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16 Pentecost - Jonah 3:10—4:10; Matthew 20:1-16

It's been several hundred years now, and times have changed, so we're probably due to update the Lord's Prayer.

Here's a rough draft:


Father God, you hang out in heaven.

Your name is holy because you are different, special, set apart, which is cool, but it also means that you're kind of out of touch.

So my kingdom come, my will be done, in heaven so it will be on earth.

Give me more, now: more than I have, more than other people, because I deserve it.

Overlook my mistakes, which are minor compared to others, but make sure everyone who has wronged me gets the punishment they deserve.

Lead us not into socialism, but deliver us from equality, and discomfort, and unfairness that benefits others or costs me, until the money and the power and the glory are mine, forever and ever. Amen


It needs work, but it feels more honest.

Maybe we would pray like this out loud in church, and not just under our breath, if Jesus

had asked the disciples to teach him how to pray.

They could have educated him on how the world works before Rome did.

Instead, they (and we) are the students and Jesus is the teacher, and we have a lot to

learn, and a lot to un-learn, for the kingdom of heaven is a different vineyard altogether.

Jesus detonates this parable after a lengthy buildup, exploding minds at which he has been chipping away for two chapters.


It started when the disciples asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" because sports talk radio had not yet been invented to obsess over this.

We always want to know who stands where in the pecking order about which Jesus seems so

weirdly not to care, especially with his nonstop nonsense about how The Messiah has to

suffer and die.

So Jesus takes an unemployed, unaccomplished, snot-nosed toddler in his arms and says, Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Their eyes got big, as eyes do when faced with something they aren't ready to see.

If your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away, Jesus said, but he was

getting started.

He told a story about an idiot shepherd chasing one lost sheep, then outrageous forgiveness, then divorce and eunuchs and blessing more children the disciples tried to shoo away before scaring off a hard working, rich, religious, ideal church member and muttering about how impossible it is for wealthy people to enter the kingdom of heaven.

With the ground shifting so fast, Peter still continues to jockey for position:

Look, we have left everything and followed you.

What then will we have?

What's in it for us?

You'll get paid, Jesus says, but you might not like it.

There will be thrones and authority, kingdom and power and glory, hundredfold rewards, eternal life and all that, because the extravagantly generous vineyard owner who called you when no one else would will do you right.

The only thing you have to fear is the danger in your eyes.

When you see who else gets rewarded what, it won't satisfy your lust for status or need

to know who's the greatest, because the pecking order to which you are so addicted will

be eliminated entirely.

First and last will blend into each other as every kid gets a participation trophy.

Don't you hate that?

I do, and so did the disciples, and so did just and righteous Jonah, and so did the sunrise crew who got paid last and had to suffer the indignity of equality—not at the beginning, where Americans are theoretically okay with it, but at the end.

Christ holds this truth which is not self-evident: that all people are redeemed equal, and

endowed by their savior with inalienable life, liberty, and a happiness that pursues them.

The one who dies with the most toys dies.

Everyone is the same come quitting time.

Forgiveness, deliverance, and a full share in the kingdom and the power and the glory, the lavish salvation God hands out like a daily wage, are offered to everyone regardless of how

much or how little they deserve it because that's what the boss says and it's not our vineyard.

We don't have any say or choice about how God treats others.

Our only choice is how we see it.

Theodore Roosevelt warned, "Comparison is the thief of joy."

So envy is no more fun than winning with an unfair God who doesn't keep score at all.

God asks Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the bush but not concerned about the city?"

The vineyard owner asks us, translated literally, "Is your eye evil because I am good?"

Is your focus on what happens to others spoiling what happens to you?

I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be

children of your Father in heaven; Jesus invites us, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

If you don't like it, boycott the sunrise.

Change the prayer; prove your point.

Leave the city and pout.

Take what belongs to you and go find a different vineyard.

For the kingdom of heaven is like a circle of children in Africa.

An anthropologist set up a foot race for a large basket of fresh fruit.

The children held hands to make sure they would all cross the finish line at the same time.

How can any of us be happy if any of us is unhappy?, they asked.

How can anyone enjoy the prize if someone else goes without?

If there's only one winner, then everyone loses—that's how their eyes saw it.

What is happening in your eyes?

How do you see the world, and does it align with God's vision of vineyard grace?

If you must keep score, if you just cannot help yourself, here's the bottom line: the greatest in the kingdom is the dead messiah, the rabbi on death row, the corpse on the cross.

The first are last, and the last are first, and there's plenty of wine for everyone, and the vineyard

owner has raised his glass and shouted, "To hell with the pecking order!"

If you really miss it, now you know where to look.

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