He told many stories.
One centred on a vineyard
where opportunistic tenants flout the law;
to intimidate their way to wealth.
Nothing new, here.
That tradition goes back to Ahab,
and far beyond; the ruthless grabs
for property and power.
They continue, gathering pace.
In our time the violence
may be more subtle; it is no less real
or cruel. It springs from corporations,
boardrooms, banks, and speculators;
as commodities, goods and services
are traded and sold,
along with the poor.
Land is snatched,
forests are stripped and burned,
and people are moved on,
along with other inconvenient life-forms.
The earth is gouged and torn,
while mines and factories pour their
despoliation into clouds, rivers and oceans.
The storyteller told his tale
as an allegory of the fruits of generosity and love
expected from those who find themselves
in the divine kingdom.
Its catalogue of ascendingly violent acts
was, of course, made up;
a literary device designed to engender
among his hearers.
The violence that attends our planet
and its peoples, however,
is bleedingly real.
There are, at story’s end,
two assurances: that the cruel and brutal
will receive justice,
and that those who are otherwise unworthy
will be graciously included.
We can only hope
that these promises might be true.
They assembled their questions
and laid them before him.
Some wanted answers,
reaching towards enlightenment;
for others the goal was to snare and entrap.
Some questions were honest, others devious;
a few asked after truth,
for others the answers were of no account.
Who is he,
why has he come?
By whose authority,
when is the hour,
which is the way,
who can be saved,
what do these things mean?
Who is my neighbour?
The man poses questions of his own.
He does not wait for an invitation;
he asks, who are you, what will you be?
Will you come and love,
and weep, and give?
Will you stand? If you fall,
will you rise and live?
Will you dare?
Jesus, spinner of many improbable
and awkward yarns,
once told a story about vineyard workers.
The workforce grew steadily
as more pickers were recruited
at various points throughout the day.
In the end, the undeserving latecomers
are treated with generosity,
while the twelve-hour labourers
merely get what is fair.
The indignation engendered
by the travelling teacher man
sees his polite audience shaking their heads
And with the way he put his tale together,
the heat-of-the-day workers,
can’t even complain that the lucky ones
We, who are theologically informed,
understand that this story is all about divine grace,
improbable and outrageous.
Two millennia on
such generosity still offends.
Unless, of course, it is extended to ourselves. We, as everyone can see,
Our intention is to gather some suitably approved historians; direct them to collect the stories, interrogate the documents, and compile them into a seamless narrative (We will, of course, be downplaying the embarrassing bits and other parts that might discomfort us.) Thus we shall create for ourselves a History that we can be proud of. With some further prodding and kneading, some teasing-out and coaxing, and with suitable invocations of the Divine, we shall recite our story and rehearse it until it solidifies into a Myth. A real one, grand and inviolate, upon which we can build our tribe / religion / nation.
In ancient Israel, a remembering meal is appointed, prepared and written into law. This annual repast, laden with food and symbol, commemorates a journey to freedom and nationhood; one which is tragically interleaved with dying and grief. A Passover meal, to celebrate a divine passing over; salvation and life for the chosen ones. For others, sorrow, bitterness and death.
But that’s okay, we will cope; as long as nobody questions the Myth.