You know that phrase, eighty percent of success is showing up? That’s what Sunday’s parable feels like to me. (Who knew that Woody Allen and Jesus shared a philosophy?)
The workers who endured the long hours and heat of the day earned exactly the same wages as the people who worked for about an hour before quitting time. Apparently, what mattered most was simply showing up. Can you come up with parallel everyday examples?
When I attended a rally in support of the Standing Rock water protectors last fall, and was the only recognizable clergy in the crowd, I realized that simply showing up mattered. It mattered not because of who I am personally, but because of what I represent as a pastor in a Christian church. The important thing was to be there, and to show the community that there are Christian leaders who love them and support their cause.
When I went to a birthday party for a 5-year-old last weekend, tired after a long morning at church, I realized that simply showing up mattered. The birthday girl didn’t care what I was wearing or if I was late, or even whether I had brought a present or not. The important thing was to be there, to show her that I love her and care about her and that she is worth my time.
That 5-year-old girl and those water protectors filled the role of gracious employer to me, even when I showed up during one of the later shifts in their cause. What places – physical, virtual, spiritual – can you and your people show up to in order to both show your love and receive the grace that is offered?
The other quote that comes to mind when I read this week’s parable is from The Princess Bride. The boy is telling his grandfather that a certain outcome to the story simply cannot be possible – it wouldn’t be fair! The grandfather replies, “Who says life is fair? Where is that written? Life isn’t always fair.”
When we see others receiving recognition and support for their effort of simply showing up, even when we’ve been laboring for hours or years under strenuous conditions and receiving no reward for our toil, we can easily get resentful. How do they deserve such grace? Well, that’s the beauty of grace. By definition, it is never given because it’s deserved, but because the person offering it is able to show love.
This parable can be an encouragement to us to simply show up, and also to remember that God isn’t always fair. Thanks be to God!
If you are preaching on one of the other Revised Common Lectionary texts this week, please share your ideas and any helpful links to commentaries or resources below. As usual, WorkingPreacher and TextWeek have some good suggestions. The staff member who prepared our worship bulletins was encouraging me to use Veggie Tales’ Jonah movie for the message this week! There are plenty of possibilities for preaching these texts. I look forward to hearing what direction you’re choosing to follow!
Katya Ouchakof is co-pastor at Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison, WI, occasional hospital chaplain, and seasonal paddlesports instructor. She’s trying to come up with creative uses for the plethora of green beans and zucchini that are flooding her garden right now!