CAPC Oakland

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Blogging Towards Sunday, October 27, 2013

Matthew 20:1-16


What is grace?  Is it the goal or means of faith?  Is it the beginning of the end of knowing God?  graceDo we receive it or give it?  GRACE – the paradoxical notion of God’s love at the heart of today’s parable – is also at the heart of the historical uprising in the Church that we now call the Protestant Reformation.  The Sunday before Halloween – is always Halloween Parade Sunday here in Rockridge, and in the wider church it’s Reformation Sunday – as we remember that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittemberg on October 31, 1517 – an action which set off what would become the Reformation.


In the wider context of the gospel of Matthew, the previous chapter (19) contains two episodes about true riches and the wealthy struggling to enter – the kingdom of God.  They end with the reversal saying in 19:30 “The first shall be last, and the last first.”  This same reversal saying concludes today’s parable, thus connecting the three parables in their shared literary construction.  How does this parable about the Vineyard relate to the encounter of the young rich man and the response of the disciples?

Here are some keys for reading the parable that Jesus tells here:

  1. It’s about the Kingdom of God, or Reign of Heaven. Is that heaven in the afterlife?  Here and now as we live Jesus’ words?  Here to come on Earth?  Or all of the above?
  2. The house owner in v.1 is also called the “owver of the vineyard” in v. 8.  The Greek word we translate as owner is Kurios – which is often used throughout the Bible to refer to God as Lord.
  3. The Owner has a vineyard – which must be near harvest time – hence the need to get more workers.  Throughout the First Testament and Jesus’ sayings God’s Kingdom and action is often described with the metaphor of a vineyard and a harvest. [related article]
  4. A denarius – what the workers are paid – is the average day’s wage, on which an agricultural worker could expect to provide himself and his family with the necessities of life.
  5. The owner goes out five different times to hire workers – most likely because it’s harvest time and they need to bring in the grapes!
  6. The owner finds the workers standing idle in the market place.  In a time of harvest, and crunch work, what workers would most likely be left standing around in the market place – or hiring zone for day workers – at 9am, 12pm and 3pm and 5pm?  What type of worker would have been hired first at daybreak?  Why?
  7. How much does the owner gives the workers?  How is that fair?  Unfair?  What does it accomplish?

Questions for Going Deeper

What word, phrase or image in the parable grabs your attention?

Is this parable about:

A warning to the disciples and followers of Jesus to not get to big of a head?

A description of how God loves us – (aka Grace)?

A description of God’s justice and sense of justice (aka grace)?

There is no way that this way of paying people for their work is equitable.  So what is the different way in which the owner is treating the unemployed?  Why?

If the parable is about the kingdom of heaven, what is Jesus saying about God (the owner) and us or human beings (the workers)?  Is it about followers of Jesus only? Or larger than that?

What really bugs you about grace?  How would you have felt if you’d been a worker…hired at daybreak?  Hired at 3pm?  Hired at 5pm?

How does this parable and the living word it contains touch and interact with your life today, our life as a community?

Last week we talked about God not doing the same old thing, but a new thing.  How does today’s passage relate to that?

About capcoakland

We are a community of faith seeking to live God's will together: that space where the passions of our hearts and the needs of the world meet in our context of Berkeley, Oakland and Piedmont. Our perspective is based from a Christian center, open to the mystery of God's presence in our world. Our core values are celebration, community & prayer. This blog is our avenue for program updates and information.

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This entry was posted on October 22, 2013 by in Grow, Uncategorized and tagged .
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