2019-3-24 “The Workers in the Vineyard”

Third Sunday in Lent

The Workers in the Vineyard

Given by Rev. Elizabeth Aguilar

March 24, 2019

Text is Matthew 20:1-16


I still remember the first time I came to visit my dad after he had moved out here to California. I was a first -year student at Andover Newton, a mere 23 years old back then. My dad was just getting started at his new church in South Gate, while my mom was still packing up the house in Chicago. So, I came out and my dad was driving me around, showing me the new neighborhood between his new church and their new house in Downey. On one street corner, I couldn’t help but notice a line of men standing around. Some had backpacks, others weren’t carrying anything. Some looked bored. Others were talking with friends. I asked my dad what they were doing. He explained that they were day-laborers. Not knowing that meant I asked for a further explanation.

          Well, today’s scripture lesson reminds me of that first visit out here when I saw that group of men on that street corner. Today, though I can’t help but wonder what it would have felt like, had I been one of those hired men who had worked all day, perhaps doing a construction job or working in some field only to find out that another guy had been hired in the last hour of the day and had been paid the same amount I was. Would I think that was fair?  No, I surely doubt it!

          Yet, in Jesus’ wisdom He uses this parable to show His disciples of that time (and disciples of today) what it looks like to work in God’s vineyard, God’s kingdom, or God’s economy.

And so, I now wonder what it would have felt like to have heard this parable had I been one of Jesus’ disciples who had left everything behind to follow Him. Would I have been happy to have heard this story? Would I have immediately said, “sure I get it Jesus! You’re saying that even though I left everything for you and I’ve been serving these people right along with you, that if some new person comes along tomorrow you’re going to treat them just as great as you’ve been treating me?” Um… I surely doubt that would have made me very happy!

You see, we’ve been conditioned to think of what is fair and what is unfair and to judge that according to our own human standards. We like to measure ourselves up against others and to be the ones to decide who has paid their dues and who hasn’t- whether that is at our place of work, in society or even in the Church. Don’t we?

I think we learn how to do that from a very young age- it is as if we were born with that capacity in us. Think about it- how many times have your children said to you “that isn’t fair” about their sibling? Or how many times have you thought to yourself “I worked harder than that co-worker of mine and yet they get paid the same amount as I do.” 

When thinking of society- I can’t help but think about when I hear some people on the news say regarding recent immigrants, “That isn’t fair! They haven’t paid their dues, why do they get to benefit just like everyone else?”

But, the reality is that this story is much more about God and much less about us. It is much more about God’s amazing grace and much less about our egos, jealousy, or sense of fairness.

You see I think the key to understanding this text is to think about the last workers hired. But first, in order to do that we must wonder why they had been hanging around all day w/ out getting hired? Were they perhaps not very strong looking? Not able-bodied? Not considered to be the “winners” by any chance? Could that have been why they hadn’t been hired all day? Yet, here they are at the end of the day, putting in just a short amount of time and yet receiving as much as the others.

When I think of this story I can easily identify with one of those last workers. In fact, I like being reminded that God loves me no matter what and when I am reminded that God loves me even when I’m not considered one of the winners or a part of the in-crowd or the elite, by any means. That part I enjoy hearing all of the time.

Yet, the harder part is to wonder how it is that God might be asking me to respond to such a story? Is God reminding me, perhaps that God loves everyone just as much as God loves me? That whether we have followed God all of our lives or have just begun today that God doesn’t play favorites? That in God’s vineyard there is room for all of us to serve God?

As we witness the beautiful sacrament of baptism today I hope that we ARE reminded of God’s amazing grace which isn’t based on our ability or our talents but is based solely on Jesus’ free love for us. My prayer is that we can approach it asking how it is that we might serve God by loving others-no matter who they are.

God doesn’t play favorites and neither should we. Amen.