Archive for the ‘Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard’ Tag

The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part VI   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who hast given us thy Word as a lamp for our feet:

keep thy Word ever before us, so that, in times of doubt or temptation,

by the light of thy truth we may walk, without stumbling,

in the way of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Jeremiah 9:23-24

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 20:1-16

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The issue is not, “who is my neighbor?” but “can we recognize that the enemy might be our neighbor and can we accept this disruption of our stereotypes?”

–Amy-Jill Levine in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011), 123

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Jesus’ interlocutor, the Jewish lawyer, holds a restrictive definition of “neighbor”:  his question, “Who is my neighbor” presupposes that some people are not neighbors.

–Michael Fagenblat, “The Concept of Neighbor in Jewish and Christian Ethics,” 542, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011)

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…the lawyer…attempted to save face by asking a further question, “Just a minute.  Exactly who is my neighbor?”…He was really asking, “How far does my responsibility go here?  What, in fact, constitutes neighborliness, and who qualifies to receive the love called for in the Law?”  He might have been asking, “What is the least I am required to do to get by?”…Jesus, however, turned in the other direction altogether and said, “You’re to think of yourself as a neighbor.”  The question isn’t, “Is such and such a person worthy of my love?” but rather, “Am I willing to take what I have, what I know, and what I can do and place all this at the disposal of another person’s needs or growth?”

–John Claypool, Stories Jesus Still Tells:  The Parables (New York:  McCracken Press, 1993), 101-102, 105

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  God expects much of us and enables us to fulfill those expectations.  We usually experience God as the Holy Spirit, probably.  That, at least, is the theologically approved term, according to Christian orthodoxy.  I, without straying into heresy, note that the Greek word we translate as “person,” as in “First Person of the Trinity,” “Second Person of the Trinity,” and “Third Person of the Trinity,” means “masks.”

Our one acceptable glory is in God, who is generous, according to the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.  The workers must work, of course, but all receive a daily wage, even if they work a partial work day.  The Kingdom of Heaven, we read, is like that employment situation in the vineyard.  Contrary to the ubiquitous Dalman consensus, the Kingdom of Heaven is not a reverential circumlocution, as Jonathan Pennington writes.  No, the Kingdom of Heaven is the fully realized reign/realm of God on the Earth.  No, the Kingdom of Heaven is apocalyptic.

God’s ways are not ours, overall.  They overlap occasionally, by accident, perhaps.  Extravagant divine extravagance, as in the parables, certainly contradicts the corresponding way of the world.  One function of the rhetoric of the Kingdom of Heaven is to point out the ways in which human patterns are deficient.

Go is generous, with standards for beneficiaries of grace to adopt.  We often prefer cheap grace, so we can blithely follow familiar patterns of thinking and behaving, without nagging moral qualms.  We are also frequently stingy certainly compared to God.  Often we are like the lawyer in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10); we ask,

Who is my neighbor?

We really mean,

Who is not my neighbor?

Jesus tells us that all people are our neighbors.  We do not like that answer.  Our ways are deficient.

They can be less so in this life, by grace, though.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XX: Mutual Responsibility   1 comment

rembrandt_-_parable_of_the_laborers_in_the_vineyard

Above:  Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 31:1-29 (October 29)

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:27 (October 30)

Deuteronomy 32:28-52 (October 31)

Psalm 13 (Morning–October 29)

Psalm 96 (Morning–October 30)

Psalm 116 (Morning–October 31)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening–October 29)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–October 30)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–October 31)

Matthew 19:16-30 (October 29)

Matthew 20:1-16 (October 30)

Matthew 20:17-34 (October 31)

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 31:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-1/

Matthew 19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/week-of-proper-15-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/week-of-proper-15-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/week-of-proper-15-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-15-tuesday-year-2/

Matthew 20:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/thirteenth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/week-of-proper-15-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/proper-15-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/week-of-proper-15-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/week-of-proper-15-wednesday-year-2/

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So the last will be first, and the first last.

–Matthew 20:16, The Revised English Bible

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All who enter the Kingdom of God must do so as powerless children.  All who labor for God will receive the same reward regardless of tenure.  He who serves is greater than he who does not.  The Messiah is the servant of all and the ransom for many, not a conquering hero.  All this content points to one unifying theme:  the first will be last, and the last will be first.

This is a description of a social world turned upside-down.  Prestige is worthless, for God does not recognize such distinctions.  Even the great Moses died outside of the Promised Land, for justice took precedence over mercy.  Prestige, honor, and shame are socially defined concepts anyway, so they depend upon what others think of us.  And the Song of Moses refers to what happens when God disapproves of a people.

The last can take comfort in the seemingly upside-down Kingdom of God.  Likewise, the first should tremble.  Good news for some can constitute bad news for others.  This reversal of fortune occurs elsewhere in the Gospels—in the Beatitudes and Woes (Matthew 5:3-13 and Luke 6:20-26), for example.  This is a subversive part of the Christian tradition, not that I am complaining.  I do, after all, follow Jesus, the greatest subversive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FEAST OF THOMAS TOKE LYNCH, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA LAETITIA WARING, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER; AND HER UNCLE, SAMUEL MILLER WARING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, BISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS WILLIBALD OF EICHSTATT AND LULLUS OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT WALBURGA OF HEIDENHELM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; SAINTS PETRONAX OF MONTE CASSINO, WINNEBALD OF HEIDENHELM, WIGBERT OF FRITZLAR, AND STURMIUS OF FULDA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS; AND SAINT SEBALDUS OF VINCENZA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/devotion-for-october-29-30-and-31-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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