Week of Proper 15: Wednesday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  A Vineyard

God’s Generosity

AUGUST 22, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ezekiel 34:1-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel.  Prophesy, and say to them:

To the shepherds:  Thus said the Lord GOD:  Ah, you shepherds of Israel, who have been tending yourselves!  Is it not the flock that the shepherds ought to tend?  You partake of the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, and you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not tend the flock.  You have not sustained the weak, healed the sick, or bandaged the injured; you have not brought back the strayed, or looked for the lost; but you have driven them with harsh rigor, and they have been scattered, they have become prey for every wild beast.  My sheep stray through all the mountains and over every lofty hill; My flock is scattered all over the face of the earth, with none to take thought of them and none to seek them.  Hear then, O shepherds, the word of the LORD!  As I live

–declares the Lord GOD:

Because My flock has been a prey for all the wild beasts, for want of anyone to tend them since My shepherds have not taken thought of My flock, for the shepherds tended themselves instead of tending the flock–hear indeed, O shepherds, the word of the LORD:  Thus said the Lord GOD:  I am going to deal with the shepherds!  I will demand a reckoning of them for My flock, and I will dismiss them from tending the flock.  The shepherds shall not tend themselves any more; for I will rescue My flock from their mouths, and it shall not be their  prey.

Psalm 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not be in want.

2  He makes me lie down in green pastures

and leads me beside still waters.

3  He revives my soul

and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

4  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I shall fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5  You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

6  Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Matthew 20:1-16a (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus said,]

For the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder going out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. He agreed with them on a wage of a silver coin a day and sent them to work.  About nine o’clock he went and saw some others standing about in the market-place with nothing to do.  “You go to the vineyard too,” he said to them, “and I will pay you a fair wage.”  And off they went.  As about mid-day and again at three o’clock in the afternoon he went out and did the same thing.  Then about five o’clock he went out and found some others standing about.  “Why are you standing about here all day doing nothing?” he asked them. “Because no one has employed us,” they replied.  “You go off into the vineyard as well, then,” he said.

When evening came the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the labourers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last and ending with the first.”  So those who were engaged at five o’clock came up and each man received a silver coin.  But when the first to be employed came they reckoned they would get more; yet they also received a silver coin each.  As they took their money they grumbled at the householder and said, “These last fellows have only put in one hour’s work and you’ve treated them exactly the same as us who have gone through all the hard work and heat of the day!”

But he replied to one of them, “My friend, I’m not being unjust to you.  Wasn’t our agreement for a silver coin a day?  Take your money and go home.  It is my wish to give the late-comers as much as I give you.  May I not do what I like with what belongs to me?  Must you be jealous because I am generous?”

So, many who are the last now will be first then and the first last.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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God seems generous again in these readings.  In Matthew 20 we find a parable about a vineyard owner who hires day laborers throughout one day and pays every worker for a full day’s work.  And God promises to seek out and to rescue his sheep from bad shepherds.  It will not go well for the bad shepherds, though.

Ezekiel 34:1-1 is about divine mercy for the people of Judah (recently exiled) and the need for new leadership.  The old leadership led people into the current mess (national destruction), after all.  The new leaders, we learn as we keep reading, will come from the Davidic line.

For the chosen people, at least, it is never too late to start over.  And, in the parable of the generous vineyard owner, it is never too late to start working in the vineyard of God.  May we welcome our fellow laborers, not grumbling about divine generosity.  Rather, may God’s generosity inspire us to generosity of spirit and, when possible, of earthly wealth, no matter how insignificant it might seem to us.

KRT

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