Matthew 20:1-16 – The 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, September 21, 2014

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard…” (Matthew 20:1)

What’s your favorite Bible passage?

My childhood response was Proverbs 14:34. Look it up, if you want. I’d found it on the inside page of a Bible at my grandparents’ house and memorized the words. Whenever I quoted that verse as “my favorite” in Sunday school classes, teachers looked befuddled. Why hadn’t I chosen the popular John 3:16 (like other kids did), instead of an obscure Old Testament verse? As a kid, I didn’t know what the Proverbs passage meant, but I enjoyed the odd reactions.

vinography_desktop_brief_respite-thumb-600x398-3389I’d bet few claim Matthew 20:1-16’s story about a landowner hiring workers as a “favorite.” In the parable, a landowner was desperate to harvest his Zinfandel and kept driving his dented Ford F-150 to the nearby town. He needed workers, lots of workers, because a good Zin waits for no one. Any card-carrying union workers? Bring ‘em. Any undocumented workers? Bring ‘em. Any slow, fast, inexperienced, and veteran vine dressers? Bring ‘em. Back and forth on the dusty roads, with newly hired hands crowding the truck’s bed, the landowner tried to meet his grape need.

The workers were hired early and often. The workers were promised payment. For some, “the usual daily wage.” For others, “whatever is right.” For a few, there were no promises other than work. Continue reading →