The Story for the
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sept 20, 2020
prepared by the Rev’d Rhonda Waters
Jesus said, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And 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?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘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.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Something to Do
Imagine two dinner tables. The first belongs to the family of one of the labourers who worked all day. The second belongs to the family of one of the labourers who was only hired in the evening. Imagine the conversations that happen around those two tables. You could even write it down or act it out.
Enough is enough
The other reading we are going to hear this Sunday is from the story of the Exodus and is another story about the way that God provides enough for what we we need. (Read it here.) Both stories also caution us about the human inclination to always want more – more than we need; more than other people; more, more, more.
During the Season of Creation, we are invited to think more carefully about the ways our behaviours impact the rest of the world. How might you reduce the amount you take from creation in order to ensure there is enough for all life to thrive?
Something to Wonder
But it’s not fair!
Anyone who has spent time with more than one small child at a time will be familiar with the cry: “But it’s not fair!”. For that matter, anyone who is honest about their own hearts will be familiar with it and I think it is the idea at the root of the labourers’ complaint.
What does the idea of “fairness” mean to you? How do you react when you see something that feels unfair?
In what ways does Jesus challenge the idea of fairness? How do you feel about that?
Locating Yourself in the Story
With which group of labourers do you most identify? How does that influence the way you hear this story? How does that impact the way you think about the kingdom of heaven?
Try to identify with a different group of labourers. How does the story change? What do you see in the world around you when you look at it through these new eyes?
Something to Learn
One consequence of taking more than we need is waste. According to a 2017 study conducted by the National Zero Waste Council, Canadians throw out almost 2.2 million tonnes of edible food every year. Learn more about the study and ways to reduce your food waste with Love Food Hate Waste Canada.
Universal Basic Income?
Jesus was not describing a universal basic income (UBI). For starters, any one who didn’t get hired at all didn’t get paid and the landowner wasn’t just setting a minimum but also a maximum. However, UBI is one proposal of a way to ensure everyone has enough. Like all solutions to complicated problems, however, it is not perfect and it might not be the right answer.
Learn more and reach your own conclusions. Here’s a few places to start:
Possibilities and Prospects: The Debate over Guaranteed Basic Income, published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in 2009 and written by Margot Young (a self-described skeptic) and James Mulvale (a self-described proponent).
Basic Income: Some Policy Options for Canada, published by the Basic Income Network Canada in 2019 and written by Sheila Regular and (Ascension’s own) Chandra Pasma.
Something to Pray
Holy God, we do not always understand your word or your ways.
Give us wisdom and imagination and courage as we learn and grow.
The story this week has made me wonder about…
(what questions are still on your heart?)
Receive my questions and help me hear your answers.
The story this week has filled me with…
(how are you feeling?)
Accept my praise, heal my hurt, ease my worry.
The story this week has reminded me of…
(are there situations or people you are thinking of?)
Be with all who are in need of you.
In Jesus’ name, we pray.