Thinking about next Sunday's readings for September 18.
It is sort of a complaining Sunday. The Israelites are complaining about being bored with manna and the workers are complaining about the landowner's unfairness. Even Paul is of two minds about living or dying. He seems kind of tired of being an itinerant preacher, suffering, and trying to build up the faith.
For those who have escaped with their lives from the disaster of Hurricane Katrina or any other disaster, war, or famine - manna, or any sustenance seems like a bounty. Once the immediacy of the tragedy gives way to the day to day awareness of loss of home, identity, photos, not to mention all the other possessions and items that make a place one's own, then complaining about something that is handy, like the food, follows as an outlet for all that grief.
The parable of the landowner had puzzled me for many years until I was confronted by a classmate in seminary with the question "look at it from the point of view of the day laborer." Thinking back over my days as a teen picking beans and strawberries in the Portland, Oregon area - I began to see it in a new way. The strong are chosen to work early - the field owners buses would come by the corner where we stood hoping for work. Later as it became clear they needed more pickers - others would be chosen slowly gathering at last the weakest of us. For me it did not really matter because I would have a home and dinner to go to at the end of the day but for those dependent on these jobs - each day would begin in hope that they would be able to provide for their families, have food for another day, see their children sleep in a bed. As the day wore on - hope would die and families would not be fed more than meager rations. What a parable of the kingdom - the last, the weak, the hopeless, all receive a day's wage - all are given hope.
I was both sad and hopeful when I read this eyewitness account of the days after the hurricane. Sad at the terrible response of those who were supposed to be trained to help and hopeful at the community that formed and how ordinary people reached out to each other to care.