Parable of the landowner who pays his labourers the same amount
When I was in the middle of my degree I spent a summer working on the river in Cambridge as Punt pusher and tour guide for one of the many companies who try to entice tourists as soon as they arrive in Cambridge. The aggressive touting by punt tour guides is unfortunate. It reflect the tough competition between tour operators, but gives the impression that what they are selling must need a hard sell – unfortunate because actually the tours are well worth going on – but I suppose I am a little biassed. One of the more bizarre things was that we would sometimes be involved in the production tv shows and even album covers. A colleague had to spend the day rowing a boat up river to be part of a shoot for Pink Floyd’s Echoes – the Best of Pink Floyd album cover. I was involved in the filming of Bargain Hunt with David Dickinson when it came to Cambridge. Of course the university is continually wrestling with it’s history and the image people have of it being a place where you can only go if you are a prince or due to inherit a title. I remember asking the producer if they couldn’t tone down some of Dickinson’s descriptions of Cambridge because I thought the image he was portraying would put some people off thinking they could even consider applying to the university.
Of course, any institution with a long and chequered history struggles with misconceptions. As the church we have a history which includes involvement in wars, oppression and persecution. And not all of that history is that old. On the other end, a common assumption is that you can sum up Jesus’ message by saying Christians are all meant to be nice to each other and that we are aiming at creating fairness. But any such temptation to simplify the Gospel is challenged by a reading like the one we have today. In his parable the landowner doesn’t treat the labourers ‘fairly’, according to the amount of work they’ve done, because in the Kingdom of heaven there is no amount of work we can do to earn our place. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t fair, because ultimately God does all the work, we enjoy the benefits, Jonah found that out the hard way. You can start as many orphanages and fight as much injustice as you like, but that doesn’t earn you a better spot in heaven.
The other temptation is to say, well Jesus has it sorted, I’m going to go off and spend my time in prayer. But as much as Jesus commends Mary’s sitting at his feet and as often as Jesus himself goes off to find time to be quiet and pray to God the Father. That is not to say Jesus’ gospel is one of inaction. Paul tells the Philippians that he would love to go and spend his time with God,
but that is not what he is called to do. Just like the Gospel challenges us not to simplify Jesus’ message to just be nice to people, Jesus’ Gospel challenges us to think about what it means to follow him. The colouring sheet and activity sheet the children have today has a maze and an image of a signpost with somebody needing to choose the right way. Which won’t always be the comfortable path. Christ isn’t just for Christmas. We aren’t just a part of the Church when it is enjoyable or comfortable for us.
Because of the challenge of this pandemic lots of the elements which bring us to church normally: the music – singing together, the fellowship – eating and drinking and hugging and chatting together; the children’s activities – crafts, games and biscuits. But that doesn’t mean we can just turn away until it’s normal again. Paul calls us with the Philippians to be faithful to the Gospel even when it is hard. That means being willing to take our mission outside the safety of these doors, it means welcoming our mission into the safety of this space – and taking a risk when doing so, it means remaining faithful in prayer when it is hard to do, it means letting go of control and our own importance to let God work through others.
The reality is the Gospel isn’t easy. It often means we need to take the path less travelled. We need to be willing to challenge the assumptions and temptations we face. But ultimately we know that God is faithful. That God is calling us out of love for us, and a desire that we live life to the full, and are able to enable others to live life to the full as well, and all of creation will sing with joy, and even the trees will clap their hands.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
8.00am Morning Prayer in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School
Christian Meditation Wednesdays at 9.10am
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm
Please note that Public worship has been suspended, you can therefore participate in these services via Facebook live stream
Eating together is important for us all, for our families and our friends, it is over a meal where we have the time to listen to each other and it is over food that we find a common need to nourish ourselves.
There are certain moments in one’s life where one feels close to God – like Christ has come near – moments of beauty or of peace or of joy.
I found this box on a shelf. It’s a bit old, you can tell it’s been around for a while, it’s been bumped here and scratched there. It’s not easy to open. But it’s also clearly precious, with golden inlay. And it smells nice.
Where it made sense we needed to emulate others who we saw were good at what they did, and who did things we wanted to do.