Pippa's Sermon - Trinity 15
Thoughts on the Gospel – Matthew 20:1-16
Another of those gospel passages where one's first reaction is ‘No! That can’t be right!’
And indeed from a Trade Union point of view, it certainly isn't.
There is trouble – 'It's not fair!' There's muttering and grumbling. And nowadays there
would be demos (not properly socially distanced) and posters. Maybe court cases. It could all be endless.
And there’s furlough. And not furlough. And not enough other jobs. Especially for certain
sorts of people. Even thinking about it is misery and confusion.
But as I'm sure you realise, this is one of those parables that begin 'the kingdom of heaven is like... '. Not really about money at all.
In the labourers we should see all people that on earth do dwell.
And in the landowner, and what he does, we should see – God.
For the landowner is doing what God so often has to do – show us the world as he would have it, seemingly turned upside down. Let's see what it looks like from that perspective.
Well, unlike many landowners he's extravagantly generous, for a start. And we must know that – we encounter his infinite love so many times, we are reminded of it every time at the Eucharist.
And he actually wants all people to come and work in his vineyard – he keeps coming, to
call them. And not just that, he comes himself down amongst them; and in the last calling of the parable, we see Him taking in those who no-one else wants - the unemployable, in earthly terms. Those who are maybe vulnerable, weak; maybe those who are disabled in some way. Who no-one else would touch.
But the labourers can’t see it like that; Peter doesn’t see it like that. We’ve done more!
We’ve done so much! We deserve more!’ They both have the same wrong idea that you can clock up reward points to get into the kingdom; and the more points the more you should get. And it's not like that.
We are called to the kingdom through God's grace. Not on our merits, but through God's
generosity, in all its limitless abundance. God is just; but above all, God is compassionate. God's grace isn't something you can bargain with; and we who worship such a God – a God full of grace and truth - must welcome his generosity, not begrudge it; not condemn it as injustice.
There are a number of stories in the Bible, as well as here, of such grumbling, of such
grudging. There’s Jonah sulking under a bush because of Nineveh. There’s the elder
brother of the Prodigal Son muttering at his brother’s welcome home.
And all these stories of matters that you might say were 'Not Fair!' have God's response in one or another form of 'Just think about it! Everybody matters.'
And that is what we must do think about it. For those stories are open-ended. What
matters is not only how Jonah, or the brother, responded. But how we too respond.
These labourers did they begin to understand that what they had received, what they had seen, was not about wages, but rather grace – God's to give. And that his grace, unlike the money in a bank, is truly unlimited, infinite.
Did they accept, in the end, this manifestation of God's caring for others as well as for
them, and come to it themselves – to seek out the weak, the vulnerable,
and help them, rather than begrudge them any share in the kingdom.
May we, as a church, respond too, understand that God's grace, caring compassion; his
generosity, is there for all. And,
especially at this time of huge need, go out into the world to do all that we can to share this love with everyone. Amen.