The Kingdom of God


For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. You already know how the rest of the parable goes. The landowner goes about hiring whoever happens to be hanging out at the marketplace all day. And when everyone is paid the same wage, when the landowner makes the slept-till-noon new hires equal to the upstanding early risers who worked all day in the scorching heat, well…things get ugly.

You gotta love a kingdom of God parable in which the citizens who make up the kingdom of heaven are completely unlikable and entitled and whiney. Don’t you picture the Kingdom of Heaven as more like a thing where everyone wears sandals and flowing white linen? Wouldn’t people in the kingdom of God appear more, I don’t know, spiritual? Wouldn’t people in the kingdom of God have that sheen of serenity and calm which is not unlike having taken a couple doses of Xanex? 

Nope. 

Apparently the Kingdom of God is like a cruddy work place filled with type A personalities whose sense of entitlement would rival that of Paris Hilton working alongside slackers who take smoke breaks and earn what money they have through scratch tickets.

What kind of off-brand kingdom is made up of this kind of people?

God’s kind. Because here’s the thing: what makes this the kingdom of God is not the quality of the people in it. The kingdom of God is like a glorious mess of a kingdom where Paris Hilton and Hilton Perez and Fred Phelps and Fredrick Beuchner and hip pastors and conservative head-hunters all receive the same mercy we never saw coming because we were too busy worrying about what everyone else is doing.

What makes us all blessed is that God comes and gets us, dumb as we are; smart and faithful as we are; just as we are. Because the kingdom of God, is founded not on the quality of the people in it but on the unrestrained and lavish mercy of the God who came and got us.

Our gospel text above is not the parable of the workers. It’s the parable of the landowner. Because what makes it the kingdom of God is not the worthiness or piety or social justice-yness or hard work of the laborers…it’s the fact that the trampy landowner couldn’t manage to keep out of the market place. He goes back and back and back interrupting lives…coming to get his people.

Like a parent throwing a wedding feast God goes out into the street and just grabs up any old wretch. Like a sower who just wantonly, wastefully casts handfuls of seed, God just CAN’T seem to be discerning. Like a father who runs out into the street to embrace his wasted betrayer of a son, God simply insists on coming to get us. Insists on making all things new, insists on ripping out our old hearts and replacing them with God’s own.

And anytime we think that this kingdom of God is just for the nice people, or the ones who are ethnically Ontarioan or the ones who really really believe it; anytime we think this thing is just for the liberals who are open and affirming or the ones who think their job is to kick the shit out of other Christians in order to 'protect the faith,' we become blind to God’s making all things new work.

This is the kingdom of heaven breaking in on us. A kingdom where yes, the people are somewhat questionable, but which is defined by the mercy of a God who is revealed in the cradle and the cross.
The Kingdom of God is also like right here right now. The Kingdom of God is like this very moment in which sinners are reconciled to God and to one another. The kingdom of God is like this very moment where God is making all things new. Because in the end, your calling, and your value in the Kingdom of God comes not from the approval of the other workers but in your having been come-and-gotten by God. It is the pure and unfathomable mercy of God which defines this thing. And nothing. nothing else gets to tell you who you are.
adapted from Nadia Bolz-Weber

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