"Life Isn't Fair," Pastor Kinsey
Aphorisms fill our lives. They are inbred from our families, friends and institutions.
We live by; accept without thinking; or, resist with every fiber of our being(!), these wise-sayings and folk-phrases, like: Mind your p’s and q’s! If you work hard, you’ll get ahead! Ladies first! Dress for success! Today is the first day of the rest of your life! Love your neighbor as yourself!
There’s another one that I’m thinking of, that I’ve never forgotten. One my mom taught us. I don’t remember how old I was at the time. Was I a teenager, or still a pre-teen? Did she tell me alone, by myself, or were my brothers and sister there, as well? I just know that I remember, she told me. It was in the kitchen. I’m sure of that – where a good deal of my learning took place, now that I think of it! I have the feeling I was getting ready to leave the house, on my way somewhere. So there wasn’t much time. But the aphorism is short, as they all are. No, long drawn-out story, allegory, or parable. She just said it with the utmost confidence, that it was a truth I needed to know, and keep with me. Which I have!
She said, you know Fred, life isn’t fair! Ouch! That’s it: Life, isn’t always fair. I should be prepared for that, was her meaning I’m quite sure.
I can’t be sure what was the context was, any longer, either. Had someone done me wrong? Or, was I complaining about something that was so small, mom felt I shouldn’t be making a mountain out of it?
I feel pretty sure it was something that happened to me, or maybe to our whole family. But nothing wider in scope than that. It was an aphorism to build my character as a member of her family, her tribe, her people – our religion. It definitely wasn’t that I/or we, had been done wrong, so I/or we, should be going out seeking revenge. Life isn’t fair, so better get even! No, I’m sure that wasn’t it, at all! Life, isn’t always fair – so don’t expect special treatment, was more like it. Buck up, and overcome it. Somehow!
It was startling, and I didn’t begin to understand it, at the time. How would I know “how?” But I guess my mom knew, that would happen – that process of reflecting on it, and coming to terms with it, for myself. It was an aphorism, to chew on, all my life long.
I tried looking it up in my Confirmation Bible, but couldn’t find anywhere, where Jesus had said that, or any other biblical prophet, for that matter.
But, as I read today’s readings, I think, I finally found it. Not in so many words, but in it’s character-building meaning. In it’s parallel life. Maybe where my mom and her tribe first got it from, for all I know.
“Come to him,” come to Christ, Peter is saying in our 2nd reading. Christ is “a living stone,” “chosen and precious in God’s sight.” Even though, he was rejected by mortals – which is a nice way of saying Jesus, as, the Son of God, was mocked, beaten and crucified! But the point is, Peter see’s Christ’s life through his lense of the Hebrew prophets, who also were rejected, for their truth-telling. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” Peter quotes Psalm 118. “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” (Is.8:14-15)
Life wasn’t fair, to Jesus. Which is the understatement of all time! His unfairness, is light years away from anything you and I have had to put up with. But it’s, “how” we deal with those experiences in our lives that are unfair – however big or small – those times we are misunderstood, or we take a stand, or we tell the truth, or we sacrifice for a friend or a family member, we give something up for a greater good, we take our lumps without knowing if we’ll be redeemed or recognized – How we deal, that’s the crux of our lives, and determines who we are, as followers of Jesus.
Life wasn’t fair for Stephen either. He was the first martyr, the first to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. The parallels are unmistakable. Stephen teaches from the scriptures, all about the ways of God’s salvation history which are fulfilled in Christ Jesus – that part, comes before our First reading from Acts – it’s a couple chapters long – so be grateful it wasn’t part of today’s appointed reading! Jesus, of course, was a teacher, who used the scriptures with authority, too. Also, as Stephen is about to die, he prays for the forgiveness of those who are about to stone him, just like Jesus forgave us from the cross. And, in his final breath, Stephen looks up to heaven, and gives his spirit over to God, just like Jesus did.
In his very story, as testified to us in our reading today, Stephen experiences life as mortally “unfair,” even while modeling for us the way of forgiveness of others, and trust in God.
Tomorrow begins the 15 day March to Springfield. Drastic times call for drastic measures! This is not normal! And a state without a budget for almost two years, has already inflicted mortal wounds to the people of Illinois. What are we to do about the stalemate in Springfield? Certainly, the budget was a mess before Governor Rauner took office, no doubt. But now, it’s much worse, on his watch. People are actually in crisis and dying. As usual, the most vulnerable, pay the greatest price, the very ones Jesus came to raise up, to heal and to save, are the stones that are cast away.
What are we to do? Wait till the crisis hits us more directly? Complain to one another about politicians? Eat cake? We are Marching to Springfield because life isn’t fair, and only we, can do something about it. On this march we will meet up with people downstate and find out how much they are affected by it, and that Party has little to do with it, but we’re all affected – mothers, fathers and children, women and men, black and white, Democrat or Republican.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner – the cornerstone. Jesus was raised and has become our foundation, our new foundation. Now we build our lives on this rock, a living stone.
It used to be that our foundations – all our human-made cultures – were built by expelling whoever was the trouble-maker, agreeing on who was in, and rejecting the odd one out, transferring our guilt and sin, and letting the weak one, the crippled, the lame, the blind, the immigrant, the woman, the person of color, the leper or one with AIDS – be tagged, persecuted or worse. God says – The rejected one is actually innocent – and we have killed him. Life is not fair – do you perceive it yet?!
Today we raise up our mother’s, who we acknowledge as foundation stones, but are often pigeon-holed into something they’re not! Are all mothers soft, are all mothers curvy? Are all mothers, stay at home? Are all mothers natural nurturer’s? Are all mothers the head of the PTA?
Mothers are different – and are many things to each of us! Mother’s, and those who are like mothers to us, give life in many ways. They can give birth – but they also teach, they have faith, they are politicians, they are authors, they are activists, they are doctors, they are race car drivers, and so much more – and sometimes they stumble and fall too, like all the rest of us. Hopefully, they are only rejected by their precocious and upstart teenagers!
How did your mother react, when life wasn’t fair? It probably taught you a thing or two – no matter what that reaction was!
God reacts strongly to the rejection of his son Jesus, by raising him up to new life, and making him the very head of the corner, the living cornerstone. Do we get what that means?
“Once you were not a people,” says Peter,
“But now you are God’s people;
Once you had not received mercy,” that is, because life isn’t fair…
“But now you have received mercy.”
Thanks for helping me see it, mom!