Matthew 20:1-16 (NRSV)
20"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 marketplace; 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."
At the annual meeting of a rural congregation, a younger woman spoke up, offering an opinion. Nearby, one of the older saints turned to her neighbor and said, “Who was she before she got married?”
Was there an underlying question? Maybe something like, “Where did she earn the right to speak?” Had she borne the heat of the day when the parsonage needed wallpapering? Had her parents helped pay for the new addition? Did she know how many eggs to put in with the coffee?
Into our many ways of counting, categorizing, and distinguishing who has earned what, Jesus comes, and he says, “The kingdom of heaven is like…”
Kingdom thinking—where there are no more stripes earned. Kingdom thinking—where first and last and in-between are all jumbled together. Kingdom thinking—where none of us can claim anything but gratitude that we are in the mix as recipients of God’s generous mercy.
That we are in your kingdom at all, Jesus, is because you only keep track of who is out there, in need of your grace. With humble hearts, we praise you. Amen.