I’ve heard this parable (here) preached and taught as an economic justice story. And, it is.
I’ve also heard it shared in relation to God’s grace, abundance, and generosity. And, it is.
But, when I read it this time something new happened for me. Images of an owner whose business practice is to center persons and relationships fully occupied my spirit.
The images filled me with new hope.
I saw the guys I love and work with, the ones who hang out on the block and call me “Ma.” Young men too often labeled as lazy, up to no good, dangerous, menacing, scary… by those wanting to push them out.
I saw them in this story.
I saw them being seen and valued. I saw them being acknowledged for their gifts and abilities. I saw them being called into becoming and offering their best selves. I saw them being chosen and centered as vital members of the community.
The images filled me with expectancy!
What if in our ministry to restore relationships and create the Beloved community (heaven on earth) we understood that we are all just standing, sitting, waiting – hoping – expecting – a breakthrough?
And perhaps we need to reimagine the need for fairness through the lens of equity.
And what if as we go about our business – church business, pastor business, community business – any business – we center relationship each and every time?
What images come to mind for you when you read this story, again? or for the first time?
Is this what Lent is about? Asking questions? Seeing things anew? Shedding labels, stereotypes, privilege? Refusing to do business as usual?
I think so…
What do you think?
Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks (she/her/hers/ella) is a queer womanist freedom fighter, minister, spiritual entrepreneur, teacher, and life-long learner committed to the liberation of colonized peoples, centering the marginalized, building power and creating community. She lives in Chicago with her spouse and their teenage son (pray for us) and has two adult daughters and eight grandchildren (!—please keep praying ;)) Dr. Pagán-Banks currently serves as executive director of A Just Harvest, pastor at San Lucas UCC and Namasté UCC, and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.
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3 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: Business Practices”
So I just finished reading Bill Herzog’s chapter on this parable in Parables as Subversive Speech and it throws a wrench in our traditional views of this story…. it all depends on the wage. Was it a full days wage? or was it a min wage? a waitress wage with no tips? So many scenarios where it could be exploitation? I am going with the landowner not being generous, but oppressive, with Jesus be sarcastic when he says the Kingdom of Heaven is like…NOT. I may be going down a rabbit hole.
A denarius was the usual daily wage, and would feed an average family for about 5 days.
Amy-Jill Levine offers a beautiful and important read of the parable in Short Stories by Jesus.