Readings – Exodus 16:2-15, Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45, Philippians 1:21-30, Matthew 20: 1-16
Spaghetti and meatballs is one of my favorite meals. Spaghetti and meatballs. You see, we had spaghetti regularly growing up, family of Seven, five children. It was always meat sauce. Why? Because my mother knew there would always be complaining if there were meatballs. Who got three or four or five or who got the larger meat balls? With the three oldest being always hungry boys, there were always complaints about who got what. My mother did not want to hear it, so we got spaghetti and meat sauce.
The Hebrew tribes, newly freed from slavery in Egypt, all they did was complain to Moses. Some even thought they were better off as slaves in Egypt. Complain. Complain. Complain.
You know you can build a community based on complaints. You can build a community based on “ain’t it awful”. Ain’t it awful, the taxes are too high. Ain’t it awful the weather is too hot (or too cold). Ain’t it awful the Eagles are struggling this year.
The tribes of Hebrews that fled Egypt and crossed through the Red Sea on dry ground began to form a community, a community of complainers. Yet God knows that such a community was too weak to endure the wilderness and the trek to the Promised Land. The manna and the quail that fell from the sky would have the complaining ease up, but true, strong, solid community formation need more that manna and quail. For a true, a strong and a solid community you need community identity and community purpose.
So, God and Moses lead the tribes of Hebrews to a place Moses knew, to Mt. Sinai. There they received their identity. They were the people of the Ten Commandments.
You shall have no other gods but me. You shall not make for yourself any idol. You shall not invoke with malice the Name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not commit murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not be a false witness. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. (BCP, p, 350)
It was on these Ten Commandments that they would build a true, a strong, and a solid community. And the prophets, the rabbis, and Jesus of Nazareth refined that identity into a purpose – Love God, Love Neighbor and Love Self. This is simply stated, Love God, Neighbor and Self, yet very challenging to live.
From fleeing Egypt to the current day, our community is only as true, as strong, as solid as we are a community of love.
Our Gospel reading is a bit odd at first hearing. All the workers got their daily wage. Those who worked in the vineyard all day and those who worked only a couple hours got the same amount. The daily wage enables the poor to buy food for their evening family meal. Without the full daily wage, the family would go hungry that night. All the workers had been up at dawn, all were ready to work at first light. At first light, at 9 a.m., at 12 noon, at 3 p.m., at 5 p.m. the landowner went out and hired laborers for the harvest. Finally, all were hired as they had hoped at the start of the day. Was it fair that all were paid the same wage? Not exactly, so there was grumbling, there was complaining. Was it justice? God’s justice goes beyond fairness, God’s justice was that all who wished to work, found work, and were paid and were able to provide for their family that day.
Forming a true, a solid, a strong community in the wilderness in the time of Moses was tough work, harder than just complaining. Forming a true, a solid, a strong community in ancient Israel in the time of Jesus was tough work, harder than just complaining. Forming a true, a solid, a strong community in today’s environment in our time is tough work, harder than just complaining.
As we love God, as we love neighbor (even those we do not like), as we love ourselves, as we strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being [as our Baptismal Covenant declares(BCP, 305)], as we move beyond complaining we build a truer, a more solid and a stronger community. It is tough work. As someone once said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”