One day a fellow was struggling and down on his luck and was out looking for the possibility of odd jobs he could do to earn some cash. He came upon a ritzy neighborhood and he thought it might be a good opportunity for him. He goes up and knocks on the door of a large house and a savvy businessman that believes in PT Barnum’s axiom that “there’s a sucker born every minute” comes to the door. The poor man asked if there was a chance that the rich man might have a job that he could do to earn some cash. The rich man, seeing an opportunity, said, “Sure you could paint my porch for me.” The fella agreed and the rich man told him that there was paint in the garage and he would find everything that he needed. After some time the man came back to the door report that he was finished. The rich man asked how everything went and the man told him it went fine and that he even had enough supplies to give it two coats of paint. The businessman said that that was great and handed the man a dollar. The poor man was surprised and asked why he was only getting a dollar. The rich man replied, “This is your free lesson in business, you should always negotiate your terms before you begin to work.” He started to shut the door in the poor man’s face. The poor man replied, “I guess you’re right, you got me there. Oh, by the way just so you know, that’s not a porch, it’s a Ferrari.” When I read through the Gospel this time, I immediately thought of this joke for two reasons. Firstly, Jesus wants to be very clear, right up front, with what the kingdom of God is like so that there will be no surprises. Secondly, I thought of the way we are taught to be shrewd and always negotiating terms and seeking our way to financial advantage. How It’s the other person’s fault if they don’t read or understand the fine print. Caveat emptor is a Latin phrase that can be roughly translated in English to “let the buyer beware.” That seems to be the way of the world. Today we see an interesting and somewhat annoying business transaction in Jesus’ parable. Instead of trickery and shortchanging, the landowner does something quite different and maybe even more infuriating to our human instincts. There’s a group of people that had the opportunity to labor all day long for a day’s wage, but the landowner kept finding more people throughout the day. At the end of the day, each person received the same amount. So as you can imagine there were some pretty ticked off workers that confronted the landowner, and what is not pointed out in the Gospel is that there were undoubtedly, some very shocked and joyful workers that were not found earlier in the day, but still received a full day’s wage. Jesus gives us the heads up right here in the Gospel for today. The kingdom of God, Jesus’ kingdom is one of grace, grace which is truly amazing, that is if you hadn’t worked out in your own mind a system whereby you earned it or deserved it. This amazing grace has the very real potential to actually be annoying grace for some. “But we labored in the sun all day.” I sort of hear echoes from earlier in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus is pointing out activity at the Temple and using it as a teachable moment. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. When we do God’s work for our own self interests we have received the reward. The reward is your self-satisfaction that we receive from ourselves right there in the moment and then annoyance at God’s love and generosity to others that we don’t think have put in the work up to our standards. Listen to the words of Martin Luther that are inspired by the writings of Paul. “Yes, dear friend, you must first possess heaven and salvation before you can do good works. Works never merit heaven; heaven is conferred purely of grace. The delusive doctrine of works blinds the Christian’s eyes, perverts a right understanding of faith, and forces him from the way of truth and salvation. He who does not receive salvation purely through grace, independently of all good works, certainly will never secure it. Truly, then, we are saved by grace alone, without works or other merit. Notice from John 3:16 that all who believe have eternal life. That being true, believers certainly are just and holy without works. Works contribute nothing to justification. It is effected by pure grace richly poured out upon us. We receive absolution, that is forgiveness, and grace at no cost or labor on our part, but not without cost and labor on the part of Christ. Our salvation must exist, not in our righteousness, but in Christ’s righteousness. …Let his righteousness and grace, not yours, be your refuge.“ God’s grace and love are not a limited resource for which we must scrap and fight and sweat to earn and come out ahead or on top. Jesus did not inform us of “concierge Heaven” or First Class heaven” yet we assume that the harder we work or the better we appear to be, the better the payday must be so we are annoyed at the thought that it could in any way be different. The Good News, the Gospel is and will forever be that we are justified by grace alone apart from our works. Jesus showed and taught us over and over again to truly and wholly love one another and to work for one another, not to use others for our own advancement or selfish desires. Our desire should be that our neighbor does well and that their needs are met. In the parable there were those who faithfully waited there all day in the square for the opportunity to work and who were just brought on at the end of the day. They will be able to feed their families that night because of the generosity of the landowner. Deep down, we are left with the feeling that, ‘OK if you are going to give them a full day’s wage, that’s fine, but since they worked one hour and I worked eight, I should get eight days wages.” There it is again. Oftentimes our concern for our neighbor ends where it meets our own self interests. Over the years I have seen a particular book and movie mentioned in commentaries and movies, and it was mentioned again this week. So, I stopped where I was and rented the movie on Amazon. The movie was in Danish so I had to read subtitles, but it was worth it. The movie is called Babbette’s Feast. When it begins you find out that there are two sisters named Martina and Philippa who are named after Martin Luther and his friend/coworker in the reformation, Philip Melancthon. So I was like, Hmmm. Briefly, a religious community is shown to be very pious and ascetic, that is, the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons. However, in reality, they harbor resentment toward one another and treat each other poorly. A refugee from France comes to live with the sisters and works for free to be able to live. It turns out she was France’s most revered chef. The man who had helped her escape instated a lottery ticket for her each year and that was her only remaining tie to her previous life. After 15 years, she won ten thousand Francs which would allow her financial freedom and the ability to return to France. She spends the money on a feast for the villagers instead which changes the hearts of the people and she stays to live and serve in community with them. Joy for our neighbors joy, health, good fortune salvation. Joy that God the father loves all of his children. Let’s not be like Jonah, found sitting in our own personal desert feeling sorry for ourselves, angry and pouting because God loves and treats others or our enemies with the same grace he has bestowed on us. One of the characters at Babette’s feast realizes this momentous act of grace and stands and acknowledges this new reality saying, “Man, in his foolishness and shortsightedness, believes he must make choices in his life. He trembles at the risks he takes. We all know fear. But no. Our choice is of no importance. The moment comes when our eyes were opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite. We need only await with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude. Grace makes no conditions. And see! That which we have chosen is given to us, and that which we have refused is also granted us.” No, our reception of grace isn’t about just being able to do whatever with no consequences. It’s about being propelled by your thankfulness for what you first received in God’s unconditional love to reach out and extend and share it with everyone else for their own welfare and joy, that they too might know the love of Jesus Christ and his truly amazing grace.