Scripture Readings, Sept. 24, 2023

Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 55:6-9

Philippians 1:20-24, 27

Matthew 20:1-16

After everyone had feasted and been fed, after the first slice of wedding cake had been ceremoniously cut and shared by the bride and the groom as they fed one another, after everyone had been served a piece of that wedding cake, then the young groom and bride rose before all their guests. Together, they thanked everyone for their presence on this most joyful of their days. The groom then said he wanted to give special thanks to his 90-year-old great-uncle who had come and joined them. The great-uncle, he told everyone, had himself been married earlier that year — for the first time. There was the briefest moment of hesitant silence, everyone wondering if they had heard correctly, and then a cheer and applause for someone who had at last found love, even late in his life.

During the 1970s, the motto of the Paul Masson winery was “We will sell no wine before its time.” If so for wine, so also it would seem for love, for who is to say when love is to be discovered? So also for the journey of coming to faith — another kind of wine and another kind of love that brings joy to life, would you not say?

The Gospel this weekend is that of the landowner who goes out at dawn to hire workers for his vineyard, and then again at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and finally at 5 p.m. The surprise, of course, is that the landowner directs his foreman to pay them all the same pay, regardless of when they began their work.

There will always be someone who makes the point that it’s no way to run a business, and that it will not take long before the landowner has no one working in his vineyard. But the parable is not about how to manage a business, of course, but rather it is about how and when God’s presence is discovered and realized in human life, as if to say, “No faith before its time.” Some of us find God early in life and some much later, each of us in one’s own time.

It is God who knows what is written on our hearts, how our faith must be born in its own good time, and that if it is rushed into being born, well then it may limp and never mature into what God alone knows it can be. After all, faith is God’s doing and not our own.

Some time ago, I came across the story a woman finding a cocoon about to bring forth a beautiful butterfly. The woman was eager to watch its coming forth into life, but it was taking its time and the woman was impatient. So she decided to slowly and gently hasten the process by carefully warming the cocoon with a candle. The beautiful creature then slowly came forth, shedding the womb in which it had been being formed. Yet to the woman’s disappointment and tragic discovery, the butterfly was unable to fly. Its wings had not had the time to fully develop. Its birth had been rushed into life before its time.

Adult faith takes some living, some experiences of life that move us and maybe startle us and, if we are lucky, even bring us to look at life in a new way. Adult faith takes some quiet time, too, some reflecting about what is going on not only on the outside of our lives but also on the inside of our lives. Adult faith is often the result of awe, of discovering beauty or goodness or joy when everything else around us would seem to say otherwise. And all of that cannot be programmed or planned or decided upon. It just happens to us — the fruit of the vineyard we happen to be working in.

It is God who knows what is written on each heart. In each of us the journey to faith has its own story, its own time, its own love. In each of us it is being formed, mostly without our even realizing the paths it is taking. Our successes and our failures, our highs and our lows, our loves found and our loves lost, our sins and our grace — they are all a part of that becoming in the cocoon of our lives. And when its time comes, as only God can know, then that faith comes forth. For some of us, it is in the early morning of our lives, for others at noon, and yet for others at sunset. When it is ready, then God stirs it forth, each in our own time.


Have you ever found yourself trying to talk someone into faith, perhaps before they were ready for it?

What is your story of coming to faith?