2008-09-20 by Jay Wallace
Good points Tom. It’s great when the Spirit engages the written word, bringing fresh and new revelations of the Christ! In my congregation right now there is a wave of fear about the economy. Some have recently lost their jobs, others have been looking for a long time, while the mainstay of the congregation, the retired folk (the ones keeping the place financially afloat) are worried sick about food and heat this winter. All my folks, including me, wish the “owner of the vineyard” would fix everything that’s broken. However, the owner doesn’t seem to be in the business of “fixing all my specific problems.” Everyone is treated the same (your point, from the insider/outsider perspective). The guys who came early aren’t paid a bonus, whether they showed up early or late everyone got the same pay. “Equal pay for equal work” and any of the “fair practices” issues (stuff my buddies and I got caught upon when we were working the fields as teenagers) aren’t the point, as far as I can tell. The point concerns the bringing of everyone to the owner; come early, come late, but by all means enter the kingdom and take note “the kingdom” referenced is the “landowner,” not the land. We aren’t headed for a place but toward a person.Tom I especially appreciated your exegetical note from the historical perspective on the “insider/outsider” perspective. The original audience and how they might have heard this story is a major foundation in understanding this parable. This week the country (USA and perhaps the World) has experienced a major shift in the “whose in” and “whose out” perspective and from the perspective of my congregation “they” (the formerly “in”) have become “out.” My congregation has moved from a position of privilege in an “us vs them” paradigm to being the “them,” (they see themselves as out of work and at risk) and I suspect this vulnerability brings them closer to desiring the “the owner.” For me this is part of what makes this parable so powerful. The undercurrent in this passage is the disadvantaged come into a relationship of full blessing. Whether it is earned or not isn’t a consideration; for whether they came early or late the blessing was a full days pay. This is a powerful lesson and the correspondence of my congregation’s circumstances underlines God’s abundant blessing in the changing circumstances of life.
coming late to the discussion
2008-09-17 by Tom Steagald
which somehow seems appropriate for the Gospel lesson!
I have seen something this week in this text that I have never seen before. It has to do with whom we are called to "identify" with in the parable.
Jewish ears perhaps would have heard the early workers/lately hired as the observant and the non-observant: Pharisees vs. prostitutes and sinners, perhaps. No wonder they were scandalized at Jesus' message of God's generosity to both.
Jewish Christian ears would have heard it perhaps as Jewish Christians vs. Gentile Christians: the former have been there all along, from the earliest days of the promise of as well as the fulfillment seen in Jesus. No wonder they were scandalized by the preaching of Paul.
Christian ears often hear it as the "saints" vs. the death-bed converts, or something like that; the ones who have always been in church vs the ones who have only lately come to faith and of course they are scandalized, sniff and say, "how long will it last."
Heavenly ears--such as the Apostles', Prophets' and Martyrs'--could be scandalized because they were there at the start, bore the heat of persecution and all, were crucified, boiled in oil, sawn in half, etc, while we who come lately in the tradition receive the same reward though we are only rentiers.
All of that supposes that we are to identify with the laborers and not the landowner. But note that in 5:48, Jesus says we are to be perfect (teleios) as God is perfect in that he causes it to rain on the just and unjust alike. When the rich young man in chapter 19 come to Jesus, he tells him that if he wishes (thelo) to be perfect (teleios), he should sell all he has and give to the poor. We normally balk at the first part (ALL I have?) instead of asking the next question, Which poor?
The landowner says that he can do what he wishes (thelo) with his money and he gives to ALL the poor--all these workers are poor. The denarius does not alleviate their poverty; it postpones their hunger. To whom does he give what he has? To ALL the poor, not just those who work hard and are responsible but even to those who may not have been in the square by noon or three because they were sleeping it off.
Is the landowner the one who DOES what Jesus tells the rich man to do? Is this what discipleship looks like? Giving without regard to "worth" because that is how God does things, causing it to rain on the just and unjust alike, the worthy annd the unworthy alike, and we are to be like God in just that way? Is the landowner, rather than the workers, our example here?
Of course, if the landowner keeps doing this he may be in the marketplace looking for work before long. Perhaps then another will have heard the call to discipleship and hire him, too.
2008-09-17 by Jay Wallace
We are all standing in the place where God is searching, and many of us are anxious. We are anxious for the same reasons the workers are anxious; life is in a state of flux, unsettled, unsure and full of unknowns. God comes to this place of our uncertainty and asks; “what are you doing here?” This doesn’t feel like a question, it feels more like a judgment. Notice that God’s judgment is life giving; for “What are you doing here?” translates into “what are you doing here when you need to be out there in my vineyard!”
When you are looking for work, as the folks in our story are, this kind of judgment is good news. In this situation judgment means a paycheck and “paycheck” is spelled s-a-l-v-a-t-i-o-n. We often we hear the word “judgment” and assume the worst, but when we say that someone is a really nice person, we have made a profound judgment. Judgment occurs within the community of believers, and it can be a grand affirmation or it can be a corrective, but it should always be good news. Jesus models judgment for us in this parable; judgment asks us to change course, “What are you doing here when you need to be over there?” and when that judgment comes through our Lord it is always more than affirmation, it is life giving!
Jay, Jane, Anna, and Wallflowers
2008-09-16 by David von Schlichten
Thank you for your first entry. Your comments about the workers desperate for whatever work they can get remind me of Anna Carter Florence's comments in this week's articles in Lectionary Homiletics. She notes that waiting around for a job, waiting to be hired, is even worse than bearing the burden of the day and the scorching heat.
After reading that, I flashed back to high school dances, when many of us shy types sat around during slow dances, hoping someone would ask us, envious of those who had been chosen.
I'll never forget the exhilaration I felt at one of those dances when the enigmatic, long-legged, brilliant Jane Emerich grabbed me from a gaggle of guys and led me to the dance floor without even asking if I wanted to dance. I had been chosen. I was all nerves, hormones, and heart-pounding.
God calling us is even more thrilling, and we should be ecstatic when someone answers the call, even if the person does so at the last hour.
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
2008-09-16 by Jay Wallace
This week is already colored with “events.” When David asked me if I wanted to be a guest I jumped at the opportunity/complement. “Wow, yes, OK, uh, what do guest bloggers do?” and now I get to find out. I didn’t realize that “my week” also coincided with “study leave” which is a course in Appreciative Inquiry. So ministry, as usual, will be colored by life; Appreciative Inquiry and a just received an E-mail informing me of a death in the congregation. I will complete most of the Training. A colleague will provide some pastoral care and I will hurry home.
So the vineyard owner periodically throughout the day walks into the town square and hires workers. The early birds are only too glad for the opportunity and head off in the cool dawn hopeful for a full days wage. Meanwhile, the restless the vineyard owner, as day progresses, recognizes the need for more workers. He returns again and again to the square seeking workers who are themselves growing more and more desperate for work. It is important to notice they haven’t given up. They are still gathered, but they are “desperate,” why else would they have stuck around all day? They remain hopeful, it helps them to hold on to life. They’re willing to take anything, a half day, a quarter day, even a single hours work; then in strides the vineyard owner and he is asking everyone still gathered, “what are you doing here?”
"This is where I am," is my only answer.
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