On the Bus!
Last month Knox and TLC held a wonderful worship service at Riverfront Park (and a picnic!). We “forest-bathed” in the redwoods, and we reflected upon God’s generosity, inspired by the story of Jonah. Jonah, Scripture tells us, was not so happy that God was “a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.” Like a spoiled child, Jonah sits under a tree, pouting and unhappy that God is treating the Ninevites so graciously.
Kate Lasso of 8th Day Faith Community reflected (Inward/Outward online gospel reflection) on author Richard Rohr’s comments about how our world stresses performance and behavior that earns a reward. We can only turn ourselves around by embracing the mystery of God’s forgiveness. Richard Rohr writes, “Forgiveness is the great thawing of all logic, reason, and worthiness. It is a melting into the mystery of God as unearned love, unmerited grace, the humility and powerlessness of a Divine Lover.” We can’t “buy or sell grace.” It’s a gift!
The author speaks of that person who squeezes onto the bus just as the bus doors are about to close. We rejoice with that person! As in Jesus’ story of the workers in the vineyard, “it doesn’t matter if we got on the bus at the beginning of the route, close to the end, were waiting for ten minutes, or had to sprint half a block. What matters is that the bus came, and we got on. What matters is that God invited us to be workers in the field and we said yes.”
What we all have in common is God’s grace, whether we are deserving or not. The story of Jonah and the Ninevites tells us of God’s concern for those who need help the most. God’s grace is even for those people we don’t approve of or who we think are not worthy – and even all the Ninevite animals who would have perished if the city had been destroyed in a show of justice!
And in fact, when we think about it, we realize that we’re not so different from those people who, in God’s words, didn’t “know their right hand from their left.” We need God’s grace just as much as they did. We certainly are often in the dark when it comes to the right thing to do, the right words to say, the decisions that need to be made. Where would be without that grace?
But we don’t need to worry. We hear the message: God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” God loves us, every one of us, you and me and everyone we encounter in our sad world. God’s grace is infinite, inclusive, never-ending. We receive forgiveness, grace, and love, not because we deserve it, but because of who God is.
And we are called to be generous and kind, just as God is generous and kind to us. May our gracious, compassionate Lord inspire and help us to be gracious to each other. Let’s get on the bus! Amen.