Beloved Members and Friends of St. Martin’s,
This weekend we will hear Jesus’s parable of the workers in the vineyard. Because Jesus’s parables use such common everyday situations and characters, his audiences—then and now—often get lulled into that familiarity. They start taking things for granted, thinking, “Ah yes! We know this!” Jesus’s parables are so familiar to us, because we love stories, that they become like a lucky penny that gets worn down in your pocket. But the other thing we especially now take for granted is, that it is just when we begin to get comfortable that Jesus’s parables always take their plot twist—a plot twist we may not get because we’ve heard these parables for so long the twist now becomes the expected. But we need to never forget what those twists mean.
Just like with the parable of the Prodigal Son, the twist in this parable is that God’s radical generosity and abundance flies in the face of our own human-manufactured insistence that scarcity makes things valuable. The twist in this parable is that God insists, no, in the end whether you spent your life believing in God, or if you converted in your heart in the last week of your life, God loves you just the same.
With this parable, Jesus not only addresses what the kingdom of heaven is like, he speaks directly to the tendency in our common life together that to highlight resentment and grievance against one another. Such tactics divide us, and therefore weaken us, and our communities. If you see laborers coming late to the vineyard, rather than resent them, choose to see the rejoice that that means another family will eat and be sheltered that day. If you see a child expressing joy for being in church, treasure what that means for our common life together as well as that child—it means life and joy, and who doesn’t need more of that? If you see something that needs to be done, rather than complain, step up to help get it resolved, either through your labor or through contributing financial support.
This is a parable about grace—just like every gospel reading we have heard over the last many weeks. The hope is that this season of grace will make an impact in our thinking and in our actions. We are reminded that we have been recipients of grace after grace, and we are called to then embody that grace toward others—to see the beauty in situations that challenge us. Grace is where we put into action Jesus’s repeated commandment that we truly and tangibly love one another, rather than seeking our own way. To remember that grace is the twist in the story, and that God’s grace grows with the gratitude for the grace we ourselves have received.
Image: Workers in the Vineyard, from the Codex Aureus of Echternach, an illuminated Gospel book, ca 1030-1050CE