Sometimes it’s hard to accept that something is in our best interest when we first hear of it. I can remember often growing up not wanting to do something like go on a retreat or join the youth group, but my parents giving me that gentle nudge to do it anyway. And then of course, when I went, I’d always have a really great experience, and then I had to admit to them that I liked it, which was harder still.
I always think of that when I hear this week’s Gospel reading. I think it’s a pretty human experience to resist what’s good for us, especially when it means extending ourselves into a new experience, or when it means having to inconvenience ourselves or disrupt our usual schedule. We don’t want to go out into the field and work today, or go help at the soup kitchen, or go teach religious education, or go on that retreat, or get involved in a ministry at the church, or join a small Christian community, or whatever it may be that’s in front of us.
I remember specifically an experience I had when I first started in seminary. I became aware that some of the guys, as their field education experience, were serving as fire chaplains. That scared the life out of me, and I said to myself that I’d never be able to do that. Two and a half years later, one of my friends at seminary asked me to join him as a fire chaplain. Figures, doesn’t it? I told him I didn’t think I had the ability to do that, but he persuaded me to pray about it. Well, when I prayed about it, of course the answer was yes, do it. And so I did, and found it one of the most rewarding spiritual experiences of my time in seminary.
People involved in ministries here at the Church can probably tell you the same kinds of stories. Times when they have been persuaded to do something they didn’t want to. They could probably tell you how much they grew as people, how much they enjoyed the experience. When we extend ourselves beyond our own comfort level for the glory of God, we are always rewarded beyond what we deserve. And that’s grace, that’s the work of God in our lives.
We see in our Gospel today a God who is extremely patient bestowing his gifts of salvation. He never closes the door on those who have turned away from him, but always makes it possible for us to find him, to go out into the field even though we’ve said no in the first place. Much like last week’s Gospel story of the day laborers who began their work day at 5pm getting paid the same as those who had worked all day, it doesn’t matter when we respond to God, as long as we do. Those who respond early clearly have more labor, but they also have more joy, more personal growth, more celebration in the Spirit. But we all come together to the ultimate celebration in the Kingdom of our God.
We all know people who have been asked to go into the field and have said no. Today we hear that the door is still open. Our prayer today is that ultimately, they will respond to their Father’s invitation.