Signpost for Sunday 20 Sept 2020: Exod 16:2-15; Ps 105:1-6,37-45; Phil 1:21-30; Matt 20:1-16.
Quails eggs and manna. Yum. Quails eggs these days would be a luxury. I don’t think they were in ancient times. What’s the point though? I think it’s this: all the Israelites were fed, no matter whether they were the really grumpy hungry ones or the-very-grateful-to-have-escaped-slavery hungry ones – because they were all hungry. (Actually Exodus makes all the Israelites sound like a bunch of ungrateful moaners, but there must have been a few decent ones among them surely.)
And in case the ancient Jews ever took their survival for granted, Psalm 105 is more or less a song celebrating the fact that no body starved or died of thirst in the desert. It’s a kind of thank you letter to YHWY. Just like your Mum made you write to Aunty for those socks at Christmas. I should think so too.
Then we come to Matthew. Another famous parable. I don’t know what you think but this time of reading it occurred to me that the workers who come late to the vineyard aren’t just supposed to be those who find their god late in life (which is what a lot of sermons I’ve ever heard suggest). Aren’t those late-comers rather like people who go to live in a country that’s not their own, by choice or otherwise. And isn’t the resentment of those who have worked in the vineyard all day a bit like the attitude of some people towards new-comers: they resent people coming from other communities and countries being able to get the benefits that they have because they have not worked for them like they have. They don’t want the government to use their tax money to provide support services for people who don’t have jobs or enough money to afford a place to live in.
When I look at it that way, then the vineyard owner becomes even more than an analogy for God, he’s an analogy for a just society – one that works to feed anyone who’s hungry, house anyone who’s homeless, and support anyone who’s struggling, even if they are a bit grumpy sometimes.