Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear you,
To receive your Spirit,
To be led by your Spirit.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
We are invited to re-gather with Jesus and the disciples as Jesus picks up on what he has just said about the kingdom:
“ . . . many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
In case we wonder quite what he means, Jesus now offers us a story:
“. . . 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. . . “ (Matthew 19:30; 20:1,2)
As we listen to him tell the rest of the story, we find the ingrained ways of our labor laws and wage scales being suddenly set on their head. The laborers who were hired early in the day call a union meeting and speak their grievances about the landowner’s unfair practices. How could those who only worked one hour receive the same wage as those who have worked ten hours? What about equal pay for equal work?
But as the landowner responds, we realize he is not living by those laws. He brings a new – and to our ears – strange approach to handling this labor dispute. A new “order” is at work here as he replies, not to the group, but 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 20:13-16)
As you reflect on this new “order”, on the way in which the landowner offers us a window into the design of this heavenly kingdom, what catches you attention? Read the story a few times, and notice what word or phrase draws your attention. Just as the landowner addresses the laborers one by one, so the Spirit of God addresses us each differently. What piece of the story does the Holy Spirit lift up for your prayerful attention?
Listen as lectio – that ancient spiritual practice of meditation and receptive reading of the scriptures. (See guidance for the practice of Meditation on scripture: Lectio Divina below)
It is this kind of kingdom, new “order” listening that we are called to practice as we hear the stories, the stumbles, the grumblings and needs of our own life, and others around us. Listen to each person, and become aware of how the Spirit of Jesus guides your thinking, offers a new response which is beyond the confines of our every-day structures in this world’s order. The One who guides our listening is generous. Gradually we learn that all of life is a gift, given by this wise and extravagant Giver.
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost:
- 9/12 Monday: Matthew 20:1-16
- 9/13 Tuesday: Matthew 20:1-16
- 9/14 Wednesday: Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
- 9/15 Thursday: Philippians 1:21-30
- 9/16 Friday: Exodus 16:2-15
- 9/17 Saturday: Matthew 20:1-16
- 9/18 Sunday: Matthew 20:1-16