The Gift of Work

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi Baron, Co-Rector, September 24, 2017, Pentecost 16, Proper 20, Year A, Matthew 20:1-16

“Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” in the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Good Morning.

I have been thinking a lot about “work” this past week.

What is work and how do we define it?

To me, work gives us meaning to our day, it provides the means by which we provide for our families and loved ones.

It fuels our passions and helps the world move smoother.

It can be oppressive and daunting, it can be fulfilling and life-giving, it can be labor-intensive, or mentally, or emotionally challenging.

It can be thrilling and creative and joyful.

It can be stifling and depressing and evil.

It can be safe and it can be dangerous.

It can be all of these things and none of these things.

But work is something that we all do, no matter what our age is. And our work changes throughout our lifetime. In the world but also in the church.

Each stage of life offers different opportunities to offer different gifts, to our community and the world.

Making art… is a gift.
Greeting… is a gift.
Reading… is a gift.
Serving on Vestry… is a gift.
Serving at the altar… is a gift.
Pulling weeds… is a gift.
Taking care of a spouse who is unable to do so… is a gift.
Taking care of yourself in the process… is a gift.
Helping at the Baby Pantry… is a gift.
Helping at Reading Camp… is a gift.
Helping with Relief Work…is a gift.

They all require different skills and talents, but we all possess something we can bring to the table.

In this morning’s gospel, we have the parable of the workers.

A “Parable” is similar to an “analogy.”

Jesus used parables to excavate meaning, to reveal hidden truths about who God is and what his program was all about.

We use analogy as a linguistic tool to get below the surface, too.

School is like… Marriage is like… The church is like…

So this morning we see Jesus describing the kingdom of heaven, which we pray for every week to be “on earth as it is in heaven”

“The kingdom of heaven is like…a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard…”

This landowner is kind and generous and just.

He sees people in need of work and gives them meaningful work to do.
He sees that people need to feed their families and support their communities and he picks them up and pays them.

He pays them all generously from what belongs to him.

And the laborers are befuddled.

The ones who worked all day feel robbed, they think they should have been paid more since they worked longer hours.

The ones who came at the last hour are humbled for being paid so much for working for so little time.

The difference I see is in perspective.

The workers who got there first see their wages as entitlements and the last workers see it all as a gift.

The first workers see their work as “chore” so they demand the owner give them equal pay to the rest.

But the last workers see their work as a gift so receive their pay with gratitude.

So how does this apply to kingdom work?
When we pray the Lord’s prayer every week what do we say?

“Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

Jesus taught us to pray for God’s kingdom to be here, now, among us, with us, in us.

God’s kingdom reigns with justice
and peace
and kindness
and generosity
and love
and patience
and gentility.

God’s kingdom looks after the poor, the widows, the orphans, those who are most vulnerable.

God’s kingdom feeds people, clothes people, advocates for people to be freed from the tyranny of oppressive governments and corrupt leaders (religious and nonreligious).
God’s kingdom is like an owner of a vineyard who pays people for the work they do.

God’s kingdom speaks truth and walks humbly.

As Christ’s bride, Christ’s body, we are not employees of this kingdom, my friends.

We are heirs.

When we work, we don’t get to withdrawal from the king’s bank—it’s all ours, to begin with.

The entire kingdom is our inheritance.

Our king owns the cattle on a thousand hills and has offered his riches to all of creation.

It’s mind-blowing, earth-shattering, radical, subversive, counter-cultural, and absolutely what the disciples are all about.

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

We serve a God who won’t stop looking until everyone has benefitted from his care.
A God who won’t stop searching until every sheep has been returned to the fold.

Who comes to us, to dwell with us, in the form of a baby and teaches us from within how to be loved by God.

Who teaches us how to see evil and cast out demons.

Who sees children as a blessing and women as leaders.

My friends, the time and talents you have, are not needed by God… God doesn’t need your gifts.

The world needs them.

The Kingdom needs them.

The world needs spaces carved out that are beautiful and well kept to rest and find peace.

The world needs kind eyes when they receive communion or brave the doors of a church for the first time.

The world needs honest people to count the gifts God’s people have offered for the mission and ministry of this place.
The world needs people who can help fix porches for the elderly and dig graves for their loved ones who’ve passed.

I hope that this is liberating news for you.

I hope that you are able to place yourself in the parable as one of the workers who came late.

One of the workers that saw the work in the vineyard as a joy because of the overabundance of the wage.

Because God’s accounting does not compute in our heads.

It doesn’t make sense with our understanding of economics.

It just isn’t fair…

But as heirs to the Kingdom…
All of it is ours.

The Kingdom of God is ours to inherit.

Ours to live into.

And there is plenty for all.
And it is our joy to organize those gifts inside of the Kingdom.

To collect those who are around and looking for work.

Looking for their gifts and talents to be used.

Looking for an entry point into the Kingdom.

It is our job, as St. Philip’s, to put people to work.

Part of how we know what kind of laborers we have is to start with some asset mapping.

What do we have to work with?

What kind of joyous work can we get done?

Which area of work are we short on laborers?

With the help of the vestry, the Stewardship committee has put together, a Time & Talent Survey.

Next Sunday we will hand them out and invite folks to discern where they would like to be more involved in the mission and ministry of St. Philip’s.
And if you know of laborers who are looking to put their gifts to use.

Bring them along.
We have work for them too.
Joyous work.
Fulfilling work.
Meaningful work.
We have Kingdom work.

My prayer for us this week is that we will meet each day with gratitude for the gift that it is or will be. That as we say hello to our messy, chaotic, unpredictable world, we will be on the lookout for meaningful ways to spend our time and share our talents.

It’s all sacred, it’s all gift, it’s all God’s. Amen.