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The Rev. Frank Logue
King of Peace Episcopal Church
Kingsland, Georgia
September 22, 2002

One Long Day in the Vineyard
Matthew 20:1-16 

grapesJesus is no human resources specialist. In our gospel reading for today, Jesus tells of a vineyard where all the workers receive the same pay at the end of the day no matter how long they have worked. The workers who arrive just ahead of quitting time get a full day’s wage, just like those who have been out working in the vineyard since first light.  

Let’s push Jesus’ story a little further into the future. Imagine with me the next day in the vineyard. How many workers does the landowner have out among the rows first thing in the morning? All of the workers? Any of the workers?  

Oh, I’m sure somebody showed up first thing in the morning. But I wonder if they all would. If the pay is the same no matter how long you work, why bother setting the alarm? Why not lounge around until lunch at least? You might as well mosey over to the vineyard in the shank of the day. You will get a full day’s pay alongside those dopes who spent the heat of the day with the sun beating down on their heads. 

If the landowner keeps up his ridiculous notion of generosity, who would show up early for work? I’m sure Jesus wants us to think this is the landowner for whom we want to work. Sure the pay is great. It’s a nice vineyard and all, but what moron would arrive for work as soon as possible? 

Well, Jordan would. Jordan, the sweet young lady we will baptize in just a moment is reporting this very day for work in the vineyard. Jordan is showing up for work at 17 months, an age that pushes child labor laws to the extreme. Little Jordan MacKenzie Rowe is being brought in to work by her parents and grandparents long before she is even old enough for school. Jordan will grow up among the vines and trellises knowing nothing but life in the vineyard from her earliest days.  

We know that somewhere along the way she’ll get glimpses of life outside the vineyard. She might be tempted to leave her life under the landowners care at some point. But, we come here today to enlist her in the work force trusting that if she wanders away from these rows of vines, it won’t be for long. You might be surprised about the many ways she can be an able worker in the vineyard even now. Kids know all about God’s love and find great ways to share it without any interference from adults. Jordan is all ready for the work set out for her right now. 

If we follow Jesus’ parable of the vineyard, Jordan won’t know a lifetime of working in the vineyard. She’ll just work one long day. Unless the landowner declares a harvest before the work day that is her life is over, Jordan will be among these vines and tendrils her whole life. In this vineyard, the end of a day’s work only comes when you die. So, every day of every year of Jordan’s life will be part of one long day’s work in the vineyard.  

What is Jordan to do in this one long day? Work. Sure, in other parables, Jesus would say he is the vine and Jordan is the branch and she is to bear much fruit, but not this time. For her long day of work, Jordan will get the same pay as all the lollygaggers who sleep in late. She will even get the same pay as the ne’er do wells who will slide in right at closing time. 

What are her parents thinking? Why did they drag this poor girl in to work at such a young age? Before they commit her to a life of service in the vineyard, shouldn’t her loving parents give her time to think this through? Shouldn’t Jordan grow up to make her own choice? Do her parents have the right or even the ability to make a big commitment like this for her? 

Face it kid, your parents will make a lot of choices for you before you have a chance to make them for yourself. They will put you in clothes you would never dress yourself in before you get old enough to choose them for yourself. They will decide where you live. They have already selected English as your first language, no choice on that one either. Your parents will make many choices for you, Jordan, and the one they are making this morning is that they want you to grow up in this vineyard.  

Your parents have had a glimpse of life beyond these rows of grapes and discovered that the vineyard is the best place for you to grow up. Life in this vineyard is its own reward. Oh it’s no picnic. The landowner expects you to work. After all, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to working in a vineyard, not to a pleasure cruise. A Bishop I know once said the cruise ship analogy might work for the Christian life, but the ship would be for crew only. A working vacation at best. No lounging about in the deck chairs. That’s why Jesus prefers the image of workers in a vineyard. The landowner has expectations of you Jordan. 

But your parents know that what is best for you is to spend your earliest days here in the vineyard. Learn your way around the landowner’s estate. It’s going to be a long work day and you have the jump on the other workers. You can come to know what its like to live in this generous landowners care even as you learn to read and write. 

Sure, the late arrivals will think they have gotten away with something. They’ll think that life away from the vineyard was fun. They may feel they cheated the landowner by sliding in to work at the close of the day. Those one-time ne’er do wells won’t know what it was like to spend your whole life in the landowners care. They may be tempted to think they got the best of both worlds. 

You, Jordan, will come to know better. The rest of the world offers plenty of landowners, but none who will lavish attention on you like the Lord of this vineyard. The pay at the end of the long day’s work is extra. A life lived in the vineyard is its own reward.  

Let’s ignore child labor laws and get you signed up for work in the vineyard now, Jordan, while the early morning light is still glistening on the dew covered grapes.  


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