Who is as the Table….When Did You Get Here?
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
This morning we are going to look at this question of “When did you get here?” because it brings up a lot of our human issues about fairness and what we think we are entitled to and when, with the emphasis on the when! Last week was all about the where; this week is all about the when. There are those very human circumstances that teach us a lesson about the power of when….not unlike the arrangement I have with the airlines that they won’t hold the plane for me if I am not at the gate at the time of departure. Nor will they speed up the service to make sure I don’t miss my connecting flight. What matters to me about the “when” of things doesn’t necessarily matter to them.
But in our very human circumstances, the “when” of things really does seem to matter. Just watch what happens in a long line of fans waiting for a ticket for a rock concert or special event and someone jumps the queue! There will be a lot of pushback on that one! We have a very human belief that timing is everything and from a human perspective, it is. Just make the poorly timed remark that comes off as insensitive or the ill-timed joke that falls really flat. In our human consciousness, we put a lot of faith in the concept of time and fairness and we see our lives and events in the world through that lens.
What if we are delayed and don’t get to the Thanksgiving table on time? Will there be anything left, will we have to eat leftovers? We are compelled by the question, “Will I get what is coming to me?” Will there be enough for me, will I get my fair share? We look at one another and ask, “When did you get here? Are you ahead of me? Is there enough for me?” Lots of worry, lack consciousness and anxiety attached to this “when” question!
Jesus had a lot to say about this “when” issue, this very human lens that we all have. He teaches about it in the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew, 20:1-16. As I researched this passage I learned that the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar believe that it is an authentic teaching of Jesus! The whole passage is in red, which surprised me. The commentary indicated that the highly paradoxical nature of this parable is partly why they do attribute it to Jesus. Here is how it reads:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, (one denarius) he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about 9:00 he say others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon, and about 3:00 he did the same. And about 5:00 he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay beginning with the last and then going to the first.’
When those hired about 5:00 came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to them, ‘Friend I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose which what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first and the first will be last.”
So let us consider this passage metaphysically. First of all, a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Jesus sets it up with the opening line, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” This is our first clue that he is teaching what it is like to live in the consciousness of the Christ. Any kind of structure represents our consciousness and the first half of the story is about what usually happens in our consciousness. We show up, we work and we are paid according to the time we have worked. In our human consciousness we are attached to fairness, to seniority, to what we believe is fair.
But this is really about an invitation to live in our Christ consciousness, which offers a bit of a different slant on this story. It is interesting to note that the landowner goes out to gather new workers at the times of the day that good Jews would be in prayer: 9:00, noon, 3:00 and 6:00 pm. He offers them one denarius, which metaphysically is an opportunity to open to Oneness with the Christ, and everyone who enters the Christ consciousness of the vineyard is offered the same thing, no matter when they arrive.
It is always so interesting when along with reading about and researching the talk for the week, I also have the opportunity to LIVE it! That was my week! Only my vineyard was the Internet and in particular out modem here at church which needed to be replaced. It had been malfunctioning for about 4 weeks, so I decided that NOW was the time to take action and I entered the world of Best Buy and Century Link to solve this problem. And it was not pretty. I began to call it Internet Hell and after 4-5 phone calls to Century Link, including one misrouting through their system because I made a wrong choice from the menu, I was near tears, mentally exhausted and nearing an “internal net” meltdown and uttering not very ministerial words. I am grateful none of you were here. By 6:00 PM Wednesday evening, I gave up on it so that I could be truly present for meditation at 6:30 and NOT be hysterical.
The next day was the meeting of AARLA, Ames Area Religious Leaders Association. During the check-in I asked for prayers to be delivered from my “Internet hell” and as we prayed, I realized I had not done much praying about this the day before! DUH! As I listened to the prayer said by another minister, I began to relax and I could feel my energy shift. We needed a new modem at church, but it really was not a matter of life and death! When I called in for the 5th time later on Thursday, (think of the workers who arrived at 5:00 in the vineyard) I had regained perspective and my small self was no longer in charge. I was reconnected with my God Self in which all things were possible.
Linda, the tech assistant I reached in Boise, assured me that she would not leave me until all computers in the church were back online and working. I told her I was a minister and that I had been in computer hell and that I had prayed for today to unfold easily and with grace! She thought that being a woman minister was pretty cool and soon we were joking together about standing before the pearly gates with St. Peter who asked for our passwords. She of course could access hers, but I alas would go to “the other place” because I would not have mine quite right! Together we discovered that the password I had was wrong by one letter, so that’s why it would not work the previous day! Wow! It seems I came to a full awareness of the energy of the vineyard late in the day, but I did get there! And once I connected to the Christ within, it was fairly easy to connect to the Internet of the Christ Presence in all that is, with joy, relief and gratitude…..even Century Link and the church modem!
Blessings on your journey,