Work: A Sermon Conversation on Matthew 20:1-16
(This paper is a sermon that comprises of a facilitated conversation, in which the participants were asked to participate in different ways. With this assignment being about the nature of work, I chose a parable from Matthew 20 about workers in the vineyard. I transcribed the conversation indicating who is speaking what. Note as well that for the sake of brevity and clarity for this assignment, much of this transcription is revised in a way to touch on just the essence of what was said, thus making this transcription much more concise than the original conversation. I learned this sermon technique from my pastor, Doug Pagitt, who pastors a church in Minneapolis, Minnesota called Solomon’s Porch.)
Mason: This is a parable from Matthew 20. Can someone begin us by reading the first part of the parable?
Melissa: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion, he sent them into his vineyard. “Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ And they went.”
Mason: I’m sure all of you are good seminary students and already know this, but for the sake of clarification, a denarion is a daily wage for laborers. Therefore, when you hear about somebody receiving a denarion, that means a day's worth of work. With that set as common knowledge between us all now, what I find most interesting about the beginning of this narrative is it tells a story that would have been no surprise to the original hearers of this narrative. The agreements between the workers and landowners were common. Being paid a denarion for a day’s worth of work was common. Even workers looking for work in the marketplace was common. Nothing about the first part of this parable is uncommon and would not have been surprising to the original hearers. What I also find interesting about this first part is the laborers are basically independent contractors. Many of us may think that this type of work belonged exclusively to the ancient world; however, I would say our world is moving back to that type of labor. You may have heard of Uber, Lyft, or Postmates. Each are businesses that rely exclusively on independent labor. Therefore, I think this parable certainly has some contextual similarities to our time.
So those my two bits. Does anybody have any comments or questions?…