Saturday, August 30, 2014

Parable of the Disgruntled Laorers Matthew 20:1-16 September 28

SEPTEMBER 21  “Unequal wages”  matthew 20:1-16

Matthew 20:1-16
The Labourers in the Vineyard
READER 1) ‘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, READER 2) “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.”
READER 1) 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,
#2) “Why are you standing here idle all day?”
R #1) They said to him,
R #3)“Because no one has hired us.”
#1) He said to them,
#2) “You also go into the vineyard.”
#1)  When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager,
#2) “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.”
#1) 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,
# 3) “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.”
#1) But he replied to one of them,
#2)“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?”
#1) So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

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Jensen (Preaching Matthew's Gospel) writes:
“In chapters 19 and 20 Jesus begins to address his disciples about the nature of following him and how differently the children of the kingdom live from the normal cultural expectations of the day. These chapters cover such topics as marriage, divorce, celibacy, children, rank, privilege and money!”
Eugene Boring (Matthew, New Interpreter's Bible) offers this introduction to the section Matthew 19:1-20:34: "Instructing the Disciples En Route to the Passion."
Matthew 19:1-26 is quite literally devoted to the new understanding of family (cf. 12:46-50), dealing with the place of divorce, remarriage, celibacy, children, and young people in the new Christian community. Matthew then grounds the radical reversal of cultural understandings called for by inserting …a parable intended to deal with the resentment generated within the community by this grand and gracious reversal (20:1-16). Matthew understands the theme of …the parable to be "the last shall be first and the first last" (19:30; 20:16).
 For the church in Matthew’s time there was an issue about new, Gentile converts coming into the community who were not well versed in the Jewish law, etc.  Understandably, the more long-term disciples resented this, and the parable was cited as a corrective to such resentment .  What is being questioned is the idea of how one is “paid” in the kingdom of God.. not by what one does -- either by doing good deeds or keeping the commandments or working in the vineyard -- but by the graciousness of God.  (Jonathan+)
A denarius for a days work does not indicate a generous landowner. It was the minimum wage a family in poverty could exist on.
The word for "think" (nomizo) does not refer so much to a rational process (as logizomai), but "to assume," "to presume," "to suppose," based on what one expects to happen or what is "customary" or the "rule" (which are meanings for the root nomos). Usually such assumptions are wrong as in its other uses in Mt: 5:17; 10:34. (Stoffregen)

Their complaints, as I see it, are three:
(1) "They assumed they would receive more"
…I don't think their real complaint was as much about the money as the other two listed below.
(2) "You have made them equal to us."
…They make a distinction between "us" and "them" and that "we" are better than "they." "We" deserve more than "they."
(3) "[we] have born the burden of the day and the heat"
They do not see their invitation to work (and wages earned) as a sign of grace, but as a burden to be borne.

ROBERT CAPON, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment
p. 395-96
“It is the evil eye, you see- the ophthalamos poneros, the eye that loves the darkness of its bookkeeper’s black ink, the eye that cannot stand red ink of unsuccess as it appears in the purple light of grace- that is condemned here. Bookkeeping is the only punishable offense in the kingdom of heaven…for if the world could have been saved by bookkeeping, it would have been saved by Moses, not by Jesus.”
Boring (Matthew, New Interpreter's Bible): "Grace is always amazing grace. Grace that can be calculated and 'expected' (v. 10) is no longer grace. (cf. 22:11-14)" [p. 394]

