Sunday, September 18, 2011
Last shall be First
Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers 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 laborers 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." Matthew 20:1-16
I have been moved over the past days by the incredible beauty, tenacity and capacity of the Indigenous people of Ecuador. Mothers joyfully strap their babies to their back, produce incredible artwork as they nurse their young and burst with smiles and welcome wherever we have been. A people so down trodden, removed from much of their land, made poor by colonials, capitalists and the like -and yet I see sisters and brothers full of joy. They are always last in political concerns and considerations. They have no power, and no place at the table. And yet, the light of God's love dwells within them and shines forth.
Jesus tells a story about how God's reign really works. He wants them to understand that all of the privilege and power, the control and the money that they scramble for, has no currency or importance with our Creator. Jesus wants us to know that God's world is full of compassion and generosity. Now matter how important we think we are, no matter how much privilege we are given, how much stuff we obtain, God's eyes are on the end of the line, on the poor and those who love despite their need.
Today I ask God to continue to make me teachable and humble in this place. May our actions be those of love and generosity, of compassion and inclusion. May our hearts be broken open today for the further indwelling of the kingdom of God.
Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.