Share the Blanket
If you read the gospels, you will discover that people ask Jesus a lot of questions. If you read a little deeper and do a little bit of math you will discover that of all the questions Jesus is asked, he answers about 100 of them. However, in many instances, approximately 300 of them in stead of answering a question, Jesus asks another question. This let’s us know that a primary focus of Jesus isn’t in obtaining or providing a definitive answer. Rather, it is asking more questions to seek greater understanding and clarity.
Many people read our passage this morning from Matthew, and they form a very strong opinion about what has happened. Often in direct disagreement with what we read in the passage. The parable of the Prodigal Son does the same.
And so I will ask you a question, what happens when you have a notion about a particular issue and then you discover that God has a very different idea than you.
Often when we read scripture, we get to passages that are difficult and we get stuck. We struggle to understand them within our own context. As a result, we skip over them, dismiss them or decide they aren’t relevant.
Unfortunately, as people of faith the passages we find in scripture are relevant and we have a responsibility to understand why. When looking at scripture we want to be asking questions about what the passage before us. We want to understand it within its own context so we can better understand how to apply it to our own lives and within our modern world.
With that in mind, what do these passages, the parable of the workers in the vineyard and our passage about Jonah, tell us about the character of God’s reign?
Shockingly, that’s not a rhetorical question. So, I will ask again, what do these passages tell us about God’s reign?
Power, wealth, and advantage don’t measure in God’s domain as they do in our world—even for the leading disciples! (John Carroll – https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-25/commentary-on-matthew-201-16-9#)
The parable presents a strange mix: contractual obligations for some, unexpected generosity for others. The owner’s treatment of the hired workers is such that everyone gets the opportunity to work, everyone receives enough to live—regardless of the quantity or quality of their work.² (John Carroll – https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-25/commentary-on-matthew-201-16-9#)
“…as Luise Schottroff comments, “The generosity of this landowner offers only a weak hint at what God’s generosity means.”³ Enough work for all of us in the vineyard—and resources sufficient to sustain life. Even in this “weak hint,” perhaps we may catch a glimpse of the extravagant grace of God—and it is for everyone. First, last: heaven’s reign may indeed turn our expectations upside down!” (John Carroll – https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-25/commentary-on-matthew-201-16-9)
“We love this story because it paints this gloriously beautiful picture of God’s extravagant grace. But as soon as we start to rewrite it with our own experiences, Jesus’s accusations of what we think we deserve careen towards us with the force of conviction: we do not see ourselves as equals to others, we do not allow God’s grace to rewrite our definitions of God’s justice, and quite frankly, we can’t let go of our own sense of fairness to even consider that justice is not ours to control anyway.” (Chelsey Harmon – https://cepreaching.org/commentary/2023-09-18/matthew-201-16-3/)
If we are reading through Matthew’s gospel we realize that Jesus is preparing us for this parable. Earlier he speaks to how children will receive the kingdom of heaven and how first and last will be reversed in God’s realm.
Let’s be clear that this parable isn’t a model for running a business. It’s a passage about grace and God’s love for us.
In sharing this parable, we find a pattern of repetition that breaks into variation. The variation helps to make the point about God’s grace. The parable has two distinct parts: the recruitment of workers and the payment of those workers. The structure of the payment is deliberate, those who worked the least are paid first. To the surprise of those who have worked all day everyone receives the same amount of money. Again, this isn’t a parable on how to run a business. It’s a parable about God’s love and grace.
God doesn’t love me more than you because I’m a minister. God doesn’t love you more than the person next to you because you were baptised first. God doesn’t love choir members more than non-choir members. God doesn’t parcel out God’s love like that. God’s love is a blanket which covers us all equally.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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