Looking Forward to Sunday: Leftovers

Rev. Daniel Eggold

Sep 14, 2020

Readings:

Isaiah 55:6–9; Psalm 27:1–9; Philippians 1:12–14, 19–30; Matthew 20:1–16

The September illustration in the fifteenth-century prayer book Tres Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry is a miniature painting of medieval workers in a vineyard.

     The last laborers to join the vineyard had spent their day being picked over. They were the hiring process leftovers. Like the last kids remaining in a gym class team selection,these laborers were for one reason or another deemed less valuable workers by the other landowners. Perhaps they were less physically capable than others.Maybe their strengths were not easily visible. Not being hired for work that day, they were standing around with no purpose or potential for growth.

     But we have a generous landowner who does not overlook anyone. This landowner spends his entire day scouring the market for those who have been left behind and securing a place for them in his vineyard. He gives them value and meaning. Jesus will not rest until every lost and idle bystander has a place in the kingdom of heaven.

     This radical generosity scandalizes the system that rewards people based on their merits and outputs.But Jesus rewards people of all abilities and work ethics equally. In God’s commonwealth, the leftover workers have as much value as those chosen first.

     Eunice Kennedy Shriver was keenly aware of how people with intellectual disabilities were defined by what they couldn’t do. She wanted to provide opportunities for them to develop physical fitness, display courage, and find joy on the playing field. Her vision grew into the Special Olympics movement. This inclusive and expansive glimpse into the kingdom of heaven celebrates the athletic achievements of those who are often excluded from the vineyard.

     In worship, we catch Jesus’vision as we gather around the table. Regardless of our status or position, we are all on equal footing at Christ’s meal. We are given the same portions of bread. We drink from the same cup. It does not matter if we arrived late or early, young or old, grateful or ungrateful. Jesus has invited each of us here.We have not been overlooked. We have been given our work for this day.

Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants. Because we cannot rely on our own abilities, grant us your merciful judgment, and train us to embody the generosity of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.