Lectionary resources for worship, faith formation, and service
There’s an Australian film called The Castle which, at first glance, seems to be just a fun and irreverent look at a typical “blue-collar” Australian family. They are about to lose their home to the airport, which is planning to expand. Except they don’t want to go.
It is abundantly clear that the house they don’t want to leave does not have a lot going for it. It’s next to the airport for starters, and modest, to put it mildly. But there’s more to it than that.
That house, with its hole in the roof, and rather tacky patio, and dogs in the backyard, is the family’s home. Their memories are here. Their stories live in the walls of this house. It is the place the incarcerated son longs to return to. It is their home.
That ultimately is what saves the house for them. When they are in the High Court of Australia the argument is put forward that the government has the right to acquire a house, and pay fair compensation for it. But no one can put a price on a home, and thus the government can acquire a house, but not a home.
Loosely veiled just beneath the surface is the larger issue of aboriginal land claims. In Australia, as in many other immigrant nations such as Canada and the United States, battles over land rights are still far from resolved. Much of it has to do with the fact that the immigrants wanted the land for what they saw it could give them – but first nations people saw in it story, and memory, and life. You cannot put a price on it.
That theme appears in this week’s reading from 1 Kings 21. Naboth doesn’t want to sell his vineyard – even though King Ahab offers a fair price – because it’s part of his family, part of his heritage, part of his identity. You cannot put a price on that. Often we read this story and get caught up in the intrigues of Queen Jezebel, and miss that subtle point that comes earlier – Naboth is hanging on to a vitally important part of his tradition, and Ahab thinks it’s irrelevant. Naboth – like many aboriginal peoples – will ultimately pay for it with his life.