Exodus 12:4 – “A man and his neighbor next to his house shall take according to the number of persons, (compute for) what each can eat…”
Matthew 20:12 — “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have born the burden of the day and scorching heat.”
We say that in America everyone is equal.
When pressed and hard questions asked, we will acknowledge that there is not equality.
And with the coming of Irma, we saw that there was, and wasn’t, equality.
Two families leave Florida, one in an old banged up Chevette, another in a new Lexus. The Chevette croaks near Unadilla. This family has no resources. The Lexus family comes to Warner Robins. They can’t find gas anywhere. Suddenly, there is a certain commonality between these two families; an equality. They are both stuck.
Two families in Irma’s path. Before the storm, one house is in such bad shape that a volunteer crew will have no way to repair it — a new piece of tin cannot be attached to rotten joists. The other house is a fine home, filled with beautiful things. These two families both stand in a fast food restaurant on Interstate 475. They are both from the Tampa area. There is an inequality, and, yet a certain equality. They are both worried about their homes, their possessions. and what will they return to — if anything.
We saw it in Houston’s Hurricane Harvey pictures — everyone working together. There was a certain spirit that welled up in so many of us as we saw deep human connection and caring.
Many people have had to “get out of Dodge” (or Dade), and they sought fuel. They ate something. A last meal in their familiar. Exodus 12 describes making preparations for a hasty departure and how to ensure safety in the midst of a powerful force that is coming their way.
Not spray paint on plywood for FEMA and law enforcement officers to see, but houses are marked. I love the attention to the details — there is almost a figuring out of the butcher’s bill based on size of household and who has grandsons with “hollow legs.” The end result — everyone is fed, fueled; a community is formed. (We see the same equality later on in how the daily manna plays out.)
Jesus, in a most uncomfortable parable about needing extra workers and their pay (while possibly pointing to assimilation challenges between Jews and Gentiles), shows what real equality looks like and how it goes against our own notions of equality.
Podcasters Michael McKeever and Robert Wallace point out that the workers were paid enough to get three value meals from Checkers. It was, literally, a day’s wages to cover the day’s most basic needs. People needed to eat — whether they were hired first or last. Their needs for food were the same. Yes, some had burnt far more calories, working from sun-up to sun-down, than those who came on after the temperature dropped, but everyone needed to eat. We find God’s concern equality in the Torah and the gospels.
A vehicle with Florida tags had six five gallon fuel tanks strapped to its roof. Yes, decreased aerodynamics, but he was not going to run out of gas. He was prepared. Yet, his being overly prepared may have meant that someone else had no gas to evacuate. May have. It seemed stingy. Self-serving. Me, myself and I. Unequal.
But, he could have had those tanks there for others. He could have had a mindset for equality and sharing. May Irma bring out the very best in us. All of us!
The Reverend Doctor Jarred Hammet is a PCUSA minister living in Middle Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He wrote this on Monday morning as Middle Georgia waited for Hurricane Irma.