Mt20v1-2 Like on this parabler! The Kingdom of Heaven is like. Like a master, a responsible authority, the head of headship, a pioneering personalist, the entrepeneur. Like early in the morning, eager, childlike o'clock, because it's a new day dawning, because time is short. Like labourers, industrious, hands-on, hardworking though/especially if the workers are few. Like a vineyard, the cultivation of flavour, aroma, tradition. Like. What is your life like?
Mt20v3-4 The master, seeing folks standing idle, gives to them good work. The payment at the end of the story is usually understood as the salvation metaphor, but it is also surely found in the employment itself of these two verses. Freud suggested that Love & Work were the two basic life-dimensions that humans need to thrive, & while Freud's model goes all wrong, the idea that it is Relationship & Task that we need to flourish seems right. Redemption makes right & good our relationship & our task. & here we see the God who does this, who looks & loves, who sees & employs. God gives us good labour, & this is part of the substance of our redemption. It is good work, something that needs doing, not movement for the sake of it: it is a task the master is invested in, it is specific - a this-&-not-that. Let us thank the God who moves us from unseen idle-atry to love & work.
Mt20v5-6 'Why do you stand idle?' Surprisingly little speculation in the commentaries as to 'Why?'. So permit me. 1. Mischief. Who gets up at the crack of noon and goes looking for employment at dusk? The criminal classes (and students). Drunkenness is associated with the later hours of the day Ac2v15, and Christianity is contrasted with the night Rm13v12. Is there an insinuation in Mt that these latecomers are up to no good? Jesus says 'Come anyways.' 2. The addictive cycle of low self-esteem. Eeyore's preemptive defeatism. It's not worth it, I'm not worth it, it's late in the day, I'll never catch up now. Jesus says,'Come anyways.' 3. Legitimised passivity. Like our father Adam we are inclined to protest, 'but i didn't do anything wrong.' Epidemic inaction by escapist absentee men in our day, of which i am the worst, purposelessly hanging about, logged in but far away. Jesus says, 'Come anyways!' [(*regarding one reply, perhaps I'm not 'the worst', I'm not fishing for compliments. But, one knows one's own passivity most, and it is not small negligence I find in me.)]
Mt20v7-8 Though the 3rd, 6th, 9th & 11th hours can refer to different people's moments of repentance situated chronologically, I read this morning these hours as different aspects & depths of the self. The surface bits might be pretty punctual & acceptable looking, grace will do for them - but the hidden bits, prowling around at midnight, psychologically (or maybe ontologically) speaking, they cannot be saved, not really. But no. Not so with the grace on grace, the grace that covers equally from first to last, & penetrates equally from surface to core. All of me can be saved. To the scratching spitting swearing child who sits in the middle of my heart Jesus says: ' you go into the vineyard too.' & I discover again I am the recipient of grace. I really needed it, & I really receive it. & suddenly all our talk of grace takes form again, & takes my heart.
Mt20v9-10 There's no Tuesday in this parable, no day after on which a queue of labourers only appears at 5pm (that grace may abound). The problem with communism is freeloaders, and that some in the Animal Farmyard end up 'more equal' than others. It seems sensible not to push this parable too far ~ keep it in the realm of Jew/Gentile salvation equality/chronology, but don't presume to extend it to a critique of graceless meritocratic employment. What if we do? What would it look like to represent this parabolic truth in our treatment of others and in our finances as a community? Grace is bonkers, it's no equal and opposite counterpoint to justice, grace won't conform to sensible expectations of return on investment. Is my life observably spent on the offensively uneconomical, irrationally generous concern to distribute superabundance urgently? Time is short, and I have been forgiven much.
Mt20v11-12 Grumbling, & the attitudes behind the grumbles is both the two-personal attitudes of envy, pride, resentment & the three-personal attitude of jealousy. Where we resent God's generosity to others we are jealous, jealous of their grace-given relationship. Envy & jealousy in different ways stop us wanting people's best, they choke love. Jealousy comes from insecurity, but God desires to meet every need, quiet every fear, jealous pang & grumble.
Mt20v13-14 'Friend' (gk) 'hetaire' only used elsewhere in Mt22v12 and Mt26v50. This is not a cheery greek word study. Jesus, you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.. Devastating. What pain of betrayal, what latent longing, 'hetaire' denotes 'a mutually binding relation disregarded by the hearer' (Rengstorf), implies 'generosity abused' (Trench). See how my mercenary mind breaks Jesus heart. It is almost too much to bear.
