End of the line

Daily Reading for September 21 • The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The most curious thing about this parable [of the vineyard owner and his workers] for me is where we locate ourselves in line. The story sounds quite different from the end of the line, after all, than it does from the front of the line, but isn’t it interesting that 99 percent of us hear it from front row seats? We are the ones who have gotten the short end of the stick; we are the ones who have been gypped. We are the ones who have gotten up early and worked hard and stayed late and all for what? So that some backward householder can come along and start at the wrong end of the line, treating us just like the ne’er do wells who do not even get dressed until noon!

That is how most of us hear the parable, but it is entirely possible that we are mistaken about where we are in line. Did you ever think about that? It is entirely possible that, as far as God is concerned, we are halfway around the block, that there are all sorts of people ahead of us in line, people who are far more deserving of God’s love than we are, people who have more stars in their crowns than we will ever have. . . .

God is not fair. For reasons we may never know, God seems to love us indiscriminately, and seems also to enjoy reversing the systems we set up to explain why God should love some of us more than others of us. By starting at the end of our lines, with the last and the least, God lets us know that his ways are not our ways, and that if we want to see things his way we might question our own notion of what is fair, and why we get so upset when our lines do not work.

From “Beginning at the End” in The Seeds of Heaven: Sermons from the Episcopal Series of the Protestant Radio Hour by Barbara Brown Taylor (Forward Movement Publications, 1990).

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