Atlanta is still feeling a little bit bruised after what is being sarcastically called, Snow Jam 2014. The event that grid locked the city, stranded hundreds of school children, and caused thousands of people to leave their cars abandoned on the impassable highways and roads. Even though it has been over a week since the storm, locals are still furious with the city officials and meteorologists wanting someone to blame for the chaos.
Over the next couple of months, my students and I will be looking at Jesus’ parables. This past week I studied Matthew 20:1-16 and the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. The parable, by nature, is multilayered and provocative. It asks questions concerning justice, generosity, and equality. What does the kingdom of God look like? Maybe it takes a state of emergency here in a city busting at the seams with 450,000 residents experiencing a state of crisis to see small glimpses of what that kingdom might look like. The snow storm started to make it’s introduction right around noon on Tuesday afternoon and just a few hours later, once the city started to realize the state of crisis, a Facebook group was created for those who were helpless or stranded but still had access to the internet using their smart phones. People were posting their location, offering food and warm beds. Churches, fire stations, and schools threw open their doors and provided shelter for those who knew they weren’t going to make it home to their loved ones until the next morning when the traffic and roads had cleared. As the temperature dropped, and the roads compacted with ice the city of Atlanta offered radical hospitality to neighbors in need. There were no back ground checks or membership fees- just people experiencing the same need and offering what they had to give to one another.
The parable of the Workers in the Vineyard reminds us to live in a state of gratitude. The landowner is gracious according to his own will and those who offer to work are recipients of his offerings. If we are able to live in a state of graciousness then we will always have enough. The snowstorm Atlanta experienced broke down the barriers of jealousy or competition between people that are normal to our everyday routines. It didn’t matter if someone was driving a brand new Mercedes-Benz or an old Honda Accord when both drivers were stuck on the side of I-285, helpless and struggling, the walls that divide us ultimately disappear. What makes us equal? Does it take a storm like Snow Jam 2014 to allow us to see each other as neighbors?