Weekly e-Devotion: Sept 18 Edition

Matthew 20:1-16

Gospel Lesson for Sunday Sept 20 2020.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; 4and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Under the Tree

    My in-laws were always very careful about spending the exact same amount of money on the exact same number of items for each of their 17 grandchildren every Christmas. So when my daughter, at the age of 4, came to me sobbing after the gifts were opened, I didn’t understand what could be wrong. No matter how your parents might work to teach gratitude, when you are four years old and your sister and 16 cousins each receive three gifts and you only receive two, it hurts.  It didn’t matter the size or value. It felt unfair! Why should they get more? Ah, but grandma and grandpa were fair. Her third gift was just lost under the Christmas tree.
    We all have a sense of fairness. Recent research suggests that it is innate. Even three-year-olds exhibit a moral compass and this sense of fair and unfair. 
    Our readings for this Sunday are about fairness in the kingdom of God. The Old Testament reading is the story of Jonah who rebelliously refused to tell the Ninevites about God’s offer of grace, mercy and forgiveness, though he had been instructed by God to do so. After spending a little time in a briny belly, he came to his senses and did as God asked. And those sinful Ninevites accepted the truth and changed. God welcomed their repentance and did not destroy them. How dare he? How unfair! Jonah sulked under a vine, despairing over the salvation of the city he hated. Why should they be saved? They were enemies, after all, undeserving of mercy.
    Things didn’t improve much in the New Testament parable of the man who employed a group of day-laborers after agreeing to a fair price. It should have gone smoothly when they were paid exactly what they had agreed on. But this generous and thoughtful employer hired others who hadn’t been able to find work. They came to the task late in the day and didn’t work as long. They also agreed to a fair wage and got paid as agreed. But wait just a minute! The wage for the day was exactly the same as the wage for an hour. Again the cry…unfair! Why should they get the same? They don’t deserve it.
    But our lessons for the week importantly include one more story. Along comes Paul in his letter to the Philippians, ready to die and be with Christ after a career filled with hardship, persecution, beatings and imprisonment. But God called him to press on under such difficult circumstances. God required more from him. God wanted to give gifts of mercy, grace and redemption to others and Paul was God’s chosen laborer. We would have understood if Paul cried out “That’s not fair.” He certainly worked harder, suffered more and was rewarded less in this life than most people, yet God wanted him to do even more. Paul recognized that most of humanity was missing a gift and he wanted to bring it to them even if it meant he must suffer. Paul knew that he was undeserving of God’s grace and mercy, but had received it nonetheless. Paul understood that fairness in God’s economy was not about deserving or undeserving because nobody, not one, is deserving of God’s great gift in Jesus Christ.
    And something else he understood about the fairness of God: Paul was not concerned that somebody would get more than they deserved, or more than he himself had received. He knew that life with Christ is an endless, limitless reward. There is no more or less, equal or unequal. God’s love is big enough for everybody to get their fill, and more than they can ever imagine. Paul rejoiced at the privilege of sharing the greatest gift, knowing that sharing the gift would multiply it and not diminish it. And one more thought…God’s gift is never lost under a tree. It was raised up on a tree for all to find, if they look up.

e-Devotion author: Bobbie Tomasek.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Pastor Dan at dhoeger@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.866.9191.
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website.


PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Heavenly Father, help us to 'look up' and find the great gift that you have so graciously given us. Amen.


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BIBLE READINGS

Sept 20
16th Sunday after Pentecost
Click HERE to read
Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm 145:1-8
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-1 *

Sept 27
17th Sunday after Pentecost
Click HERE to read
Exodus 17:1-7

Psalm 25:1-9
Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21:23-32

* eDevotion Bible text(s)


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