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Linda C Beattie Inlow

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Just Desserts
By Linda C Beattie Inlow
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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Who decides when one gets their "just desserts" - a phrase which can refer to either the good or bad reward.

Sermon 19th Sunday after Pentecost – Jonah 3:10 – 4:11, Matthew 10:1-16

I love books.  I love to read; I love to write; I love word games.  I enjoy making pictures with words and touching the hearts and minds with people with words.  I love to preach and tell stories to impart a message.  I enjoy listening to the stories of others and always pray for a good outcome.

This past week I was surrounded by words, words in the form of books which have yet to be printed for public distribution.  I took home a copy of JA Jance’s latest novel, Cruel Intent due out this December and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains for my daughter which came out this month.  I worked the booth for the Independent Book Publisher’s Association out of in Portland on Tuesday.  I meandered the booths of other publishing houses like Random, Mifflin, Harcourt and Simon and Shuster who were passing out Advanced Reader’s Copy of their titles are recently released titles for –FREE.  I packed up 5 book bags and one box of new books.  Then I dropped them all off save those two titles to Kalama Public Library.  It was trick or treat for a reader like me!

I became a reader early on.  Reading let me see worlds and visit worlds that were nicer, more adventuresome and definitely more orderly than mine.  I could imagine slaying the dragon, or the perfect relationship or the bad guys getting it in the end.  Justice was justice; the good always won. The bad guys got their just desserts.  I usually felt vindicated, triumphant or if it was a tear jerker emotionally drained when I finished reading.  Reading is definitely an ardent hobby of mine.

I bring up this past time, because we read a lot in church.  In fact three passages of Scripture were read to you.  The outcomes were rather unsettling for the main characters.  Jonah was definitely disgruntled at God for not doing Nineveh in.  The workers in the vineyard had some harsh words to say, because they felt unjustified at what they considered the unequal treatment by their boss when it came time to pay.

Just like Jonah and these workers we want justice.  We want justice the way WE want justice, not necessarily how God and lately how authors dish it out.

John Grisham has done that for me when it comes to two of his latest books, The Appeal and Playing for Pizza.  In The Appeal a Mississippi jury returns a $41-million verdict against a chemical company accused of dumping carcinogenic waste into a small town's water supply. The company's ruthless billionaire CEO is thwarted and the good guys (a courageous young woman who lost her husband and child and her two lawyers who've gone half a million dollars in debt preparing her case) receives its just reward. Or so it seems.  That’s the beginning – it’s a full length book that keeps you involved with the characters and at the end – ugh the bad guys, like in our OT lesson in Nineveh, didn’t really get his “just desserts” like I thought they should

Playing for Pizza is a short book. The main character is a Scoundrel and he doesn’t have too many character improvements when one puts down this short novella.  He just doesn’t get it – life doesn’t revolve around him; he’s still a scoundrel – maybe not with a capital S.

I want the stories I read to be different than my life; I want the bad guys caught; I want them brought to justice and receive their “just desserts.”  I don’t want my stories to be like the newspaper articles I read, or the news I hear on TV or read about in magazines.  The bad guys always seem to be able to slough off and seemingly make good instead of better at the end.

I read to escape the bad news and real life.  Yet our Scriptures point out there is no way to escape life – even in reading.  It’s what we do with the news, not what we expect the news to be that makes the difference.

For Jonah – it wasn’t his task to make sure Nineveh got what Jonah thought was coming to them rather that was God’s task.  Jonah wasn’t called to improve Nineveh, justify Nineveh’s actions, only to preach to them.  What they did with the information or what God did to them was left up to Nineveh and God.  Jonah had no say in the matter.  Jonah could not be lawyer, judge and jury.  He was simply the court reporter and messenger.

