Preacher: The Rev’d Jenny Wilson  

In the name of God, creating, redeeming, sanctifying, … Amen.


“Give us today our daily bread,” we pray each day, each week, in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples and taught us. Bread for the day is what we are to ask for. This prayer, this teaching Jesus gives us on prayer, seems to be more about the praying life, the life of faith, than it is about physical nourishment.

The people of Israel found out about this when Moses led them from slavery in Egypt into the wilderness. The disciples of Jesus found out about this when he told them the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, the parable we heard in our reading this morning from the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Bread, wages, sustenance of many types, enough for the day, only enough for this day. This is what God gives. Because God knows and God longs that we might know the deep truth that all we know we have is this day, God’s gift of this day.

What God finds often, though, is complaint.

We will consider first the people of Israel wandering the in wilderness. We heard them, in our Old Testament reading from the sixteenth chapter of the book Exodus, complaining:

If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.(Exodus 16:3) They say to Moses.

The Lord hears the complaint of the people.

The Lord speaks to Moses and says, ‘‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. …On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days. …I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” (Exodus 16: 4-6,11-12)

Bread enough for the day. And on the sixth day, bread enough for two days that they might observe that Sabbath day of rest on the seventh day. This gift of feeding from God is about teaching the people faith in God. Trusting God that God will keep God’s promise, trusting God that what God has given one day God will give the next. The Israelites are given bread, but more importantly they are shown the way of faith.

And this is a difficult lesson. That we belong to God who cares more about our relationship with God than about our being physically fed. Food is important but faith is more so. We belong to a God who would have us know that faith will sustain us in all things, all wildernesses, even in the valley of the shadow of death, even where food has lost its value. This is what God, through Moses is trying to teach the people of Israel. That the God who rescued them from slavery, that the God who led them safely through the Red Sea, this God will sustain them but will sustain them daily, that they might learn to trust.

Jesus knew this God well.

This morning we heard Jesus tell the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard. In the verses immediately preceding Jesus’ parable, Jesus has just spoken with the rich young man about how difficult it is for those who are well off to belong in the kingdom of heaven. The disciples are struggling with this, wondering who can be saved. Peter anxiously asks, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?’ Jesus tells the parable to give them insight into the way of God. As always, though, parables give much insight into the way of human beings as well.


For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage,* he sent them into his vineyard.

Here, we notice, the landowner is giving the wage for the day. The way this landowner works is to invite the labourers in each day and to offer the daily wage.

When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went.

The same thing happened at noon and three o’clock and five o’clock. What the landowner is concerned with is that the labourers are idle, that they are not working. What the landowner is concerned with is that the labourers are gathered in. The landowner, who is the God character, wants everyone involved in his vineyard, in the kingdom. He is relentless about this, this gathering in. His passion is that all are gathered in. And so he keeps going out searching for labourers … which might remind us of a certain shepherd that we heard about two weeks ago. A shepherd that searched relentlessly to gather his lost sheep in.

This is what God is like. And so we might keep our eyes open for God. God who comes out looking for us to gather us in. It’s not that we are idle. The chances are in our time and place that we are very busy. But this vineyard is about being in the life of God. This vineyard in our time and place may well be about being a little quiet once in a while. Living the reflective life for a little time each day. Sitting with what delights us and what worries us and of what we are ashamed. Sitting with what we long for, for our world. On Thursday, on the United Nations Day of Peace, in our cathedral we devoted the day to praying for peace. People from different parishes, from Mothers’ Union, from Anglicare, from St Barnabas’ College and from the SA Council of Churches wrote prayers and read those prayers as visitors  came and went in our cathedral. We lit candles through the day. At one point in the day a visitor from South Korea heard a woman from the parish of Brighton praying for her country.

In the evening, we gathered in people of different denominations, and people of different faiths, and people perhaps of no clear faith at all, and we sat listening to words about war, and words about peace, organised by Cathedral Canon Rob Croser and we lit candles, and we brought our love and care and our feeling of utter helplessness in the face of the violence in our world and we offered that to God. We heard a list of all the wars that have taken place through history since the beginning of records from the Trojan war to the events that are taking place in Myanmar today. We heard voices from England and Africa, from India and Indigenous voices from our own country. We heard a Vietnamese female actor read from the story of Vietnamese boat woman and we heard that in the presence of our own Governor. We heard prayers read by leaders gathered by Lynn Arnold from six different faiths, including Jewish and Muslim, Christian and Bahai. We heard Certaine Notes sing about peace and we lit candles as Cecily Satchell played from a Bach Suite for the viola.

That is what this vineyard is like. The praying life. The doubting life. The life of sitting with the truth. The life of owning up to when we have done wrong and when we feel helpless. And the life of profound gratitude for the gift of life and for those we love and for the things in the world that seem to us to be utterly beautiful and for the work we are given to do that brings us great joy as well as a little frustration at times.

Jesus’ parable, which he introduces with the words, “the kingdom of heaven is like this” gives us insight into what God is like. But it gives us harsh insight into what we are like too. At the end of the day when the work is done in the vineyard, the landowner gives to each labourer the daily wage. The landowner is not interested in quantities of work, hours of work, the landowner is interested in the workers being gathered in. Their wage is the gift of life in the love of God and he freely gives that to all. But the labourers are interested in quantities of work, and hours of work done and those who have been working since early in the morning complain because they believe they have not been fairly treated.

And the really frightening thing is that it’s very difficult not to agree with them. It’s very difficult not to feel for them, to feel what they feel. That they have worked a full day through the heat of the day and surely they should be paid more that those who have worked so little. We can feel the injustice of it. We can feel that we do not understand the ways of this landowner, this God. Jesus is a brilliant teacher, don’t you think? Jesus helps us feel in such a way that we know that God works in a mysterious way, that the ways of God are not our ways.

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? The landowner says, the God character says. (Mathew 20:15)

Perhaps we are some days. But God knows this. And nothing will stop God searching us out. Nothing will stop God finding us idle in the market place and inviting us in. And one day we will find that we know ourselves so blessed in the great love of God that we have forgotten to be envious. One day we will find ourselves living the praying life, the doubting life, so fully that envy will be no more, and and when that day comes, there will be peace on earth.