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Closeup on bunch of grapes being picked from row

What does the fall festival and today’s gospel have in common? 25th A

It is a strange story, today’s gospel.  Like many of Jesus’ stories, there are levels at which you can read them.  The obvious one is about the generosity of God.  And if you are uncomfortable with the story and its outcome, that is probably a good thing.  Stay with that in prayer this week – it may reveal something of God to you.  But there is another level.  Let me illustrate it with a different story.

It is Friday morning, 8:30am before next year’s fall festival.  The new chairs, Meg and Jake Pfiefer are frantic. They got there early to organize a few things before the volunteers arrived.  At 8:30 a freak tornado touches down at Lindberg and Watson, and headed south right down the middle of the street.  It veered down Denny Blvd, then made a hard left, and rolled up Sappington and then nearly reversed course and moved down Watson before it finally lifted back into the sky, right where it started.  Miraculously, no one was hurt – but LIVE power-lines were downed, ringing in that triangle of land so no one could get across.  The power company said the roads would not be open until 6:30pm, just 30 minutes before the festival is to start.

There are only 3 workers who made it to the island before the storm came.  They work hard. but are hardly making a dent.  “Got to get it done!  Got to get it done!” Jake is thinking.  So he hops in his car and drives to Eddie and Park and Lindberg and finds and hires a few college kids hanging around, and sends them to SJM.  He goes out again at noon, this time to Sappington and Eddie and Park, and hires some more.  “Got to get it done! Got to get it done!” is the refrain in his head.  And later on, does it again.  It’s now 5p, and the tables are still not set up the banners still not in place, and worst of all, no beer cooler.  He goes to Sturdy and Watson and finds even more workers.  “Got to get it done! Got to get it done!”  With a rag tag crew of people pulled from gaping and being trapped, they manage to get everything set up JUST in time for the Fall Festival to begin and just as the roads are opened for people to come.  Phew!!!  They figured early on, they were not going to make any money this year, because they had to pay the workers instead of rely on the volunteers – but it didn’t matter, so long as the Fall Fest went on…

I wonder if that is another way to think about this gospel story – that “Got to get it done!” perspective.  We are told that the landowner in the story owns a VINEYARD.  Vintners that I know tell me that when the grapes are ready to be harvested, you have about 36 hours to get them all off of the vine and into the vine presses.  That is not a lot of time, especially in a society that used human labor.  So, one of the points of the parable, besides the generosity of God, is God’s overwhelming desire to get the harvest into the wine presses before it is too late.  ‘Get it in, get it in’, is the drumbeat in the vineyard owner’s heart.  Hire as many laborers as necessary, but get it in.  So in the morning, and mid morning and afternoon and almost at the end of the day, comes the drive – make sure it all gets harvested.  It is worth it to God to make sure it gets harvested…

Because on this level, the story is not about the laborers and who is doing what, and who is paid what, and fairness or unfairness, but rather it is about getting the harvest in.  Like my fall festival chairs in my fictitious scenario for next year – the drum beat in God’s head is: There is not time to waste.  Got to get that harvest in.  Got to get the harvest home!

And the divine generosity that seems like such a scandal to our human sense of fairness is seen as nothing less than the desire of God for the good of every created soul.  God desires to get his harvest – you and I and all our sisters and brothers – into heaven.

So, this week, live with an alarm clock TICKING in your head and heart.  Got to get the Kingdom going here!  Got to love God’s brothers and sisters – all the black lives and blue lives and all lives matter people!  Get all those people into the kingdom! There is no time to waste.  No time to stand around idle.  People of St. Justin, there is work to be done for the kingdom of God.  Get busy…

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