In the parable Jesus told, we who are listening can see justice.  The early birds signed on to work a certain wage and they received it – that’s justice.  Those who came in the middle or at the end and got paid – that’s justice.  The fact that other’s got paid more for less work – that’s the owner’s prerogative.  The workers got their just desserts – they received exactly what as expected by them at the beginning of the day.  The fact others were paid more, was 1– none of their business; and 2 if they had known they should have been happy the others got paid and not bemoaned the others good fortune because of their own greed. Each group got their just desserts – exactly what they deserved.  It may not have been to the other workers liking or even appeal to us who read or heard it this morning.  But the workers – all of them got their just desserts.

That phrase came to be in the 13th century.  It applies to getting what is deserved be it good or bad.  The only time just desserts doesn’t seem to fit, is like my stories, when I – the human or Jonah the prophet or the worker who started early in the morning – think according to us they didn’t get their just desserts.

These stories point out, our perspective and knowledge of what was, what is and what is come is limited to just us.  Limited.  We can’t know what God has in mind for everyone or every situation.  We were not privy to the negotiations of others and their lives, only ours.

We should be concerned only whether or not we are receiving our just desserts by the lives we live.  God shares with us equally – in fact at communion today we share in a meal freely given and hopefully gratefully received.  We come to the table as equals – no one better or less than another. This meal marks us as being One with God, an opportunity to share the bread equally with another.

In the story, CHAINS, I was moved by one passage where a group of prisoners who were starving.  They were rebels held by the British in squalor and filth.  A slave girl came with a bucket of scraps from her Tory slave master’s table.  The men hadn’t eaten for 3 days.  Instead of fighting for the food or choosing by rank, the bucket was passed first to the highest rank then around the group.  Each man took but one piece – turnip skin, a crust of bread, a charred potato scrap, until the bucket came back to the girl. When she commented there was still some left, the commander said the men had stood side by side fighting together regardless of rank against the common enemy.  None deserved more than another, and then he asked if it would be all right to pass the bucket again.

Each man got their just desserts – double meaning intended.

Let me end with a more contemporary story:

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car backed out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. He was really friendly.

So I asked, “Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!”

This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, "The Law of the Garbage Truck."

He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you. Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on.

Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so ... Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't. Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!

Just desserts – who decides?  We are equal in the eyes of God.  AMEN

 

 

 

Sermon 19th Sunday after Pentecost – Jonah 3:10 – 4:11, Matthew 10:1-16

Bethany Lutheran Church

September 21, 2008

 

Grace, mercy and peace be with you from God our Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  AMEN

I love books.  I love to read; I love to write; I love word games.  I enjoy making pictures with words and touching the hearts and minds with people with words.  I love to preach and tell stories to impart a message.  I enjoy listening to the stories of others and always pray for a good outcome.

This past week I was surrounded by words, words in the form of books which have yet to be printed for public distribution.  I took home a copy of JA Jance’s latest novel, Cruel Intent due out this December and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains for my daughter which came out this month.  I worked the booth for the Independent Book Publisher’s Association out of in Portland on Tuesday.  I meandered the booths of other publishing houses like Random, Mifflin, Harcourt and Simon and Shuster who were passing out Advanced Reader’s Copy of their titles are recently released titles for –FREE.  I packed up 5 book bags and one box of new books.  Then I dropped them all off save those two titles to Kalama Public Library.  It was trick or treat for a reader like me!

I became a reader early on.  Reading let me see worlds and visit worlds that were nicer, more adventuresome and definitely more orderly than mine.  I could imagine slaying the dragon, or the perfect relationship or the bad guys getting it in the end.  Justice was justice; the good always won. The bad guys got their just desserts.  I usually felt vindicated, triumphant or if it was a tear jerker emotionally drained when I finished reading.  Reading is definitely an ardent hobby of mine.

I bring up this past time, because we read a lot in church.  In fact three passages of Scripture were read to you.  The outcomes were rather unsettling for the main characters.  Jonah was definitely disgruntled at God for not doing Nineveh in.  The workers in the vineyard had some harsh words to say, because they felt unjustified at what they considered the unequal treatment by their boss when it came time to pay.

Just like Jonah and these workers we want justice.  We want justice the way WE want justice, not necessarily how God and lately how authors dish it out.

