Here is the sermon for Sunday 17th March
Matthew 20 - the labourers in the vineyard
Work… work… work.
We go to work; we get home from work; we go to work; we get home from work and at the end of the month, God-willing, there’s a pay cheque.
We go to work; we get part way though the day, and hey, there’s a late arrival. Yeah, but he’s late clocking on so he will have to make up the time – right?
We go to work; we get back after lunch, and what? There’s a late arrival. She did what? Yeah, but she’ll need to make up the time – right?
Same scenario; different venue. Workers in a vineyard, sweating under the fierce sun.
They work hard; they know at the end of the day there will be a pay-out. They will have earned their keep. The family will eat tonight. And all will be well.
Jesus knew people.
He knew what a well-defined sense of right and wrong looked like.
He knew what a well-defined sense of justice thought of the world.
Jesus was not into a well-defined sense of anything really
Jesus was in the business of shake-up; of turning things on their head.
You think you know what right and wrong is?
You think you know truth?!
God’s Kingdom. God’s Kin-dom is not what we think it will be.
God’s Kin-dom will welcome in the people we do not necessarily consider are really worthy.
If God chooses to be generous with the entry requirements – who are we to complain?!
The question we need to consider most when we hear again the story of the workers in the vineyard is: who will be taken on at the 11thhour?
What if the people we struggle with most in our world are the ones who get the late pass?
What if, the very people, who cause us the most grief are also welcome in the Kingdom?
Think of one person right now.
Think of the one person who causes you to pause; to pray; to shudder.
The one person who you really cannot imagine in the Kin-dom.
The person, who challenges your sensibilities – their attitude; their politics; their moral code; their work ethic… the way they choose to live their life.
That person is a beloved child of God
Just as you are a beloved child of God
That person has as much right to a place in the kingdom as you or I.
And then, if you can, picture that person in God’s kingdom.
How does that feel?
Alongside you in the kingdom, living in God’s special place…
Jesus’ stories do that. They make you pause
They make you see.
Jesus told stories that people could identify with for a reason.
Stories they could imagine, picture, relate to…
He told stories that resonated then, and can still resonate today.
Jesus’ stories told TRUTH.
Jesus’ stories still tell TRUTH today.
And sometimes that TRUTH can cause us to cry out… “but it’s not fair!!”
So, what do we do, if we who feel we labour hard, look across and see those we consider do not?
What do we do, when they are rewarded, and we want to cry out: “It’s not fair!”
How do we respond, when we see those whose work appears to our eyes, to be counter to the kingdom, invited, included in the Kin-dom too?
How do we respond when we witness those whom we do not accept – being accepted.
How do we feel knowing that THEY are invited to labour alongside US?
If Jesus stories tell us a TRUTH, that is still relevant today, how are we to perceive it? Live with it? Work alongside it?
Am I going to shout at God?
Rail against God’s just decisions?
Am I going to return to the childhood wail… “it’s not fair!!!”
And as I stamp my foot
And as we complain bitterly at the unfairness of it all
Jesus looks at us
Jesus looks right at each one of us
Right at the heart of each of us
Right into our hearts and minds
And reminds us (again) – all are welcome in the Kingdom.
All have a chance
Jesus reminds us, “friend, I do you no wrong. Take what is yours. If I choose to share it with these others it is not your concern. I may do what I choose with that which is mine to give.”
On Monday, in Seattle, at NEXT Church Gathering, I heard a phrase which has stayed with me.
We are all used to hearing the question “who is my neighbour”
The question was reframed: “to whom may I be a neighbour today?”
When Jesus calls the labourers to receive their pay
There will not be degrees of God’s kindom – for we are all kin.
There will be no hierarchy
For God is fair and just and all are equal
All will be welcome
First and last
Last and first
Each equally welcomed
Each equally rewarded
Who is my co-worker in God’s Kin-dom?
How may I work to accept that God’s grace and love and gifting is far greater than I may imagine possible?
God. Our God of justice and fairness, turns the world upside down
God turns us upside down too.
And that, my friends, can only be a good thing!