This is the devotion for the Custer County Chief for its October 8, 2020 issue. Thanks to the Chief for printing devotions from the pastors of the Custer County Ministerial Association.
Sometime this winter, I’m going to sit down at the table with my family to share a tomato-laden staple at our house: perhaps a pizza, a pot of chili, or pasta. I hope that when we share one of these meals, with wind-whipped snow skirting around the sides of my house, that I remember this statement: This is not fair.
You see, my wife or I will have made one of these dishes from tomatoes we canned in the last few weeks. These weren’t the tomatoes we grew. Those went into my pints of salsa that, with a certain amount of self-control, will last through the spring. These tomatoes came to me through the generosity of others. They labored, they watered, they weeded, and they even harvested them. I just picked them up when they called. I didn’t work for them at all. I didn’t even have canning lids; a generous friend gave me a couple dozen. By definition, that I’d have such delicious, garden-grown tomatoes in the thick of winter is not fair.
Jesus challenges my notions of fairness in the parable of the vineyard owner (Mt 20). The vineyard owner paid each laborer in his field the same full-day’s wage, even those who’d only worked one hour. Those who worked longest grumbled: That’s not fair. In this parable, Jesus teaches about God’s grace – about how salvation, life, and blessing are God’s gifts to bestow and spread, and which are never dependent on how worthy we are.
Consequently, I hope that, as my family shares a “table grace” – a prayer of thanksgiving – I remember the generosity and grace of others, in addition to God’s grace. Sometimes we pray like this: “Bless us, O Lord, and these, your gifts which we are about to receive through your bounty…” If this prayer is truthful, then it means God’s bounty passes through human hands, and that we, together – friends, neighbors, strangers, and family – are God’s way of spreading out God’s abundance and grace. May our tables always remind us of God’s grace and God’s calling to bear God’s gracious abundance with others. Thanks be to God and you, friends.