If you like that sort of thing, you put your money on the horse, or car, or team that you think is going to win, or has the best chance of doing so. At the moment, the All Blacks are at unbackable odds for almost every game they play, especially at home. That sort of bet doesn’t take a genius, and betting any other way certainly has its risks.
The series of encounters and parables we are wandering through at the moment, in Luke’s Gospel, has all the hallmarks of risky bets. Would you put your money on the foreigner being the only healed leper to come back and say thanks? In a male-dominated world of social and financial power, where’s the wisdom in backing the resourceless widow against the magistrate?
In a competition of wisdom and discernment, are you backing the wealthy hedge fund manager, or the disabled beggar in the street? And what about social credibility? You’d put your money on the clergy before the pawnbroker, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you?
And you wouldn’t waste your time on children, until they were able to decide (or make money) for themselves.
So here we are, sojourning in a Gospel of reversals. Luke keeps reminding us of God’s intention in Jesus, and we keep being surprised. From Mary’s first song, we watch God’s plan unfold, and then encounter by story, miracle by word, Jesus shows us prophetically – and wonderfully – what God is doing, even now.
Which is precisely why this means so much to us. It’s not the best – educated, resourced, gendered, able, financed – of us who qualifies for welcome into the kingdom of God. It’s the least and the last of these.
And thus, it can be you and me. When the least are the first made welcome, we can discover our own place in God’s hospitality. There is a place for all of us.
Careful. This is where the floor can become slippery. We understand that we are welcomed, by God’s good graces and not our own achievements. But incrementally, we can begin to believe that we’re entitled to this grace, that we are completely deserving, and suddenly we are the pharisee preening above the tax-collector.
Remember the grace of God. Remember: Abraham and Sarai, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel. Remember: the cross and the empty tomb. Remember: do you love me, do you love me, do you love me?
God has bet everything on us in Jesus Christ, because in Jesus Christ we are worth everything to God. The outcome rests entirely – and wonderfully – in the hands of this loving God.
As for the All Blacks …