October: Loving our neighbours as ourselves
4 October, 2020
Matthew 21: 33-46
Parables are puzzling. Just as we think we’ve figured them out, the story overturns us. Jesus sidesteps the chief priests’ answer that the landowner will terrorise the tenant farmers for refusing to acknowledge his power. Jesus seems to sidetrack to a different metaphor – the cornerstone. It’s as if he is saying there is an ending to the old world where lush land is sectioned off for tenant and subsistence farmers to labour for wealthy, absent landlords. The impoverished in his audience would have a different understanding of the parable as they groaned under the weight of the dictatorial Roman Empire. Instead, Jesus will become the cornerstone of a new community where the land will not be fenced off but all will share the fruits of their labour. A cornerstone was the first stone put down in building a structure. From this one stone measurements were made to ensure alignment for all the walls. Jesus is to be the marker for all alignments of new ways of living. Parables imaginatively recreate our reality.
11 October, 2020
This double parable is so confusing. The expected guests declined invitations and even killed the king’s messengers. Why would you not want the honour, prestige, networking opportunities of attending a king’s celebration? The king opens up the feast, getting his slaves to invite the overlooked, those at the edge of the city. In recent months the Black Lives Matters movement has made the word “slave” resonate with so much historical, social, economic and political pain and disadvantage. In this passage I imagine these slaves seeking those like them who’ve never been included in such a feast. Instead of serving, they would be served. I imagine their ability to “see” people like them who have been overlooked and enslaved.
We may be shocked by the King’s response to the one guest without a wedding robe, but should we be more shocked by the guest’s offensive behaviour? They haven’t come prepared to join the celebration; they are not honouring the king. They are not clothed with the garments of Christ and have not joined the community of God where joy and love are recognised in our actions.
18 October, 2020
Despite the malice in the chief priests’ sanctimonious flattery, the character of Jesus is revealed as the teacher who is sincere, truthful, and shows no deference to privilege. The Pharisees opening remarks remind me of people who begin a stinging attack with the phony words, “With Respect,” and then show none. Even if the Pharisees are false in their compliments, truth is revealed. “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.” From his enemies we gain a view of how the people were seeing Jesus as one who spoke with integrity, sincerity and faithfulness. He accepted all, regardless of status, intent, and political persuasions; even these men who were trying to trap him in a political blunder. Trying to trick him, they bring the Emperor’s image into the sacred space but Jesus responds with love and a message for us all. Out of the trap we hear good news: We bear the image of God.
25 October, 2020
Once a spiritual director repeatedly asked me about the greatest commandment. I replied several times – love God, love your neighbour as yourself. I was a little annoyed with her repetition until I realised the significance of the third part of this commandment. We need also to love and care for ourselves. Many struggle with self-defeating issues, having been beaten down by parents and society. Those living in domestic abuse situations, those working 80 hours a week, those defined by their workload, often find it difficult to love themselves even while they care for others. This kind of love is an active choice to have as much mercy, patience and generosity towards yourself as you are expected to give to your neighbour.
There are three parts to this commandment: love God, love your neighbour, love yourself. The first two receive most attention but the last, to love oneself, can be overlooked by faithful people who exhaust themselves in giving to others. If we accept ourselves as forgiven and loved people then we will treat others with kindness, love and respect. And show our love for God.
Rev. Dr Christine Gapes