Sunday, November 1, 2009

An insane generosity (part two)

What Paul MeantIn Andrew Greeley's book "Jesus: A Meditation on His Stories and His Relationships with Women," he unpacks the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (which he titles "The Crazy Vintner," as it is the vineyard owner who the parable is fully about), in which men are hired to harvest grapes at various intervals throughout the day, as the owner returns to the marketplace again and again. At the end of the day, the vintner pays everyone the wage of a silver coin, the wage for a full day, no matter how long each person had worked, causing grousing among those who'd worked since sun-up.
"John Shea says that this is the most unpopular parable because people perceive it as being "not fair." Why did the loafers get paid for not working. It seems possible that Jesus was retelling a rabbinic story in which those who came at the eleventh hour worked so hard they earned a day's wage. ...

"They were startled, shocked, disturbed by Jesus' twist. Instead of the pious moral of the original story he portrayed the five o'clock crowd as more interested in how much they'd be paid than in doing any work. ... Such men deserved no more than a pittance.

"The protagonist of Jesus' story, however, did a terrible thing. He paid everyone the same. He paid everyone the same. Even the five o'clock slackers received the silver coin, much to the dismay of those who had worked the whole day. The farmer was not only unjust, he was off-the-wall crazy. This was God?

"The answer was, yes, this is God. The story was ... about a God who was so expansive, abundant, and loving in his generosity that humans who behaved with similar generosity people would think insane. ... It is much easier to deal with the odd economics of the parable than to deal with the image of a mad and perhaps madcap God. ... Yet Jesus believed and asked us to believe that the God of Isaiah has to be exorbitant in his abundance or he isn't God."
It's interesting to me that in a completely different book I was reading, about a completely different passage, I felt compelled to blog about the insane generosity of God. (Hence the 'part two' in the title for this one.)

It also just occurred to me that one of the movie reviews that I wrote that I submitted for our church's art journal is also about God's irrationality:
An icon can be counted on to act according to its nature. An icon can be counted on to follow the dictates of the script. That is why it is so important to understand God as more than an icon of love, truth, justice and beauty, more than just a measuring stick for all that is good and perfect. God is not reasonable, stable, easy to understand. God is a living being, capable of surprise, capable of performing the irrational act of incarnating himself as a human. It was not a just act; it was not dictated by his standards; it was not inevitable. The crux of the Gospel message is this: God loves human beings more than his own standards, and he put himself through death in order to break the hold those standards had on him.
Apparently, no matter how many times it strikes me that God is not a rational, sensible, fair, rule-adherent being, it's always a new revelation. It's just too ingrained in my mind that God is somehow the personification of all order and reason, logic and sense. The smartest people in our society are the dispassionate observers of phenomena and the constructors of theories that bring order to our thoughts and concepts of reality. So true reality must be clean, ordered, and sensible underneath, right? But no. Real love, for instance, is irrational. It is a little unhinged. It doesn't make sense. Maybe, just maybe, the really smart people in this world are those who love most. God, who is love, must be equally wild, passionate, abundant, lavish, playful, surprising, and intimate. I wish I could see that all the time.

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