St Michael & All Angels

Sharing God's Love

Reading and Reflection

Sunday 20 September  Trinity 15 / Proper 20

This week’s reading Matthew 20 verses 1-16

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Jesus said: “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 marketplace 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.”

Reflection by Naomi Lumutenga

My mother (who recently passed away) had a passion for praying with the terminally sick. One had been a criminal, chained to his bed and guarded by a prison warder, 24/7. After her prayers, mum was elated because the prisoner had accepted Christ, moments before he breathed his last. My nephew (who told me this story) asked my mum whether this prisoner, who had lived his entire life terrorising his neighbourhood could go to heaven, just because he accepted Christ in his final hour, in the same way as my mum (his grandma) who had slogged for Christ, throughout her adult life?! My mother’s response was, ‘Absolutely! In fact, there is no guarantee that I will go to heaven, unless I keep working for it.’ My nephew saw this as astonishing unfairness of God’s judgement; who can blame him?! My nephew probably understood God to be condoning evil deeds. Wrong!

In this parable, the denarius paid to the workers irrespective of the hours they put in generates understandable fury, from those who had slogged from morning till evening. There are parallels with the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), whose return, after squandering his inheritance, generated belligerence from the loyal older son who had stayed with his father and done everything right. It could sound like the father was condoning bad behaviour. Wrong!

Fairness seen through the human lens is shallow because we relate it to deeds, that is what we understand. Yet it is not by works (Eph.2:8-9 and Titus 3:5) but by faith that we are graciously saved. Think about it: who gets a front seat at events? Who sits in the Royal Circle at the theatre? Who sits in First Class on a flight? Why do these persons get in first and get the best seats? Would God accord them the same priority boarding? Not necessarily! Whilst it is right to respect protocols, we must not demean any human being. Moreover, we are warned against judging others harshly, lest we too are judged in the same way. (Matt.7:1-2). The last in by our judgement could be first in heaven.

The challenging truth is that through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are all freely given the same amount of Grace, irrespective of our (humanly evil or good) deeds, wealth and length of service. Does Christ have a right to do what he wants with his gift of forgiveness? Yes, he paid for our sin, in all its forms and sizes. Are we envious of others who we think do not deserve forgiveness/grace? May be. We need to take our conflicted thoughts to Him, in prayer and He will guide us. He understands our feelings, even resentment. What we cannot escape is that Christ’s forgiveness is not by deeds and is available to all if we/they tap into it! So, thrusting aside the man-made labels of race, tribe, gender, good or bad guy, let us all claim the freedom in Christ by joining in the song below:

Listen, sing and dance here.
Feel free to skip the intrusive advert at the beginning!

The Collect for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit upon your Church in the burning fire of your love: grant that your people may be fervent in the fellowship of the gospel that, always abiding in you, they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, Amen.

We continue to pray for all those affected in any way by C-19, and we particularly pray that the impending ‘spike’ in cases will be able to be held back.


vineyard workers