St. Matthew.jpg

Love Life

Matthew 20:1-16

The Rev. Jon Roberts

21 September

2014

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ 8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ 9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Parable of Workers in the Vineyard by Rembrandt Van Rehn, 1637

We were never promised a long life,
But we were promised a love life. [1]

A love live is what we need. This is what Jesus promised the laborers in the field, when he said the first shall be last and the last shall be first.[2]

Once upon a time there were four laborers several thousand miles up in an airplane. One was the president, another was a doctor, a priest and a boy scout. Everything was going fine until both engines blew out. The captain did everything he could to stabilize but then had a heart attack and died. There were three parachutes. Each of the four looked at the packs and the president spoke up. He said, “Since I’m the most important and the smartest person in the world I think I deserve a parachute and will go first.” With that, he grabbed a pack and leaped out the door. Next, the doctor said, “My hands have been used to heal people. I’m way too important to die, therefore I will take a chute.” With that being said, he grabbed a pack and leaped out the door. The Priest looked at the Boy Scout and said, “I’ve lived a good life. God has blessed me. As a Christian I am called to give my life for others and you have the rest of your life ahead. Please, I’ll remain and you take the last chute.” The Boy Scout looked at him and smiled saying, “Father, we’re both going to live to see another day.” The Priest was puzzled then the boy continued, “I don’t know why that first fella thought he was so smart. He didn’t take a parachute. He grabbed my backpack.” It’s the last that should be first.

There is a true story about a woman who was both smart and who thought she had her whole life ahead of her.[3] Her name is Susan Niebur and she has a love life. It’s an interesting twist and one may wonder when we read the title of her story: “Life’s Not Fair” She begins her story by saying, “How many times do we all think those words as we haul yet another load of wet laundry out of the washer and into the dryer, or sit resignedly in the car for yet another commute to work, while we imagine that our next-door neighbor has it so much easier?” We begin to think that life’s not fair when we compare our lives to our neighbors’. They get to send out their laundry to be done by a stranger. They have a nanny. They have a lawn service. For Susan, a wife and a mother of two young boys, she seemed to be so close to having that life. As an astrophysicist, working for NASA for five years, all was going well until she went to her doctor for a visit. During that visit she was told she had a metastatic breast cancer. Everything stopped.

“Life’s not fair.” Susan struggled mightily when she had to stop work. She became most depressed and saddened. She didn’t know how she would get through it until one day she heard her two boys fighting over something. When she broke it up, one son said to the other, “That’s not fair. That’s not fair that he gets what he wants, all the time.” As only a mother can do, she bent down with a loving glance and said, “He doesn’t always get what he wants. Sometimes you get what you want, but this time he asked and for something and I decided to give it to him. That’s how it is. You don’t always get what you want.”
Susan then realized that long ago she asked God to support her by sending her to a good school and giving her the ability to do well. He did. She wanted to find a man to love and to marry and God provided. They wanted children and God gave them two sons. God didn’t give her cancer. She didn’t ask for it. But then, Jesus didn’t deserve to die. He didn’t ask for the cross. If anyone deserved to say, “Life’s not fair,” is should be Jesus. Instead he said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” He has watched for centuries the smartest and the most important take things that didn’t belong to them for self. He has seen people sickened, put to death and who have agonized over loss and has heard more than once great lament. Is that fair? Yet, He continued his journey to die for us so that the last shall be first. He did so in order that we would experience a love life.

Love has its deepest understanding when we strive side by side, being granted the privilege in believing in Christ, yet suffering for Him as well.[4] To grab onto this love is a life spent in eternity with Jesus Christ. At the time you feel that life is not fair, feeling that your plan to live a long life has been taken away, know that God came into this world to save sinners. He came into this world so that we will live.

In the Gospel there were four persons called to work the master’s vineyard; one at 9am, one at noon, one at 3pm and one at 5pm. Imagine working a full day and getting paid the same as that guy who came in for one hour? That’s not fair. If everything belongs to God why should we say life’s not fair when the president, the doctor or the priest get special benefits? Why are we unsettled?

As the collect reminds us, “Do not be anxious about earthly things but to love things heavenly.”[5] When we keep our eyes on Jesus we’re going to live another day. He will teach us to let go of the things that we bind tightly. What are you grabbing onto?

To be the first you must be last.
God never promised you a long life,
But He did promise a love life.
Let the love of Jesus Christ be your salvation and grab on.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Matthew 20:1-16
[3] Susan Niebur, “It’s Not Fair,” Toddler Planet, 23 September 2011, http://toddlerplanet.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/its-not-fair/
[4] Philippians 1:21-20
[5] Proper 20, Year A.

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