Friday, September 22, 2006

Joseph Sittler "The Care of the Earth"

"God wants people to know the joy and fullness of life in himself--and this joy and fullness is not unrelated to food and health and work to do. And justice, above all." -- from How to read a parable.

Sittler writes this chapter while discussing Luke's story of a great dinner banquet. The invitations have been sent out to the elite, the really successful people--and now the meal is ready--But no one is coming. They all have changed their minds and have something more important to do. One has bought a new field, one has a new wife, one has new cattle and must inspect them. When the rich man who sent out the invitations finds out about their decisions not to come, he commands his servants to go into the streets and fields and "bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame." But there is still room in the banquet for more. So the master of the house says to his servants, "Go out into the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled."

"If there be a Lord, and if he has requirements of people, and his table of freedom-in-love for the salvation of them involves the earthly needs of their common humanity, then there is a theology of history. And if there is such a structured power and meaning and purpose, then the preoccupations of human history (fields and cattle and wives in marriage) can indeed advance or retard God's purpose for his human family. But they cannot obliterate or change it.
"And more! This parable suggests to us that the first and most natural children of this knowledge of the purpose of God are often the first to deny or evade it. " How to read a parable

Sittler comes to the conclusion that the "punchline" in this parable is at the very end. "God wills many things," he says, "but not just many things in a general heap. There is an order in his will, a priority in his purpose."

"But this story makes very clear that there s a steady growl of anger at the heart of the holy, that the love of God for his human family has a hard and resolute intention. What that is, and certainty about God's will to see it through, comes out in the phrase , '...that my house may be filled.' Not our house, but his house; not according to our specifications, but according to his will; not according to our preferences, but in ways appropriate to the awesome carelousness of his love."


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