Isaiah 55, 6-9, Our God who is generous in forgiving.
Psalm 145, The Lord is near to all who call upon him
Philippians 1, 20-27, Christ will be magnified in my body.
Matthew 20, 1-16, The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
Isaiah 55 observations—
Who: My favorite prophet. In fact , Isaiah 2 is my favorite of the 3 composers of the Book of Isaiah, and our selection today is the very last chapter of Isaiah 2.
When: remember these 3 writers wrote more or less before, during, and after the Great Babylonian Captivity, ca. 555 before Christ. So, we can guess that today’s selection from Isaiah 2 comes from the time during the Captivity.
What: Isaiah 2 has some of the best and most beautifully consoling passages. Check out The Messiah. Unfortunately, our little selection today talks about scoundrels and the wicked, in other words, about us. Maybe these people are mentioned in connection with the people who grumble in the Gospel today. See what you think. I am cheating a bit with the reading. I've added about 4 more lines that are more typical of Isaiah 2.
This is not Fair!
This morning, Folks, I would like to talk about these workers hired by the vineyard owner. We hear how the workers who worked all day got the same wages as those who worked one hour and we want to yell, “This is not fair!”
Want to know what this parable is basically saying? First, it is all gift. Everything is gift. Secondly, comparison is poison. “How come he got this and I did not?” “How come I got sick and he did not?” Our lives are all gift. Comparing myself with others poisons my spirit.
A story of the week to illustrate. Guess from where I got it. From our Yosemite trip.
There was a man I met on the trail. It is the second half of our 8 night adventure and the second day of rest, nights 6 & 7. It is a gorgeous day after a rainy day. I am standing on a suspension bridge over Woods Creek, just contemplating the beauty all around me. A great sense of gratitude at being there at that moment.
We are in a valley. The bridge is about 40 yards long and about 40 feet above a rushing stream. The bridge sways and rocks when you walk on it. There are two long cables going over two wooden towers. There are vertical cables holding up the walkway. We have a beautiful campsite just off the upper end of the bridge and just above the stream.
An elderly man comes onto the far end of the bridge. As he approaches my back, I say over my shoulder, “Good afternoon, how are you doing?”, like I do all the time with people I meet on the trail and even at White Rock Lake. No response. Thinking he may not have heard me because of the roar of the stream, as he passes my right shoulder, I say, “You okay?”
He grumbles, “Surviving.”
His wife is following, so I enquire a bit more. Turns out they are hiking the John Muir Trail for about a month and they are maybe in a little bit over their depth. Both are elderly, though not probably as much as my 74 years, but not in good shape.
The John Muir trail is one of two famous trails going north-south through Yosemite. The other is the Pacific Crest Trail. The John Muir runs south from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental U.S. People hike the whole thing in 3-4 weeks, depending upon food supplies stationed along the way. This year we saw an unusually high number of these John Muir hikers. For part of our trip we were on the trail for a few miles.
This couple touched me and I talked later that evening around the campfire with our group. I mentioned how sad. I have been overwhelmed all day with the gift of being where we are. I am so grateful that I can still hike to these beautiful places. And this hiker is grumpy. Does he not see the gift?
It is all gift. Health or no health, rich or poor, life.
What is your gift today?