Jesus goes to church

   ... I enter the Church of the Atonement and find myself awash in visual/auditory/sensory experiences of Word and Spirit. Yet there is also a light-heartedness that inhabits the boundaries, as if Christ had wandered in with some curious street people, wondering what all the fuss was about. “Is that me they’re talking about?” he wonders, and nods approvingly at the exertions of the bell-ringers. He looks around and sees the people ill-equipped to scale the smoke-shrouded slope of Mount Sinai, with the earth’s crust shaking and cracking under their feet, and the wild Law-Giver spitting out commandments like molten pebbles from an outraged volcano. Ready or not, everyone is Moses here.
And so Jesus volunteers to serve as tour-guide, as Sherpa, as expert on volcanoes who will take them to the fiery rim where they might safely view the face of God.
This Is My Body, cries the presiding priest, oblivious to the continuous clamor of the tower bells, and at once the streaming lava and the Precious Blood are one, the absent Father and the beaming tour-guide are one, the Spirit breaks loose and zooms around, and the Holy Trinity is/are all right there in one place, dancing a three-step around the crowded sanctuary.
Shreds of Spirit swoop away on tangents, spun off by force so centrifugal as to defy measurement. Strands of Spirit trail behind, whisps of Ruah,transparent in their orbit, a reverse tornado of sacred breath, encircling the round host, the round world, the curved universe, the curved and holy Trinity, still dancing, still circling, still Three.
The bells fall silent, and the spinning Spirit settles down, like a wide-winged bird settling upon its high nest. The shuffling communicants return from their pilgrimage to the volcano’s edge. Jesus wanders back out onto the street. The world rearranges itself into orderly sequences and rows. We arise, once again to the insistent throbbing of the bells. The Trinity recedes into the walls and floor, assuming its familiar, flat, doctrinal form. We walk unknowing on the Word, and, unthinking, breathe the incense-flavored Spirit while the Father/Yahweh retreats the furthest, where no words, however wise, can go.


THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER: Matthew 13:1-8; 18-23
Matthew 13:1-8; 18-23
1) NARRATOR: That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying:
READER 1. ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.
READER 2. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.
READER 3. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.
READER 4. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
The Parable of the Sower Explained
NARRATOR:  Hear then the parable of the sower.
READER 1. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.
READER 2. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. READER 3. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.
READER 4. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’ 

“…the material in Matthew 13:1-23, the Parable of the Sower along with its explanations, is Jesus' response to the events that have taken place in chapter 12.”  [p. 112] (Jensen, Preaching Matthew’s Gospel, p. 112.) Chapter 12 relates the increasing opposition to Jesus teaching on the part of the Pharisees. 

“In Palestine sowing precedes ploughing”. Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus,(1972) p.11
“A Galilean tenant farmer could have up to half his harvest extracted as rent. Small holders were subject to the land tax or tribute of Herodian kings or …the Romans, either of which ranged from one-quarter to one-third of the harvest. Not included in this were the tithes of to the Jewish authorities…” Myers, pp.51-52

“The parable’s focus upon the majority of the seed, which went fruitless, would be bitterly familiar to the peasant… Wealthy landlords always extracted enough of the harvest to ensure that the farmer remained indentured to the land… Against this background the promise of an astounding harvest … is poignant indeed”. ..the Palestinian farmer might typically expect a yield of around  7:1, with a ten-fold yield considered a bumper crop. The parable’s harvest thus symbolically represents a dramatic shattering of the vassal relationship between peasant and landlord. “Ched Myers, Binding the Strong man, p. 176-77.

The abnormal tripling…of the harvest’s yield (thirty, sixty, a hundredfold) symbolizes the …overflowing of the divine fullness, surpassing all human measure.” (Jeremias, p. 150)

13:9 “Let anyone with ears listen”- asserts Jesus authority, reflects the Shema of Israelite faith, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is the only Lord.” As in many places the Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the equation of Jesus authority with God’s authority is hinted at rather than, as in John, explicitly named.


The Parable of the Sower challenges and subverts prevailing assumptions regarding efficiency and scarcity. The “word of the kingdom” (that is, Jesus mission from God) is scattered prodigally, lavishly, wastefully, and recklessly upon the earth. It is not carefully dribbled out to those who particularly deserve it.
“The idea of the catholicity of the kingdom- the insistence that is it at work everywhere, always, and for all, rather than in some places, at some times, and for some people- is an integral part of Jesus teaching from start to finish….” (Robert Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus.p. 64

Parables are meant to be difficult. They are meant to destabilize, subvert, and disrupt the established world-view of whoever is listening. In Matthew 13:13 Jesus’ says “The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.”
It is not until there has been a collapse and a surrender of familiar ways of perceiving that “the soil” is ready to receive the kingdom of God.