Rev Will Hunter
93 Blackpool Old Road
There is something deeply reassuring in the depiction of someone who can be even more miserable than us when we have the grumps! In our time the mantle of miserable middle-aged man has passed from Victor Meldrew of One Foot in the Grave to stand-up comedian Jack Dee. But in Bible times the figure of Jonah would definitely make the shortlist. Jonah is frustrated because he thinks he is on a hopeless mission trying to tell Nineveh to repent. And he is even more frustrated when they do! At the end of the story (and it may well be a story) Jonah has a bottom lip like a doorstep when the plant sheltering him dies but does not care two hoots about the 120,00 Ninevites (while God apparently even cares for their cattle according to Jonah 4v11!)
Our reading from the psalms this week is Psalm 145vv1-8 and the passage finishes with the words ‘The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love’. Those words really sum up the theme of this week’s readings which compare our attitudes to those of God. Are we moved to compassion for those who do not yet know God’s love? Or who suffer extreme human need and whose lives are precarious in the extreme? Do we watch with indifference pictures of migrants outside a burned down camp in Greece or crossing the Channel in inflatable boats?
Our Gospel reading for today hammers home the challenge with a story of workers on the 1st century equivalent of zero hours contracts. The owner of the vineyard causes consternation by his generosity towards the unemployed and makes payment on the basis of need rather than hours worked. Can you imagine getting away with that today??! This is no more acceptable in the world of today as it was in the 1st century but we are talking about the world as we know it not the kingdom of fair shares for all taught by Jesus. It is a world that does not yet exist but could exist if we were (all) serious about a world in which no-one went to bed hungry.
Our readings for this week are completed by Paul speaking of his all-in commitment to his brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul is a complex character who at times comes across as a fanatic and at others as deeply compassionate. A lesson for us not to judge others in simplistic ways! Paul’s commitment both to the Philippians and to Christ reminds us that we are not in the business of being part-time disciples, clocking off when it suits us. Unlike Jonah Paul does not run from his calling but embraces even imprisonment for the sake of the gospel. If we are all committed to something Philippians reminds us that the ‘something’ should be Christ!
With love to you all