|Pentecost 24 – Diocesan Convention (Rt. Rev. Phoebe Roaf, Bishop of the Diocese of West Tennessee)||November 15, 2020||Pentecost 24, Proper 28||Matthew 25:14-30|
|Pentecost 23, Year A||November 8, 2020||Pentecost 23, Proper 27, Year A||Matthew 25:1-13|
|All Saints, Year A||November 1, 2020||All Saints' Sunday, Year A||1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12|
|Pentecost 21, Year A||October 25, 2020||Pentecost 21, Proper 25, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 1; Matthew 22:34-46|
|Pentecost 20, Year A||October 18, 2020||Pentecost 20, Proper 24, Year A||I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Psalm 96|
|Pentecost 19, Year A||October 11, 2020||Pentecost 19, Proper 23, Year A||Philippians 4:1-9|
|Pentecost 18, Year A||October 4, 2020||Pentecost 18, Year A||Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46|
|Pentecost 17, Year A – Elizabeth Heimbach||September 27, 2020||Pentecost 17, Proper 21 Year A||Matthew 21:23-32|
|➤Pentecost 16, Year A||September 20, 2020||Pentecost 16, Proper 20, Year A 2020 The Season of Creation||Matthew 20:1-16|
|Pentecost 15, Year A||September 13, 2020||Pentecost 15, Proper 19||Genesis 50:15-21, Matthew 18:21-35|
|Pentecost 14, Year A||September 6, 2020||Pentecost 14, Proper 18, Year A||Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20|
|Pentecost 13, Year A||August 30, 2020||Pentecost, 13, Proper 17, Year A||Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 16:21-28|
|Pentecost 12, Year A||August 23, 2020||Pentecost 12, , Proper 16, Year A||Isaiah 51:1-6, Ps 138, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20|
|Pentecost 11, Year A||August 16, 2020||Pentecost 11, Proper 15, Year A||Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Matthew 15:10-28|
|Pentecost 10, Year A||August 9, 2020||Pentecost 10, Proper 14, Year A||I Kings 19:9-18, Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33|
Pentecost 16, Year A
Sermon Date:September 20, 2020
Scripture: Matthew 20:1-16
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 16, Proper 20, Year A 2020 The Season of Creation
“Late Arriving Workers” – 1973. Jesus MAFA
Please be generous!
I’ve heard that phrase a lot during the pandemic.
“Please be generous” is the theme of the parable of the “compassionate employer,” as Kenneth E. Bailey describes the landowner in today’s parable.
Bailey says that this parable tells us about how God cares for us.
“God comes to us where we are, and God loves us as we are.”
God is generous with us.
In the parable, the landowner gets up early in the morning and goes looking for laborers. In the time that Jesus told this story, no landowner would have been searching for people to work—that job would have fallen to the landowner’s steward.
But this landowner does not send his steward, but goes himself, not just once, but throughout the day, looking for people who want to work.
He gives all of them jobs and the opportunity to work and in do so, respects their dignity.
At the end of the day, over the objections of the ones who have worked the longest, the landowner pays all the workers the same wage, and the ones who had worked all day even had to wait while the latecomers were paid.
But as they waited, they must have speculated with one another. “Hey, I’ll bet we’ll get paid more than the daily wage, because we did more work.”
Their hopes are dashed when they receive only the daily wage after all.
So they grumble and complain to the landowner, who tells them that he has given them what he has promised, and that they can take what belongs to them and go.
Then the parable comes to an end.
Jesus tells this story to the disciples as a way of saying to them, “Please be generous!”
Last week, Jesus talked to Peter about the importance of forgiveness. Jesus tells Peter that forgiveness has to be complete and to come from the heart.
Now Peter says to Jesus, “Look, we have left everything and followed you,” and then asks Jesus, “What then shall WE have?”
So after Jesus says that all who follow him will receive eternal life through God’s unfailing generosity, Jesus then tells today’s parable to Peter, hoping that Peter will understand the generosity that Jesus expects him, as a disciple, to have for others.
Please be generous!
The disciples will have to carry on the work of Jesus when Jesus is gone.
So Jesus wants the disciples to live out on this earth the generous attributes of God—going out to people where they are, loving people as they are, and treating all equally.
These actions, on the part of the disciples, help to make visible the generosity of God’s commonwealth of peace, justice, and freedom visible on this earth.
The church down through the ages is to carry on the generous work of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Worshipping outside is teaching us something important about generosity.
We are learning that we are still the church, even outside.
Jesus did almost all of his ministry outside, meeting people where they were. If we can worship outside, we can witness outside too.
Going to where people are, rather than expecting them to come to us, is an act of generosity.
The Rev. Chantel McKinney started a congregation known as Christ’s Beloved Community in Winston-Salem, NC. The way she did this was to spend several years walking in the neighborhood, simply knocking on doors, and talking to people right where they were, with the idea of creating a community that would be with the people, not for the people. She generously spent her time just listening.
