equal-opportunity employer; and of the affirmative action employer. Each of these reflects the perspective of the reader and commentator. The question is: what title should we hear today?

AMCP 13 September 2020

Matthew 18: 21 – 35

Very regularly I hear a gospel reading seemingly for the first time. New meaning leaps out at me. There is a fresh understanding. Sometimes, this revelation literally takes my breath away.

This was my experience when I heard this reading (as though it was for the first time) in 2003. I had just been appointed as Principal of Wesley College; and I found myself attending a Disciplinary Committee meeting of the Board of Trustees. Though I must have set the procedure in motion by suspending the boy concerned, I don’t remember the reason for doing this. I do however remember the outcome. The Board decided to exclude the young boy. They clearly agreed with their Principal that the action that led to the boy being suspended was very serious and that he could no longer attend Wesley College.

One reason for me having a recollection that remains with me some 18 years later, is that this was the first time I had been party to a pupil being excluded from school. While I had been a school Principal for some 12 years prior to this memorable day, I had never personally been associated with events leading to a pupil being excluded.

The second reason for this memory is that I had prepared to advise the gathered school of this outcome at assembly the next day. At Wesley College each school day begins with a chapel service. The Chaplain for the day chooses the reading, and after the singing of a hymn, gives a brief explanation.
The Principal follows with any announcements. On this particular day the chaplain chose Matthew 18: 21 – 35 as the reading. We had not spoken, and I did not know what was about to unfold. Those words we’ve heard today were read. This seemingly contradictory juxtaposition of an exclusion from school and consideration of where forgiveness fits in everyday living had not been planned. I could not follow and announce what had happened the night before!

Dr Greg Morgan

Greg MorganI can’t do the voice but keep remembering lines from Prince’s 1984 hit Let’s go crazy: 1

Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today
To get through this thing called life
Electric word life it means forever and that's a mighty long time…

Electric word: life. It feels a mighty long year already, these last six to seven months.

 

It’s tiring. Everything is about COVID-19. News updates, the daily cases, the longing to travel again, evolving advice, conflicting rumours and concerns.