I. I once asked a class of ninth-graders to imagine that, if their lives were to span six days of creation, what would the six benchmarks, those six milestones be. There were some obvious answers: birth, starting school, 8th-grade graduation. But one teen mentioned that significant in the story of her creation was “family conflict.” I’m not sure she realized how mature a response that was: the recognition that pain and struggle were integral in shaping her to be who she is.
II. Isaiah reminds us today that God’s ways are not our ways. At this point in my life, I really don’t need to be reminded of that anymore. Quite contrary to my plans and expectations, the most formative events in my life have been both unforeseen and unwelcome: sickness, weakness, failure, and collapse. Such humbling occurrences are the primary portals for the penetration of God’s spirit and grace into our lives. God’s way is that want and need are the way to abundance; that weakness is the way to strength; that death is the way to life; and that the last will be first.
III. Jesus intended his parables to provoke and confound us. To the landowner’s question whether I am envious that others have more, and whether I resent his generosity, my answer is, “Yes” and “Yes.” And there it is: yet another opportunity to surrender to God’s way.