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  • The Rev. Arianne Rice

Ought to Be

Some of you have noted – and asked me about – the Lord’s Prayer we’ve been using all summer. It’s different. It is what we call the “contemporary” version of the prayer – which yes, is found in our Book of Common Prayer – although saying it’s contemporary is a bit of a stretch. The BCP is from 1979.

We are all very used to the version with thy kingdom come, thy will be done. This version is in words less familiar to us in the prayer – but certainly more common in our everyday speech – your kingdom come, your will be done.

Which in point of fact – is also the way we would read Jesus teaching the Lord’s prayer in Matthew and in Luke. We wouldn’t hear the word “thy” because – well, that word we would find in a much older translation – the King James.

Have you ever heard the joke about the pastor who was trying to move his flock away from the King James Version of the bible – to one that was more contemporary. His congregation was giving him grief about it – so he called them all together to talk it out – and a parishioner stood up and said, “Look pastor, if the queen’s English is good enough for Jesus, then it’s good enough for me!”

That’s the joke by the way. We get so bonded to the words we hear growing up – the traditions that we know – that when a new tradition comes along – one that is against “the way things ought to be” in our minds - it bothers us, might even make us mad.

Jesus spoke Aramaic – a lost language – not the Queen’s English. Sometimes what we make sacrosanct isn’t actually sacred – it’s just ours. And we hold it tightly – too tightly. We take the change as a personal affront to what we believe is “the way things ought to be.”

This pastor by the way – is a “way things ought to be” kind of girl. I’m a #1 on the Enneagram chart – that’s a spiritually based character and personality assessment – but #1 is called the idealist. The idealist lives life believing there is a way things ought to be – a way towels ought to be folded – a way shelves are to be organized – a way vestments are to be worn – a way liturgy ought to flow – way dishes are to be put away – I mean I could go on all day – with the way things ought to be!

There are some benefits to this outlook it is true – particularly because #1’s – Idealists – think there is a way the world ought to be that aligns with fairness – love – equality – harmony – peace. We tend to go into professions that align with those values. However – we can take it too far. Strict adherence can also lead to anger, closed mindedness, stubbornness, even assigning malevolent intent when someone else just has a different way things ought to be.

Simply put – my opinion about the way things ought to be – is mine. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that – and one of the areas of my life where I’ve asked Jesus for some help with that growing edge. Help being more open and accepting of ways that differ from my own. Contemplative prayer and choosing curiosity over judgment have been a big help.

So, the Lord’s Prayer – the Confession – the Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people – are new, for some of us myself included, ways to speak what we believe. Which may trip up our tongues – or cause us to stumble a bit because it’s not rote – and, yet, maybe some stumbling at times – is good for us.

Maybe that can help all of us loosen our grip on the very personal mindsets of “the way things ought to be.”

The landowner in the parable does not live into “the way things ought to be” according to the day laborers. Specifically the ones who have been working since the beginning of the day. One commentary I read noted that of all the parables Jesus shares – this one might be the hardest – it might be the only one where we so easily identify with the people who get the short end of the stick.

How can we not align our head and our hearts with these poor guys who work all day – yet, get the same wage as those who show up late! Its so clear they do not deserve what they get!

Parables are hard because all of them mess with the way the world says things ought to be. Which is spelled out in the prayer Jesus teaches – no matter what version we use – that prayer outlines the way God says things ought to be:

Our Father in heaven – holy is your name.

Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

This parable begins with Jesus telling us he is about to describe the kingdom of heaven. In case we are wondering what God wills for us on earth – Jesus is now going to describe God’s will for us – so we, people who want to be God-bearers in this world – can bring that will into our world.

Jesus said – the kingdom of heaven is like….and then this story that makes us mad. A landowner – someone of great wealth and significance – goes out and hires day laborers – people who have no land and are of no significance. And, you know the rest – those who came to the vineyard last, who worked the least are paid the same as those who were first. Which causes the first to grumble – because that is not the way things ought to be.

But it is in the kingdom of heaven – the people in our fields, the people in our world, the ones who are not considered deserving by the world’s standards are the ones who will be first. What does that say to us – here and now?

There is something else – note how the landowner speaks to the laborers. First, he listens to their concerns. He let’s them make their grumbling known. He is the boss and the one with all the power – and yet – he addresses them as “Friend.” Friend, he says, I am doing you no wrong. And he goes on to ask a question of deep spiritual significance. “Are you envious of my generosity?”

So perhaps the encouragement this morning is a reminder for when we find ourselves grumbling against the way things ought to be – envious or angry at the level of deserving of someone else and wanting to hold onto our resentment instead of letting go of it. Maybe that is a good time to pray the Lord’s prayer – in whatever way the words come to your heart.

As an invitation to hear God say – and what way friend, what action or attitude might bring in the kingdom – what way might God’s will of abundant generosity and forgiveness make a way in the will of our world.

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