The stories Jesus tells are always accessible. He talks about everyday people and places his listeners knew like the backs of their hands. Farms, fishing, and markets, households and vineyards, domestic conflicts and legal dilemmas became the raw material for parables. Yet almost always Jesus’s listeners are baffled by the behaviors he describes. Repeatedly, they come right out say, “Huh? We don’t get it!”
Having the stories collected as well as a more complete sense of Jesus’s theology gives us insight into the big idea that courses underneath every tale: the kingdom of God runs in complete opposition to the world’s operating system.
So it makes sense for a farmer to waste precious seed to sow fertile ground. It makes sense to compare the reign of God to unstoppable weeds or yeast that turns a tiny flour ball into a big loaf of bread. It makes sense to be unconcerned about how one’s fields grow or how one nets all kinds of fishes. None of that makes sense to Jesus’s live audiences, who probably think, “Wait a minute… what? How’s that supposed to work?”
Jesus keeps describing easy tasks and they keep sounding unnecessarily difficult because he keeps getting everything backwards!
The story of a vineyard owner with seemingly unjust hiring habits is a great example. In fact, even today, it doesn’t make sense. It’s a workplace drama that, to our minds, would be an HR nightmare worthy of a strike vote.
The owner hires laborers at various intervals in the workday. The ones who put in the most time are outraged when everybody gets the same pay. What’s more, not only does their lengthy labor go unrewarded; they wait the longest to get paid! Myrna and Myron, who showed up at the end of the day, get paid first and if you do an hourly breakdown, they make nearly 10 times more than the folks who started at sunup. What’s up with that?
At this week’s Gather study, we’ll break down the vineyard owner’s hiring and compensation policies and why they conform to Jesus’s ideas about God’s reign, where “the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matt. 20:16). The story also serves as a cautionary tale to warn against presuming human logic is the must just and sensible. On the surface it looks like Jesus gets it backwards (again). But could we be the ones who’ve got it backwards? (Bet you already know the answer to that…)
Do your best to join us this Thursday at 7:30pm, as we continue our “Kingdom Stories” series. We meet at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake Street, Oak Park. If you’re unable to be with us in person, you can find us online via FB Live.
We need your help!
As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!
Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea
As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.