[Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who goes out early in the morning to hire folks to work in his vineyard. And he sends the first group into the vineyard. Probably, they're happy to have the work - and perhaps some of them even pat themselves on the back; they'll be paid for a whole day of work. A few hours later, though, the landowner goes out again - looking to hire more folks to work. And he sends this second group into the vineyard, too. Then again, a few hours later, the landowner hires a third group. And later, very late in the day, he hires still a fourth group of workers and says to them also, "go into the vineyard."
At the end of the day - all of the workers receive the same amount of wages - a full day's pay. We can imagine that the last two groups, especially, who worked less than half a day, were very grateful. Pleasantly surprised, they went on their way. Matthew's Gospel tells us, though, that the first group of workers, who worked in the vineyard all day, were very upset. They expected that they would be paid more than the rest, since they had labored more than the rest. And I imagine, the landowner's answer was not satisfying -- didn't you agree to work a whole day for a full day's wages? I'm doing you no wrong.] [based on Matthew 20:1-16]
Like many of Jesus' parables, this story can be unfolded in a variety of ways -- but there are always two that stand out most to me:
First - the landowner sent out into the vineyard everyone he could. There was work to be done, so he was willing to hire anyone who was willing to do it. And he paid them well to do the work they did.
Second - The workers worked for different lengths of time, with different levels of skill. They were sent out when they were sent out - when they and the landowner were ready. And each received equal and just reward.
We all participate in this much larger picture - joined by hands and hearts who labor beside us, whether they are visible to us or not. It's a great comfort to be joined in the vineyard by the faithful. This is a call to go into the vineyard, that I am convinced applies to every person who breathes on the earth - not just those of us that wear collars.
Each one of us. Every day. For all the days of our life.