Year A 16th Sunday after Pentecost
September 20, 2020
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
El Cajon, CA
the Reverend Phil Loveless
What is fair?
Anyone who has raised children knows that at about eight years old, they will yell at you, “That’s not fair!”. Well I am not sure about you but the first time this happen to me I was taken back. I stopped and asked, “what do you think is fair?” A child’s response often will not have the logic of a trained lawyer but will still hold a bit of truth.
The Gospel’s speak of fairness as love. As we read two weeks ago “if your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” you see this is fair. The truth and justice are defined together.
What about our gospel reading this morning? Check your mind at the door or is this parable about critical thinking. So often we have made the main person in the parable, God, in this case I am not sure that is right. Today we have an allegory that I feel should be taken in its own. Interactions between a landowner and day laborers who work for him.
The landowner is playing on the vulnerability of the workers. The workers have no power, they are working all day for just enough money to pay for one day’s food. They are powerless, trapped in a poverty that they cannot escape.
At the end of the day the workers are as vulnerable and powerless as they were at the beginning of the day. At the end of this day they are divided as well. Our world is also made up of such workers. Bodies that are limitless and disposable fuel-bodies to be burned up, without them our economy would not run.
This parable is about making us think about what we value, Truth, Justice, human rights, worker rights. We can see in this parable a limited and false form of justice. It is a false justice because it produces envy and division not wholeness and healing. Regardless of what they were paid, all the workers went home seeing more clearly the vast gulf that exists between the landowner and themselves. They have gotten paid, but the landowner has now taken their dignity and whatever vestiges of power they might once have possessed. They will be back in marketplace again tomorrow. Nothing has changed but the self-respect they have had wrenched away.
When we are forced to think critically the pain of the truth breaks open our hearts. When we look at the world as it is and not what we want it to be, then we see the world that we have built and support. A world that is not that much different from the world of this parable. Child labor laws, but not where our shoes are made, minim wages only in some nations. The list is long and painful. Our world does not have to be this way! With God’s help and our neighbors, we can change the course of our society. We can move from division we can change our thinking about power, status and prestige. We can be part of the Jesus movement that works for the well being of the earth and the people of the world.
I firmly believe this!