In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus tells his disciples a new parable. We remember that parables are stories—little mysteries—that help us to think about the Kingdom of God. Jesus really wants us to know the Kingdom of God, so we spend a lot of time thinking about these parables. The parable he tells this week has many people in it, and we hear one thing happening over and over.
the kingdom of God is like a landowner who went out...to hire labourers for his vineyard.
The person called the "landowner" has a vineyard where he grows grapes. He needs people to work in his vineyard because he has so much work to do keeping the grapevines healthy and picking the grapes when they are ripe. How many times does he go out to look for people to work?
early in the morning...
he went out about nine o’clock...
he went out again about noon...
and about three o’clock...
And about five o’clock he went out...
Five times the landowner goes out looking for workers and each time he finds more people. Does he make these people work in the vineyard? He offers to pay them and each time they agree. Then he sends them into the vineyard to work. He invites the people to work, and the people choose to work for him.
At the end of the day, the landowner pays all the workers the same amount of money. But wait—the people who were invited "early in the morning" worked way longer than the people who were invited last. Should they not receive more? Is the Kingdom of God not fair?
Let's think about the pay that the landowner gives the workers.
each of them received the usual daily wage
The landowner gives each of the workers the fair amount of money for a full day of work. He gives them the amount of money that a person needs—to pay bills, to buy food, to keep warm. Every worker in the vineyard is given what he or she needs for the day.
Let's think about those workers, the ones that do not get hired first. Are they lazy and do not want to work? Probably not. The landowner asks the last group of people why they stand around doing nothing, and they answer,
“Because no one has hired us.”
We have to wonder why no one invited them to work.
Perhaps they are not as strong or as fast as the other people.
Perhaps they are not as smart as the other people.
Perhaps they look different from the other people.
Perhaps they are from different countries.
Jesus does not tell us why.
How must these people feel standing around all day, watching as others go to work, leaving them behind? Many of us know how it feels to wait and wait, wondering if we will be chosen to play a game, to spend time with a favourite relative, to belong to a group of friends. It does not feel good to start to worry that we might be left out, to worry that we might not be needed. Perhaps the people in the parable also start to worry that they may not get what they need.
But Jesus tells us that the landowner says,
“You also go into the vineyard.”
The landowner does not seem to care what talents they have.
He does not seem to care what they look like or where they come from.
He just needs them to come to work.
How would these people feel when they are finally hired to work?!
Now they know that they belong.
Now they know that they are needed to work.
Now they know that they will be given what they need.
Jesus says that this is what the Kingdom of God is like. So what can we say about the Kingdom?
Everyone is invited to work in the Kingdom of God.
Everyone is needed.
Everyone is given what they need for the day.
What can we say about this landowner? Who could he be like?
How can we describe the One who gives everyone what they need?
The One who invites everyone to build the kingdom?
The One who needs us all?
The landowner himself says,
“I am generous”
Yes, he is!
Oh, those foolish workers who grumble! They do not seem to know the landowner at all! Not like us, though. We know how good and generous he is!