This sermon was the second-to-last sermon of an eight-week series on the kingdom of God. I wanted, with this sermon, to pull people into an experience of God's kingdom—its upside-downness, its radical inversion of worldly values, its startling God-centeredness. This parable of the vineyard seemed a great text with which to do that. The best homiletical approach to any parable is to retell it. I did this, with just enough modern touches to create fresh narrative tension. Then it was simply a matter of reflecting on our emotional reaction to the story: our sense of the master's unfairness, cruelty, naiveté. And that's where the subversiveness of the story lies in wait. Why do I assume I'm one of the workers hired first? And if I am, how did it happen that my overwhelming gratitude of being "chosen" turned, in a mere 12 hours, to bitter rancor at being "cheated"? Fundamentally—and my own exegesis and homiletical shaping of this sermon kept pushing me to this—the story is about a God whose generosity is so other-worldly, so counter-cultural, that it's only by becoming like him that I can hear the story as good news.
Twice I've visited heaven, or close to it: the Masai Mara, perhaps the greatest wildlife preserve in the world. The Masai Mara is part of the vast grasslands that stretch over the fertile plains of East Africa. Here, elephant, cheetah, gazelle, wildebeest, water buffalo, giraffe, crocodile, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, and hundreds of other furry or scaly, tusked or horned, fleet-foot or slithering, flying or crawling, sun-loving or night-stalking creatures roam and soar and wade and burrow, without fear of man.
But the guides I had for the two ...
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