Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost — October 8, 2017
Seeing Who We Are
I love science fiction, not because of how it takes us into an imaginary world, but because it shows us our world and explains humanity. At its best, it helps us understand how we have the poten-tial to be both righteous rebellion and tyrannical empire.
Good science fiction follows a pattern, especially in how it uses the “bad guys” to show how things will go if we let our worst nature win out. Especially good writing makes it clear just how easy it is to give in to the darkness and justify it as normal.
It’s the same way with a parable from Jesus. He spins a good tale, draws in his listeners, and then smacks them with a truth about our humanity. He shows his audience a picture of the world that leads them . . . us . . . to say, “No, bad, we would never do that, so glad we aren’t those wicked fools . . .”—and then it slowly dawns on us who we are in the story.
The parable of a vineyard in Matthew 21:33–46 follows the pattern, almost as if it started, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . .” The plot unfolds in a few verses, sweeping us to a point where we realize we are on the wrong side of the narrative; we have been shown what good is by hearing what bad is. It is good and right to recognize that the harvest belongs to God; don’t treat agents of God wickedly; don’t think we get to be in charge of the empire by taking out the master’s son.
We learn much from a short parable, and unlike fantasy, we can live these lessons out. OK, maybe we get to live out what we learn from science fiction too; just don’t tell anyone I have a starship parked behind the church.
Ian Edwards, pastor, Good News Moravian Church, and co-founder of Common Ground Café, both in Sherwood Park, Alberta