Welcome to Monday’s podcast. My name is Tom Finnemore – I’m part of the team here at STC. Today we pick up where Liam left us on Friday 02 November. Mick led us through a Prayer Week focusing on the vision for 2019: Join us and Grow – do catch up on those if you missed them. Today we’re back in the gospel of Matthew at Chapter 20.
Our reading today is Matthew 20 verses 1-19 but today we’ll focus on 9-10
The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.
I have been known when standing in a ’12 item or less’ queue in a supermarket to count how many items the person in front of me has in their basket. It’s stupid, I know, but it gets on my nerves when people flout this rule. And do you know what really annoys me – they get still get served. The absolute injustice – they flout the rules and still get treated the same as me. If I had my way an alarm would sound and the management would remove them from the 12 item or less aisle. Why? The 12 item or fewer aisles I reserve for shoppers like me who respect the 12 item or less rules.
Today I want us to think about rule keepers and rule breakers.
Today’s passages tell a well known parable.
Let me briefly re-tell the story: A vineyard owner recruited workers to work for him for an agreed price – a denarius – standard rate for farm workers at the time. Then throughout the day he recruits more and more workers to get the work: starting at 9am, he recruits again at 12pm, 3pm and late in the day at 5pm. At 6pm it’s the end of the working day, the owner appears with the wages and everyone gets a denarius – they all get paid a day’s work. Everyone: even the men who have worked only an hour.
It’s a complete injustice. And the workers who have worked the whole day rightly kick off. The owner of the Vineyard’s reply is telling: ‘Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money. Are you envious that I am generous with my money…’
The passage I read earlier is two verses from the whole parable and it focuses on the men who worked from 5pm but got paid the same as those who worked the whole day.
They are probably flakes.
How do we know that? Because they waited in the same place – all day – for someone to offer work. Anyone worth their salt would have walked to the local farms and vineyards and looked for work. Waiting was a sure sign that these guys were flakes.
Jesus’ parable tells us that in Jesus’ story they receive the same as the guys who work all day. This particular parable is a picture of grace.
It’s a challenge to Israel – the Jewish people – that in God’s new community, non Jews (represented by those 5pm workers) will be included if they love Jesus – the Messiah – the promises of God will extend to them.
Jesus is challenging the natural rule followers – the religious people – you’re not in relationship with God because you’re expert rule keepers. It’s because of God’s grace – in Jesus – his love demonstrated on the cross and through the resurrection.
And to the rule breakers – those on the outside of the system – you are included because it’s all down to his grace.
There’s an invitation to us and a challenge on this November morning:
If you’re heading into this Monday and you feel like you messed up – you feel a bit like the guys who got paid for an hour’s work – then know his grace & forgiveness today. Take some moments – some quiet to say sorry – to make your confession – you are loved.
And for those who are starting today a bit naffed off because you work for or with a rule breaker – don’t fall into the trap of counting the shopping in other people’s baskets – know this – you are loved not on your merit but His Grace – receive his forgiveness this day.
Lamentations 3:22-23 says this:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Thank you Jesus for your salvation: your love and your mercy. Help us to ponder on your works anew this day.
READING: Matthew 20:1-19
‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
‘About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the market-place doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went.
‘He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?”
‘“Because no one has hired us,” they answered.
‘He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.”
‘When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.”
‘The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. “These who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”
‘But he answered one of them, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
‘So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’
Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!’