Rev. Matthew Crebbin has been the Lead Pastor at Newtown Congregational Church, UCC in Newtown, CT since 2007. His is also a facilitator for healingthehealers.org which provides online resources to assist faith leaders in ministering in the midst of communal and personal trauma.
Scripture: Matthew 20:1-16 (NRSV)
‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’
Reflection: No Way To Run A Business
Jesus would have never made it as an entrepreneur. He didn’t understand the first thing about how you are supposed to run a business. In the parable of the laborers, little at all is said about the needs of the business owner – the one who more than likely has invested much into the vineyard. In fact, what is highlighted are the needs of the workers. Each time the landowner comes into the marketplace and sees workers without any work, the sight prompts the owner to offer jobs.
This gets underscored in the dialog that occurs at day’s end. “Why are you standing here idle all day?” the landowner asks the laborers who are left in the marketplace. When they tell him that they aren’t working for the simple reason that no one has chosen them, the owner sends them out to the vineyard and says they will be treated fairly. In the real world, the economy revolves around the needs of the bosses, but this story is pulled along by the need of the workers. Indeed, even the conclusion focuses upon the needs of the workers. They are paid a full day of wages - which for daily workers means that they will be able to take care of their basic needs. If they had only been paid a portion of the daily wage, they would not have had enough.
The Torah instructed that daily workers – whether Israelites or aliens - should be paid every day before sunset because they are economically vulnerable and need the money to cover their basic necessities (Deut. 24:14-15). So here the employer went above and beyond what the law required – paying some of the workers a day’s wage for less than a day’s work. The “scandal” here is that the owner makes sure that each person has sufficient resources to cover their needs for their day.
It seems that this is still a scandal for many today. Far too often when grace bumps up against the cares of this world – whether in the areas of economics, justice or forgiveness – the first response is to claim that there is never enough to go around. Anne Lamott writes, “Sin is not the adult bookstore on the corner. It is the hard heart, the lack of generosity, and all the isms, racism and sexism and so forth”. Living by pure, extravagantly generous gospel grace? That’s no way to run a business or a country or even a church. Or is it the only way?
Thank you, gracious God, for the ways you remind us of your extravagant sharing. Your spirit of generosity is all too often contrasted against our calculated way of doing business with one another. Your love towards us seems reckless, extravagant, and unbelievable gracious. Forgive us when we consider grace something to be earned rather than as a gift always underserved. May we let go of the life-diminishing calculations that measure the worth of others or ourselves by who they are or what they do. Grant us the courage and vision to live as a people always held in your infinite mercy. Amen
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for the more than 193,000 victims of the Covid-19 disease
- For those in the Pacific Northwest where wildfires have resulted in more than 20 deaths and continue to burn spreading smoke and ash throughout the northwestern states
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the educators who are working hard to adjust to a teaching environment for which no career path could have prepared them
Please Pray for the Following SNEUCC Churches:
First Congregational Church, UCC, Greenfield, MA
Second Congregational Church UCC, Greenfield, MA
First Christian UCC (Rice City), Greene, RI
First Congregational Church UCC, Great Barrington, MA
Granville Federated Church, Granville, MA
Church of Christ Congregational, UCC, Granby, MA
First Congregational Church of Granby, Granby, CT
South Congregational Church of Granby, Granby, CT
Congregational Church of Grafton, UCC, Grafton, MA
Church of Christ, Congregational, Goshen, CT
Trinity Congregational Church, UCC, Gloucester, MA
This Week in History:
September 15, 1963 (57 years ago) Four young Black girls (Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Collins, and Cynthia Wesley) were killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan in an explosion at the 16th St.. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The girls were preparing a Sunday school lesson. The killings created a public outcry which added support tothe civil-rights movement.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”