John Grisham has done that for me when it comes to two of his latest books, The Appeal and Playing for Pizza.  In The Appeal a Mississippi jury returns a $41-million verdict against a chemical company accused of dumping carcinogenic waste into a small town's water supply. The company's ruthless billionaire CEO is thwarted and the good guys (a courageous young woman who lost her husband and child and her two lawyers who've gone half a million dollars in debt preparing her case) receives its just reward. Or so it seems.  That’s the beginning – it’s a full length book that keeps you involved with the characters and at the end – ugh the bad guys, like in our OT lesson in Nineveh, didn’t really get his “just desserts” like I thought they should

Playing for Pizza is a short book. The main character is a Scoundrel and he doesn’t have too many character improvements when one puts down this short novella.  He just doesn’t get it – life doesn’t revolve around him; he’s still a scoundrel – maybe not with a capital S.

I want the stories I read to be different than my life; I want the bad guys caught; I want them brought to justice and receive their “just desserts.”  I don’t want my stories to be like the newspaper articles I read, or the news I hear on TV or read about in magazines.  The bad guys always seem to be able to slough off and seemingly make good instead of better at the end.

I read to escape the bad news and real life.  Yet our Scriptures point out there is no way to escape life – even in reading.  It’s what we do with the news, not what we expect the news to be that makes the difference.

For Jonah – it wasn’t his task to make sure Nineveh got what Jonah thought was coming to them rather that was God’s task.  Jonah wasn’t called to improve Nineveh, justify Nineveh’s actions, only to preach to them.  What they did with the information or what God did to them was left up to Nineveh and God.  Jonah had no say in the matter.  Jonah could not be lawyer, judge and jury.  He was simply the court reporter and messenger.

In the parable Jesus told, we who are listening can see justice.  The early birds signed on to work a certain wage and they received it – that’s justice.  Those who came in the middle or at the end and got paid – that’s justice.  The fact that other’s got paid more for less work – that’s the owner’s prerogative.  The workers got their just desserts – they received exactly what as expected by them at the beginning of the day.  The fact others were paid more, was 1– none of their business; and 2 if they had known they should have been happy the others got paid and not bemoaned the others good fortune because of their own greed. Each group got their just desserts – exactly what they deserved.  It may not have been to the other workers liking or even appeal to us who read or heard it this morning.  But the workers – all of them got their just desserts.

That phrase came to be in the 13th century.  It applies to getting what is deserved be it good or bad.  The only time just desserts doesn’t seem to fit, is like my stories, when I – the human or Jonah the prophet or the worker who started early in the morning – think according to us they didn’t get their just desserts.

These stories point out, our perspective and knowledge of what was, what is and what is come is limited to just us.  Limited.  We can’t know what God has in mind for everyone or every situation.  We were not privy to the negotiations of others and their lives, only ours.

We should be concerned only whether or not we are receiving our just desserts by the lives we live.  God shares with us equally – in fact at communion today we share in a meal freely given and hopefully gratefully received.  We come to the table as equals – no one better or less than another. This meal marks us as being One with God, an opportunity to share the bread equally with another.

In the story, CHAINS, I was moved by one passage where a group of prisoners who were starving.  They were rebels held by the British in squalor and filth.  A slave girl came with a bucket of scraps from her Tory slave master’s table.  The men hadn’t eaten for 3 days.  Instead of fighting for the food or choosing by rank, the bucket was passed first to the highest rank then around the group.  Each man took but one piece – turnip skin, a crust of bread, a charred potato scrap, until the bucket came back to the girl. When she commented there was still some left, the commander said the men had stood side by side fighting together regardless of rank against the common enemy.  None deserved more than another, and then he asked if it would be all right to pass the bucket again.

Each man got their just desserts – double meaning intended.

Let me end with a more contemporary story:

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car backed out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. He was really friendly.

So I asked, “Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!”

This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, "The Law of the Garbage Truck."

He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you. Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on.

Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so ... Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't. Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!

Just desserts – who decides?  We are equal in the eyes of God.  AMEN

 

 

 


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