God's Annoying Love

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Do you remember the parable Jesus told about a man who owned a vineyard?  You can find it in Matthew 20.  The short version is this: A man owned a vineyard and needed help to harvest the grapes.  Early in the day he found some workers.  He promised them $100.  Later in the day he saw that he needed more workers.  Around noon he hired many more and promised them $100 each.  Still later, as the day was winding down, there were still too many grapes.  He hired another group and promised $100 per person when the work was through.  You can see where this is going can’t you?  When the checks were handed out the folks who worked the longest were very upset that everyone received the same amount. 

To one of the complainers the vineyard owner said, “Friend, I haven’t been unfair.  We agreed on the wage…didn’t we?  So take it and go.  I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you.  Can’t I do what I want with my own money?  Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?”

William Willimon preached on this text during his time as chaplain at Duke University.  A woman came up to him afterwards and asked, “Where do you get all of these stories that you tell in your sermons?”  He answered, “Well, from my childhood in South Carolina, from here at Duke.  I’m always looking for stories.”  She asked, “Where did you get that story about the vineyard?”  He replied, “That’s not mine.  That one belongs to Jesus, it’s from the Bible.”  She said, “Well, I’ve not been to church much in my life but I’ve got to tell you that I don’t like that story.  It doesn’t make any sense.  It’s annoying.”

He thanked her for sharing with him.  He said, “You know, we Christians hear these stories so many times we forget how shocking they are.  In fact, Jesus was crucified because he told stories like this.”

I confess that I don’t really like Jesus’ story either.  I’m uncomfortable with the idea that someone who works less than me gets the same pay.  It bothers me a lot until I hear myself speak a word in anger toward one I love or I fail to live my life with love at the center.  Then, when I see my need for forgiveness, for grace, for God’s annoying love, it suddenly dawns on me: the most shocking aspect of God’s annoying love is the simple fact that God loves me.  And you.

Grace and Peace to you,