Sermon for Sept. 20, 2020 -- "Complainers"

In my hometown the Welcome Wagon ladies called upon a new resident, Mona Whiner. As they were bestowing gifts to Mona she complained about the weather. It was just too warm today whereas last week it was just too cold. She couldn’t be outside much because her skin was very tender and would burn and then she would get skin cancer and likely die. Of course, winter was coming and they couldn’t afford to go south to its warmth but had to stay up north freezing and her arthritis would just be too unbearable.

She asked the Welcome Wagon Ladies about the churches in town as they were shopping for a new church. Mona didn’t want to belong to one of those liberal churches that were all hung up on minority rights and other such causes. “Just give me good old bible preaching,” she said. Of course, she also did want to have anything to do with those fundy bible thumpers, who didn’t understand today’s world and issues. “I go to church to get my spiritual gas for the week, and none of that ethanol diluted stuff either. I want to just feel good when I leave. I want my spiritual needs met.”

She asked about shopping in town. She didn’t like those big stores where you had to walk miles and miles to find junky stuff. But those poor little family businesses were just too expensive and didn’t have enough inventory. From what she saw so far, New Sharon was long on bars and churches, but didn’t have much else.

Mona looked across the street and saw some Trump and Biden signs. Looks like my neighbors are just too political. They likely fight with each other daily. And those political commercials, “When will they ever end,” complained Mona. “I don’t think I’ll bother to vote,” Said Mona, “Too many Sunday dinners have been ruined by political table talk.”

She told the Welcome ladies that she needed to find work as Mr. Whiner just didn’t make enough money for them to live comfortably. Her health wouldn’t permit her to work long or late hours and certainly no heavy lifting. She didn’t want to have to play nicey-nicey to unappreciative shoppers. She wasn’t computer savvy and had no intention of becoming techy folk. She didn’t want to work outside because of her sensitive skin but didn’t want to be holed up in some office with no windows.

She then asked the Welcome Wagon ladies were the folk in town friendly saying, “The people in the town where they had lived before were not friendly, just too uppity and cliquish. If you hadn’t been born there and your parents born there you just were excluded. But she did at least have some friends and said they should have never left.

Mona looked like she was about to catch her second wind and the Welcome Wagon Ladies said they had many other places to call on that day and dashed away as quickly as they could.

And that’s the way it is in my hometown where folk are pretty much like folk everywhere else.

There is a pretty obvious common theme in today O.T. and Gospel lessons – they are complainers like Mona Whiner.

In Exodus, though they had fled successfully from their Egyptian rulers who kept them in slavery. Now they were stuck in the desert and were likely to starve. So, they complained to Moses and his brother Aaron about their poor leadership. At least back in Egypt that had food to eat.

In the parable Jesus tells in the gospel story is a lot more complaining by the day laborers. Those who worked longer were complaining and saying they should be paid more. That just seems fair doesn’t it?

I had a secretary once that often took issue with those parables. In the prodigal son parable she said it was unfair to the son who had stayed home, he should have had the party thrown for him rather than that degenerate brother of his had thrown away his inheritance.

Today’s parable would really get her hackles up about the obvious unfairness of the vineyard owner. Of course, the ones who worked longer should get paid more, that’s only fair; rotten vineyard potentate.

The shepherd who left the entire flock to look for one lamb who was missing was just stupid. He endangered 99 sheep to find one lamb who had wandered off.

When she would go on one of these tirades, I would say that to understand parables you had to understand who the characters portrayed in each story. There was always an authority figure who stood for God, and there were various others that represented folk like us.

In the prodigal son story, we generally get that the father represents God, but how many hearing this story identify with the elder son? But the story has greater power when we understand that we are the prodigals constantly fleeing from God and God’s teaching. And yet are treasured by God.

In the lost sheep story, it is clear God is the shepherd and we are the lost sheep.

And in today’s story the vineyard owner is God, and the day laborers and us, each given not what we deserve but the largess of the giver to all folk.

One of the ways the 1 percent in our society use us is to get us to complain about the unfairness of those of those closer to us economically. Let me explain. A salesclerk may complain about a fast-food worker wanting a $15 minimum way where they are only getting that themselves. Or the sales clerk complaining that a trucker getting more than they are. If the 1% can keep the focus on the value of each other’s work, then they won’t be blamed for paying all workers badly. The problem in our country in good times or bad, is not the amount of money in our society the probable is in how it is divided up.

But here is the real point. In the Exodus story God hears the complaints of God’s people and responds in a spectacular way providing food when it is needed.

And each parable tells us how God’s kingdom is supposed to operate. God gives gifts to everyone. True some seem to get more than others, but the point is God’s generosity.

The God of the secular world focuses on immediate material need and sleights of hand to keep the wealthy stealing from others so they can have more

Complain we will, we’re humans. We’re Mona Whiners.

But remember that God hears us and responds perhaps not in the way we want, but always steadfast love of us is always there.

Did you know that most of the Psalms are complaints, complaints to God. We tend to just use the positive ones in worship, but most are complaints to God.

But in the Psalms, there is a word that is used very, very often – Hesed. It is a word that we translate as steadfast love, loyalty, constant care. A word that describes God’s love and care for us as a constant.

Let us also give thanks and praise God for God’s constant, unconditional abundant love of us.