From the Rector’s Study
Sunday, September 20th, Pentecost XVI, Fair Wages
Exodus 16:2-15, Psalm 105.1–6, 37–45, Philippians 1:21-30, Matthew 20:1-16
This parable like so many can be viewed from a variety of perspectives.
For example, the last ones hired at the end of the day have no problem seeing the justice in them receiving the day’s wages. Besides it is not as if they did what they wanted to do instead of working and only came to the market just before being hired. They were waiting all day to get work.
Those hired at the start of the day, have the right to question this practice, and feel that they were treated unfairly, even though that was the amount they agreed to.
I cannot help thinking that other than jealousy there is something else at play.
It somehow gets expressed as the dryness of the desert. We may feel that God has abandoned us, so it seems unfair to see others filled with the joy we don’t feel. And Paul in Philippians goes even farther, by suggesting he cannot decide between life and death, that part of him wants to die.
This seems to be something which people are facing more and more in the isolation of the times. A mystic, when asked by a disciple for wisdom, said go into your cell alone, and your cell with teach you everything. This wisdom or everything will have something to do with ourselves and moving from who we think we are to our true selves in God. This is letting go of some of our assumptions about who we are, and in another way simplifying our lives. And this can feel that we have lost so much. So feel some resentment of others having more, or want to go back to the way things were and how we felt. But we can only go forward, and to trust in God that we can move forward from these questions, and use them as a starting point in our prayer life alone and getting help if needed from others in the community.
Jesus begins by saying that the kingdom of heaven is like………
The image which comes to mind is the heavenly banquet, where all have a place at the table and there is no kids table anyone gets relegated to, and all of us eat the same food.
Maybe the last line of the story is part of the problem for some; that the last will be first and the first, last. Yet this is the whole idea of what it means to be in the kingdom, to be a child of God. That we use the gifts God gives us for the benefit of those who are younger or weaker or in need. We are to help others who are with us at the table, or help them get to the table. In other words, that the first are to help the last, because the last are in a sense the ones who are in need of help or support more that the first.
Maybe that is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 11:25 for you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.
They are last because they know they need help, but are the rest of us unaware or unwilling to admit that we have weaknesses and are in need of support as well?
That our place is the community is both from strength and weakness? And that we are both stronger and weaker than we realize? As we continue to take our place at the table of the kingdom of heaven. Amen