Mt20v15-16 Be/grudge. On the phenomenology of the grudge, it is like being tied to a post, & the jarring of the rope as it pulls taut; it is like the scrape of slate that prevents movement. The post, when you look at it, is another beloved child of God. & the grudge that ties you to them both means they dominate your energy & they do not have a face. Pray for them. Rather than straining against the rope to be free, pray for the face of the post, pray for their person, lift them up, that is, elevate them, ask God to bless them more than you. This kind of more-than taps the logic-breaking of v16, that is, its steps outside of a logic & economy of comparison. I do not think this Jesus is simply reversing a scale here, but inverting it, calling us away from the more-thans & less-thans, our firsts & lasts, that fuel our jealousy & begrudging. Welcome to a different playground, beloved.
Mt20v17-18 Jesus died. On purpose. Why did Jesus die? I want to communicate a revelation that has unsettled me this morning, without just playing with words. The idea is 'died-for'. Do you understand what it means to be 'died-for'? How does 'died-for' work? What are the preconditions for 'died-for's logical coherence? Consider London. Work backwards from Jesus' very intentional dying. Is London's brokenness a need for a died-for? If not, why did he bother?
Mt20v19-20 The normalisation of the crucified god is one of the problems, leading to the nonchalance of v20. It becomes a tired myth or an intellectual game between many internalised voices, if one doesn't return to the foot of the cross, to look again.
Mt20v21-22 The Kingdom of Heaven is a drinking competition? Smothering mothering and the agendas of the genders in leadership, many issues hover at the fringes of this encounter. Chiefly, the misconstrued rights/responsibilities of headship: no one is famous for being famous in this Kingdom. Who dares rule in this Kingdom of suffering? Not many of you should presume to lead Jm3v1. And pray for those who have had headship thrust upon them 1Ti2v2.
Mt20v23-24 Suffering, servanthood & status. Jesus speaks twice in the last few days about the first-last-last-first, & then the ways we are apt to misunderstand this. He speaks both to those who presume too much, & those who express indignance at those who presume too much, the indignance betraying its own presumptions about sin & spiritual status. So Christ speaks this twice to me, am I listening?
Mt20v25-26 '..about to be a bigger star than my mum thought..' - 'The Gentiles lord it.' Interestingly Jesus makes this observation (/sweeping generalisation?) a national (/racial?) one. The quality of servant leadership is contrasted with the quality of brash authoritarianism, and as a refute to the other disciples' indignant faux egalitarianism. And Jesus makes this a national distinctive. Our tribe is a royal priesthood, but this monarchy is upsidedown, holy, peculiar. 1Pt2v9
Mt20v27-28 (i) What distinguishes Christ-like kenosis from people-pleasing, or inauthentic ways of trying to offset privilege just-enough? (ii) What is the good life? For to serve others is to serve them in some articulable direction, as Christ talks of redemption here...what does the redeemed life look like? It means the healing of certain brokenesses & the meeting of explicit needs, but it can't only be the negatively defined absence-of. We can easily busy ourselves with trying to serve in this negativity-reducing way such that we do not know what good we are serving people toward. (i) & (ii) are connected, i think. & the distinguished must be the perpetual motion of springing-up grace, & the breath of the holy spirit. That is, the good life of orderly worship & community is prevented from becoming stale or desperate or comfortable where the always-overflow of surplus pushes out, to extend, to invite in. The giving from surplus, on knowing the inexhaustible wealth of Christ, immeasurable unquantifiable riches, orders (i) & preserves (ii). Life in all its fullness is quite the giveaway.
Mt20v29-30 They cried out, or NIV, shouted. Shout. Raise a shout with ragged voice. Shout what? Lord. Lord-who? Lord, Son of David. Who is Jesus? Have you 'heard him going by', through all the 'large crowds' and despite your blindness, do you know he is there? Do you know he hears you specifically and he is the Son of David. The Son of David is The Anticipated One and more than, better than the bus you were waiting for, faster than the ambulance you dialled, he is powerful to save. Name him. Shout, with ragged voice.
Mt20v31 & then shout louder. Know your desperation for God, as in AA's step one. Know your desperation, & do not budge, keep shouting for this Christ. Shout your need & your anxiety & your abandon to this God, knowing you will never be well without him. This is your one chance.
Mt20v32 & Jesus stopped & called back. (wonder & mystery.) WHAT do you want...? What specifically as SC last night praying Paul's specificity of known belovedness to his Ephesians. What do you WANT...not just what do you think you should pray, but what does your heart cry out? ...To DO for you...Jesus the active, on whom we throw ourselves. ...for YOU?...Intercede first yes, then petition for yourself, speak your need, know the Christ calls back to you.