The church that finally grew from this generosity is now a joint Episcopal-Lutheran partnership that shares space with an aging Lutheran congregation. The church is intentional about breaking down barriers. The ministry is bilingual so that the Latino Spanish speakers and the Black and White English speakers who live in this south-side neighborhood can come together as the church. The church emphasizes types of mission work that will “feed people physically and spiritually” while connecting people from lots of different backgrounds that might not otherwise gather together in Jesus’ name.
Loving people where they are is a vital ministry that we Christians can offer to the world right now.
On the national scene, people are having trouble even liking people where they are, much less loving them where they are.
We Christians are constantly tempted to grumble against one another in the ways that we privilege our own points of view about God’s favor toward us to the detriment of our Christian brothers and sisters who pray or witness differently.
But as disciples of Jesus, our calling is to love people where they are, even if they aren’t anywhere close to where we may be in our hearts and minds.
Searching out the things we all have in common, rather than dwelling on the things that separate us, is an important gift that we can share with others.
What if the workers in the parable at the end of the day had thought about what they all had in common?
Everyone needed to work that day and that the landowner had made it possible for all of them to work. They all needed a day’s wage and they all got a day’s wage. If they had thought about what they had in common, they could have all gone home celebrating, rather than grumbling about one another and who got what.
The landowner generously treated all the workers equally.
One particular way we Christians can work for equality is to get educated about the inequities around us. Addressing the inequalities in our nation is a moral issue for Christians. As Christians, one of our ethical beliefs is that we should treat one another as God has treated us—with generosity.
Addressing inequalities is a theological issue as well, because our relationships with others end up having an impact on our relationships with God too. God asks us to love one another as God has loved us. We honor God by being obedient to God in our relationships with one another.
Often, inequalities in our society are linked to the ways in which we have harmed creation itself.
In an article posted in The Philadelphia Inquirer in July of this year, Michaelle Bond reports that seventy percent of the nation’s most environmentally contaminated sites are within one mile of federally assisted housing. 77,000 families living in public housing or living in homes paid for by vouchers are at or near one of the nation’s polluted Superfund sites.
“Environmental racism has played a central role in this devastation,” wrote the authors of a report done by the non profit Shriver Center on Poverty Law. “Laws and policies have put Black and Brown communities in direct proximity to environmental toxins.”
Also, “A confluence of historic policies and practices have encouraged the construction of federally assisted housing in areas of environmental contamination — and have also encouraged polluting industry to be built near existing low-income housing.” Health issues such as asthma are common in these communities.
Now some of these issues are being addressed legally. In New Jersey, companies that build facilities that can lead to pollution have to submit a report about their impact of their plans on low income communities. This legislation covers a few million residents in the state. Rather than being an afterthought, the well being of people and communities are being considered as part of the decision making process of where to build these facilities. Environmental justice courses are now being taught so that people who work with low income residents can be more aware of the impacts that pollution can have on the health and behavior of children.
Knowing about inequities such as this alert us to the importance of encouraging changes to correct these inequities, and to become more aware of local situations that can be addressed and to pitch in where we can to bring about change. Acting for changes in these situations is acting generously on behalf of our neighbors.
A few years ago in Fredericksburg, rail cars containing hazardous substances such as ethanol were being stored for long stretches of time on tracks that border the Mayfield community. Local residents worked with state legislators of both parties to come up with a solution. Senator Edd Houck got the ball rolling and when Senator Bryce Reeves took office he kept working until a solution was reached. The Rev. Hasmel Turner, who lives in Mayfield, said that he felt that prayers had been answered when a plan was developed and funding provided for CSX to build a rail spur to move the rail cars away from the neighborhood, resolving a potentially dangerous situation.
We can also act to address the inequities we have created in our own environment that are detrimental to the earth and the web of life that the earth tries to sustain.
Did you know that this country has over 40 million acres (an area eight times the size of New Jersey) of lawn on which 80 million pounds of pesticides are applied annually? The lawn mowers that keep these lawns cut use a whopping 800 million gallons of gas annually. And the EPA estimates that 17 million gallons of gas are spilled each year while people refuel.
The problem with lawns, in addition to the fact that they create pollution because of the care they require, is that they don’t support wildlife.
So we can act on behalf our environment right in our own yards by creating native plant gardens.
To substitute native plantings on even part of a lawn helps restore a balance of predators and prey so that pesticides are not needed. With less lawn to cut, less carbon is released into the air. The native plantings also support birds and other wildlife who are increasingly stressed by climate change and need our generous help if they are to survive.
Please be generous to the earth.
Next time you plant something in your yard, choose native plants. Do the research to find out what plants are native, and which species they support. Turn part of your lawn into a native plant garden. I found out recently that Caroline County even has a native plant nursery, Garden Gate Landscape, where you can buy native plants for your yard.
God is generous.
Jesus teaches that generosity is an essential part of discipleship.
So disciples, let’s be generous with one another, with our neighbors, and with the earth itself, as God is generous with us.
And our landowner, our gracious and compassionate God, will rejoice.
Bailey, Kenneth E. Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL. IVP Academic, 2008.