I was once asked what we, as Episcopalians, believe regarding the afterlife. Being Episcopalian, it is a difficult question to answer, since we don’t on a great deal. Our church does not teach us what to believe, rather we are encouraged to explore our questions of faith with each other and accept that our beliefs may differ. What we do agree on, is to seek to see the Christ within one another.
I answered the question as honestly as I could. I said we do not know the actual nature of heaven. Jesus, himself spoke of heaven by saying, the Kingdom of Heaven is like. He did not tell us specifically what to expect because it is beyond our comprehension. In tonight’s gospel, he says the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner. He then precedes to tell us about how the landowner treats people who are without work.
Each time he finds someone in need of work, he offers them a job. His compassion is obvious and so it is clear we can expect generosity from the Lord, our God. What happens at the end of the day, though, goes against what we have been taught to expect here on earth. At the end of the day, everyone, everyone receives a full days wages – even the ones who worked only one hour.
In this life, fair wages are not only to be expected, we expected to be paid based on our job performance – which includes both the skills and time required as well as the quality of our work. Pay is used as motivator. Naturally, then, the laborers who worked all day expect to receive more than they had agreed upon in the morning after seeing how generous the landowner was with those who had not worked as hard as they had.
That is not what happens. Everyone is paid the same. Rather than appreciate the fact that the landowner ensures everyone would have enough money to feed their families that night – they get angry and complain they have not been paid fairly. The landowner is not, however, concerned with being fair, he is concerned about making sure that everyone had food that night. After all, anything less than the usual day’s wage would mean some will go home to hungry families and be unable to buy enough food to feed them.
Those who are upset are thinking only of themselves, but in God’s kingdom everyone is fed. I may not know what, exactly, happens when we leave our mortal bodies – but I do know what it is like to be loved and to have someone care for me. I don’t expect to get what I deserve, and I thank God for that.
In addition to noting that Jesus talks about what heaven is like, I noted that in the Eucharistic Prayer said at communion we say, “For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.” What specially that means, but I don’t need to know. I do not focus on earning my way there, instead my focus on helping bring about God’s kingdom “on earth as it is heaven.”
Today, and what everyone needs, should be our focus; rather than making sure everyone receives their fair share.
Let us pray.
Loving and gracious God, we thank you for reaching out to us when we are in need. Fill us with your Spirit that we might not focus of getting more for ourselves, but on ensuring that all are fed. We ask our prayers in the name of the Father, he Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.