Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 23: Exodus 7-9; Psalm 19; Matthew 20

Moses and the Israelites think they can escape the might of Pharaoh?!?

The first shall be last, and the last shall be first...
Jesus is teaching along two lines as he leads his disciples to Jerusalem, attempting to convey to them his vision of the kingdom of God while at the same time telling them about his impending death on the cross. Moses and Aaron are ramping up their "negotiations" with Pharaoh to secure the release of Israel from bondage in Egypt. I see a theme developing in the juxtaposition of these two stories. Both have at their heart the invitation for people to live more fully into God's will, while at the same time we insist on keeping a hold of our pride, and our resistance, to taking up that invitation.

The workers in Jesus' parable, and the disciples shortly thereafter with their debate on who gets to sit next to Jesus in the kingdom, see pride of place-rather than the grace of the Lord-as being something due to them. If he gets "x" for just that much effort or work, and I have done more...then I should get "more." But, in the parable, the Lord gives each worker a day's wage...the day's pay was the agreement, not a sliding scale. Perhaps the heart of the parable ties to the gift of grace God tenders us. Grace is grace, and having a share means, simply, having it. I haven't yet known someone to have "more" grace than another. The daily wage of the kingdom is always an equal share, the unconditional love of our redeemer; but, oh can we mess with that. Someone has more luck, more good fortune, better circumstances...and we see that as unjust not so much because another may have suffered to benefit that person, but because we want more ourselves. Or, we struggle to find dominance in a situation, in order to feel less out of control or fearful.

The model for that hope in the kingdom is not found today in the company of the apostles, but in the request for help from the blind men. The exchange is simple. They clamor for Jesus' attention, and mercy. He asks what they want. They want to see. He gives them their sight. They follow. They approach the savior together, and as equals seek a blessing, and together they follow. You tell me, who was the greater of the two?

Oh, that Pharaoh would have the willingness to see the grace of letting Israel go...but that is not to be. So many plagues, such theater. The river is turned to blood, frogs hop on everything. the dust of the land becomes lice, hail hammers everything down into a pulp...and all to make a point. Pride goes before a fall, and the only might to accomplish anything true comes from God. I appreciate the theater, but my heart aches for all the little people who had to suffer while God and Pharaoh came to a resolution over the deliverance of Israel out of bonded servitude.

What strikes me between the eyes today is just how powerful a stumbling block pride really can be in a human life. It is the great divider. We see it daily, breaking our working and personal relationships apart in a continual freeze/thaw cycle of first resistance to truth and then flaring of defensive anger. We see it in our efforts to be in control of things that are so clearly out of our control. We see it in our desire to have, even just a little, more pride of place over others, and we see it in our fear when we feel that place begin to erode. It is a terrible struggle, and one that God-I believe-aches for us to release. After all, each of us still is getting our day's wages of grace...the single portion that is offered to everyone, unconditionally. Pride just doesn't figure into it. Now, if only we could let that pride go.....

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