Pentecost 16 – September 24, 2017

Texts for the Day

Commentary and Reflection

Philippians – This week we begin a four-week series in Philippians.  As preparation, read the letter in its entirety sometime this week.  It will take you only about fifteen minutes.  Here is some background information to get you started.

Philippians was written by Paul from prison, sometime in the late 50s or early 60s.  (The exact time and location are unknown.  As with all the books of the Bible, the original manuscript is long gone and all we have to rely on is clues in the text itself.)  There are two key themes that are woven together in the book.

  • Paul’s possible impending death and his reflections on it.
  • Paul’s love for the Philippian community and his desire for them to live in harmony.

Keep an eye out for the famous “Christ Hymn” in verses 6-11 of chapter 2.

The Many Faces of Parables – Like many of Jesus’s parables, this parable of the laborers in the vineyard doesn’t mean just one thing.  It can be seen from many perspectives, each offering something different.  Here are a few to try out.

  • Literary setting – Read Matthew 19 to put the story in context. How do you see it differently this way?  Why might Matthew have put this story at the beginning of the Jerusalem ministry, shortly before his entry into that city?  Why does he pair it with the story of the rich young man?
  • Discipleship – What is Jesus saying about discipleship? The story seems to challenge conventional views of success and reward.  If we choose to follow Jesus, how will we be viewed by the world?
  • Connections to contemporary issues – The treatment of manual laborers is an issue in contemporary politics. For instance, consider the impending end of DACA (keeping in mind many day laborers are undocumented immigrants) or ongoing debates about the minimum wage.  Does the landowner’s generosity towards his workers tell us anything about how we should behave?
  • Old Testament links – Continuing this thought, read Deuteronomy 24:14-15. This is the law the landowner is following as he pays his workers.  What might a modern version of this law look like?
  • Interpretive history – In Adult Faith Formation last week, we focused on the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Does this parable tell you anything about this doctrine?  If so, is this in harmony with Matthew’s purpose or is it an imposition from future interpreters?

Which of these perspectives most appeal to you?  Which do you not like?  What others would you add?

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