Thursday, September 18, 2008

The last shall be first

Do you remember, 6:00 P.M., August 1, 2007? It was the day that the 35W bridge collapsed. Thirteen people died.

Today at 5:00 a.m. the new bridge opened.

There was a lot of fanfare: a sort of mini-parade across the bridge to open things up. On the radio I heard the voice of a man from our congregation. He came on his motorcycle, because he wanted to say that he had been the first motorcycle over the bridge.

At my bag lunch Bible study on Wednesday, we had the opposite reaction. We discussed the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, and paused over the curious detail that the workers who were hired last were paid first. Think about it. The vineyard owner would not have run in to any problems if he had paid the early workers first; they would never have known that he had paid everyone the same.

But that's not what he did.

And then there is that curious line: "The last shall be first, and the first shall be last." We talked about why it is we all want to be first in line. We're in a hurry, maybe: that's one reason. Or, it is a shame to be at the end of the line, sort of like it is a shame to be the last one chosen to be on the softball team.

Or, maybe we are not sure there will be enough. Supplies may be limited, you know. So we don't want to be last in line, stuck with empty hands and dashed hopes.

Yep, we all wanted to be at the front of the line, not at the end.

Except for the bridge. We all decided we could wait and not be the first to go over the bridge. We would gladly let all those other people test it out, and make sure that it worked.

So, tonight I'm celebrating: the new bridge, put up in record time. I'm celebrating the motorcyclist from my church, brave enough to be first across. I'm celebrating the last who will be first, and the promise that supplies will not be limited.

And I'm wondering: why can't all bridges across chasms be so strong, so quickly built, so bravely crossed?


Singing Owl said...

Oh, if only!

I'm glad to hear that the new bridge is up in Minneapolis, anyway. :-)

FranIAm said...

Oh Diane... We had this parable for our Small Faith Sharing group this week, so it has really been on my mind.

This gives one much to ponder.

ProclaimingSoftly (PSanafter-thought) said...

My son's friend is/was a consulting engineer on the bridge. He has been putting in extremely long hours. Everything that was done there was checked by the engineers and redone if it wasn't up to specifications. I'm sure he is making money at doing that, but he won't be part of the extra big bonus that the building company will get because he is from an outside firm.

I was in Philly when the bridge collapsed. I didn't figure that my son had any need to cross the bridge that day, but he lived near it and made a point of calling me to tell me that he was fine. He is thoughtful that way.

Pastor Eric said...

In my sermon on Sunday I am not focusing on the payment at the end, but rather on the payment at the very beginning. For me...the gift is the fact that we were chosen in the first place. The problem comes in when we forget about the gift God gives us by turning to the economics of today...the economics of just payment for one's work and service. Thank God that our economics are not God's.

Rev SS said...

love this reflection, Diane!

Anonymous said...

I've pondered that parable, too. Thanks for bringing it into context.

Lindy said...

That's a rich parable. I always think about what the landowner said when he finally got involved -- initially he sent his steward to do the dastardly deed, remember. -- He said "Friend...what's it to you" and he didn't use philos either, he used hetairos. Still means friend but more like chum, buddy... he wasn't being nice. I think he was a condescending (&@#+ but that's just me. And then I remember Jesus saying that all those who call him friend, friend won't really be his friends...

Interesting that at harvest time there were so many unemployed workers.

I am glad you have your new bridge Diane. We need a lot of new bridges in the country right now. Bridges over rivers, and bridges between workers and profits, and among all of us estranged and out of place who need one another.

Thanks for this post. Such beautiful things you do with words.