Summary: A short talk given at Maiden Newton during Walk West Dorset 2011, speaking about the generosity of God and our response.
Between 1996 and 2000 I was a Senior Branch manager with the Woolwich, and I have no doubt that I would not have been able to run my branches like the landowner in that parable. If I’d hired a member of staff in January offering to pay them £12,000 for the year that would’ve been fine; but if I’d tried to employ someone to do the same job in December, paying them £12,000 for 1 months work I’d have been in deep trouble with the unions and my boss!
So, is God fair? Is God generous? I believe God is totally fair and generous beyond words. Unlike us, God is always true to his word without fail.
If you’re struggling to see how it can be fair to pay workers the same wage regardless of how long they’ve worked then we need to remember that Jesus was telling a parable; and he did this to paint a picture, with a punchy, poignant, pertinent point.
Try saying that when you’ve just woken up! Let’s try that together. Jesus told parables to paint a picture, with a punchy, poignant, pertinent point. Seven Ps – and may those Ps of the Lord be always with you.
Jesus said “The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out …to hire men to work in his vineyard” (20:1); and as the parable unfolds it seems to me that the payment is God’s reward to us for joining in with the work he has for us to do.
Jesus told many different parables. The Kingdom of heaven is like this …and it’s also like this: “A net that was let down into a lake and caught all kinds of fish” (Matthew 13:47); but it’s also like this: “A man who sowed good seed in his field (13:24); and this: “A king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son” (22:2). The Kingdom of heaven and the message of Jesus, like the parables he told, must be heard, considered, thought about, and responded to.
Some of you here this morning have been faithfully at work for God for many years. Earlier this year Paul was at rock bottom, struggling with an addiction; but he got down on his knees and cried out to God for help. Six months later he is free of the addiction. He is a changed man, and he is now at work in God’s vineyard.
I have an elderly friend who is really not sure about God and feels that she would be a hypocrite if she called on him in the last years of her life, although she did tell me she wants Abide with me when I eventually take her funeral. If and when she accepts what is on offer from God, the owner of the vineyard – she will receive the same reward as you and me, and the same reward as my new friend Peter – the assurance of life eternal!
For just as the landowner is generous in the parable, so God is longing for people to come into his kingdom, whatever stage of life they are at; and God longs to be generous and lavish in his forgiveness, his grace, his mercy, and his generosity with all people.
Over this next week I’m looking forward to joining in with the work of God in this part of his vineyard, here in the Melbury Team, in Maiden Newton and beyond.
In our Bible reading the owner of the Vineyard sends out his workers (20:2) but he also goes out 3 hours later and sees ‘others standing in the market-place doing nothing’ (20:3). Later in the day he does the same thing 6 hours, 9 hours and 11 hours after the work began. He finds people standing around doing nothing (20:6). They were doing nothing with their lives and that may be true of some of the people we meet this week. At home in Billericay I meet young people literally standing around doing nothing.
We might meet people in a pub or on a doorstep and find that they’re looking for a purpose in life. Will you join me in praying that we will be able to point people to Jesus, and that many will want to know Jesus as their Lord and their Saviour and take their place in the life and the work and the worship of the Church?
It’s a challenge for a church when new people join, especially if some of them are people who’ve spent most of their lives so far just standing around doing nothing. In the parable those who’d been working all day grumbled when the new arrivals received the same reward as them (20:12). It’s a challenge for all churches to be ready to receive some unlikely people, perhaps even unpopular people; but just as the landowner in the parable is incredibly generous, so God is generous, and so God asks us to be ready to be generous with our welcome, our hospitality, with forgiveness, and with reconciliation. So, let’s pray for those we’ll meet in the market place this week.