Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 20)
24 September 2023
Sermon By: Rev. Dr. Robin A. Reed+
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
The Church of Ireland
Holy Faith Church, Dunnellon
All Saints’ Church, Enterprise
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
God undeserved gift to each of us: scandalous grace.
How long have you been a member of the church?
Somewhere in the congregation is someone who has been a St. Francis member the longest.
Somewhere else in the congregation we have First time visitors, Visitors and members returning from a season away and brothers and sisters preparing to join St. Francis,
Neeka, Kya, and Kathy will be confirmed
Tina and John will be received
And Barbara Bahnsen will re-affirm her faith
When Bishop Justin visits.
All of us enter the church at different places in our spiritual journeys and God and this parish welcomes you any time! At St. Francis, we are close-knit church family, so I suspect many of you instinctively know how long others have worshipped, fellowshipped, and ministered here together.
Do you think those people who have been members the longest should have more benefits, more access to pastoral care, influence with the Vestry or first place in line for coffee hour or potlucks?
Quite frankly these questions are absurd for me even to ask. These questions come from our worldly culture. A culture way back then and there and here and now today a culture in which people expect to be rewarded fairly for their actions and commitments. We live in a hierarchical, transactional, economy.
But in God’s economy, as evident in the Parable of the Vineyard, The Kingdom of Heaven here on earth and in heaven is based upon God’s scandalous economy of gift, of grace. Grace, mercy, and eternal salvation offered for all. All who say yes to God, who receive, accept, and respond with love.
Jesus tells today’s parable about the Kingdom of Heaven and the gift of eternal salvation to answer Peter’s prior question...Jesus, We who have left everything to follow you, what then will we have? And Jesus turns Peter, all the disciples, and our own understanding of how His world works, clearly upside down. The first shall be last and the last shall be first.
As you heard a landowner or God seeks out workers to harvest grapes in the vineyard gives each of the unemployed men the promise of work and pay. Pays each one at the end of the day a denarius, money to provide their daily bread. Each man was given a job and promised just pay,
Yet there were two distinct reactions to the landowner’s generosity.
The workers who started earliest in the day expected as they saw the workers who arrived at the 11th hour being paid a denarius that they would be paid more money and have a higher status
but they forgot their blessings of good work and just pay becoming envious of the landowner’s generosity.
All of us from time to time can experience envy, the wish you could have what others have or be who others are feeling, we haven’t been given what we think we deserve conclusion that life isn’t fair, You and I develop a sense of fairness of having what we need or equal outcomes. As early as 12 months of age. I remember my daughters, and I suspect you remember children in your lives grappling with a sense of justice. It’s not fay... ur... She got the bigger piece of cake,
front seat more often, shows she wanted to see on TV. It’s just not Fay-ur.
Maybe you have experienced that sense of unfairness the earliest laborers felt when as an older sibling you did more chores and had less freedom than your younger sibs as a student you did most of the work for a group project but got the same grade as other members as a parent or grandparent you gave up time and energy to coach youth sports, teach Sunday school, lead Scout troops when other parents and grandparents sat on the sidelines.
Our human earthly society is hierarchical based upon personal ambition we expect to be rewarded based upon our efforts as we try to fend off our fear of scarcity, losing our earthly things.
But as we hear in the Parable of the Vineyard. The Kingdom of Heaven is based upon God’s scandalous generosity and gift as God invites all people to the Vineyard to the circle of love
Where God provides all that is needed and often an abundance.
Jesus doesn’t equate fairness or justice with our labor management or business ethic all will be paid the same receive the gift of eternal life the first shall be last and the last shall be first. God invites all people into the Vineyard, to receive God’s gift of scandalous mercy and grace, God’s mercy is God’s forgiveness bestowed when we repent of our sins, God’s grace is God’s love freely given to human beings to open doors on earth to opportunities we truly don’t deserve.
And to open THE door to eternal salvation. God invites us and encourages us to say yes to enter and work in God’s vineyard with hearts of gratitude, let go of our fear of scarcity, work together sharing our gifts and talents, be transformed into people with hearts filled with God’s mercy, grace, and generosity. Perhaps a part of you relates to the laborers who stood around the hot marketplace all day waiting to be hired, wondering their past shortcomings kept them from being chosen, worrying where their family’s next meal might come from.
And if you have ever waited to be picked for a gym class team, asked to the prom, waited for a promotion, you remember how waiting can challenge your sense of self-worthiness, make you question whether you are “enough” and doubt God’s abundant love for you in his parable of the laborers Jesus reminds us our worth as human beings in God’s eyes is not measured by the societal standards we judge ourselves and others by status, popularity, social achievement, productivity, wealth, physical appearance.
God’s actions as the landowner paying each worker the same amount, a denarius enough for a day, reveals God values each of us as human beings not because of anything we have done or can do but because of God’s love for us.
Jesus’s parable reminds us that our spiritual worth is based upon God’s love, as we often hear in Eucharistic prayer A, God created us for God-self and invites us into loving relationship with God, each other, and creation. We don’t have to earn God’s love or even our eternal salvation, we just have to say yes to God, to believe in God and receive God’s love to be empowered to share God’s love with others.
God calls us into the vineyard not only to work together in love but to find rest in God’s abundance, freedom from having to prove, earn, and claw our way to the top to avoid our fear of scarcity or judgement. God invites us into the vineyard again and again across the seasons of our lives to realize our potential, to serve God with our God-given unique gifts and talents.
God reminds us we don’t have to earn our way into heaven. We don’t have to compete with our Christian brothers and sisters sitting next to us in our pews or in church pews across the community for our heavenly reward. And even though we joke from time to time that our actions and service might place us on a higher rung towards heaven Jesus reminds us our heavenly reward is not proportionate to our Christian Service, we are all given the same eternal salvation just as we receive the same bread and wine Christ’s body and blood as we stand around Christ’s table to receive the blessed sacrament.
Our eternal salvation is based upon the scandalous grace, generosity, and gift of our merciful God and our willingness to believe, to say yes and to enter into God’s Vineyard again and again to serve because we are called, loved and invited to be a part of Christ’s body and to share our gifts.
God is eager to surprise us with undeserved blessings, joys we could never imagine and to open our eyes with gratitude to see God’s love and presence in each and everyone’s heart.
Many of us entered God’ s vineyard for the first time in the past. Today as some stand by the gate knowing, others stand by wondering if we will go in for the first time or the fiftieth. And the Vineyard is ripe for harvest day after day, God calls you, no matter when you say first yes to God, to the vineyard and back to the vineyard.
To, as the Apostle Paul wrote, stand firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind let God remind you of your worthiness in God, share the generous love you have received from God with the broken and marginalized in the world. You do not need to earn your eternal salvation but I pray you will return to the Vineyard day after day to pray, worship, and work together, celebrate God’s generosity toward you, embrace the great privilege of serving our Lord perhaps leaving the world a little better place than when you came.
God calls and invites you - will you go to the Vineyard tomorrow?
Cover Image: https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/narrative-lectionary/laborers-in-the-vineyard-2/commentary-on-matthew-201-16-7