The Bigger Picture
Opening Question: How many of you have been in an airplane? What is the view like from the sky? What did you see?
First Reading: Isaiah 55:6-9
For her birthday, Agnes’ father planned something special, a surprise. All week long, Agnes asked her father, pleaded with her father, screamed at him to find out what the surprise was. “You’ll just have to find out,’ her father teased.
On her birthday, Agnes and her father took a long car ride down winding country roads. Finally, they came to a meadow. When Agnes looked up, her eyes got as wide as they could get. “Hot air balloons!” she shouted. Are we going for a ride, Dad?” she asked.
“Yes, Agnes,” her father answered. “Happy Birthday.”
When they got to the balloon, Agnes’ father lifted her up and put in the balloon basket. Then he climbed in. Agnes heard the hiss from the air heater as the balloon began to rise. Higher and higher the balloon rose in the sky. Smaller and smaller people and cars became. Agnes awed at the view she got high above everything. As the balloon began to drift with the wind, she saw green mountain tops and the blue ocean. “Things look so much different up here, Dad,” Agnes said.
“Makes you appreciate them more, doesn’t it?” her father responded.
Sometimes we got to take airplane rides, hot air balloon rides, or climb mountains to appreciate everything God has made. Sometimes we have to see things the way he sees them to appreciate what we have. When we do see things the way God sees them, we want to change because we see the bigger picture, like we were in a hot balloon.
Bridging Question: Has anyone ever been unfair to you? What happened?
Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16
Jesus said to his followers: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this story. One day, just after the sun rose, a businessman went out to hire some workers for his vineyard. After he agreed to pay them what they usually received for a day’s work, he sent them into the vineyard.
About nine o’clock, he went out. In the marketplace, he saw other men standing around the without any work. “Go to work in my vineyard,” the businessman said to them, “and I will pay you a fair wage.” And they went. At noon and three o’clock, he did the same thing. About five o’clock, he went out and found more men standing around. “Why have you stood around all day doing nothing?” the businessman asked them.
“Because no one has given us work, “ they answered.
“Go to work in my vineyard,” the businessman said. Just before sunset, the businessman told the man in charge of the workers, “Call all the workers together and pay them. Begin with those hired last and finish with those hired first.”
Those hired at five o’clock were paid for a full day’s work. Those hired first thing in the morning thought they would receive more money. They, too, were paid for a full day’s work but no more. When they got their money, they began to grumble. “These men worked only one hour,” they complained to the businessman. “But we worked hard all day long in the hot sun. Yet, you paid us the same!”
“Friend,” the businessman said to one of them, “I didn’t cheat you. Didn’t you agree to be paid for a full day’s work and no more? Take your money and go home. I want to give to those I hired last the same amount I paid you. Can’t I spend my money the way I want? Or, do you hate me because I am generous?
“So,” Jesus finished, “least will be the most important, and the most important will be least in God’s Kingdom.”
A player piano is a old piano with peddles. A paper roll with holes goes in the piano. As person at the piano bench pumps the pedals, the paper roll turns. And the holes in the paper passes over a bar that also has holes. The air that goes through the holes tells the piano which notes to play. Each paper roll tells the piano to play a different song.
Jillian loved Grandma’s player piano. When she went to Grandma’s house, Jillian would sit and pump the pedals and play different songs and sing with the music all day long. Ever since she could pump the pedals at the age of three, she dreamed about owning Grandma’s player piano.
Jillian worked hard to earn the privilege to visit Grandma. She did her chores, her homework, and even extra work to get points toward a trip. Once to twice a month, Jillian and her family would visit Grandma. Everyone knew where Jillian would be when they visited Grandma. In the living room, pumping away on the player piano.
On one visit, however, Jillian’s younger cousin Gregory was at Grandma’s house when she arrived. Her face turned to a frown as she heard the sound of the player piano. Young Gregory had discovered how to pump the peddles and make music. He was laughing and singing. When Jillian asked Gregory to share the piano, he shouted “No!”
Jillian ran to her mom. “It’s not fair!” she complained. “I worked hard for this trip. I want to play the piano!”
“I know you worked hard,” her mom answered, “but it’s Grandma’s piano, not your’s. And Grandma wants to share it with your cousin.”
As she entered the room, Grandma over heard Jillian’s remark. “Jillian,” Grandma said, “we love you, but the piano belongs to the family, not to you. We’ve got to share. You were young and you had your turn on the piano. Now, its Gregory’s turn.”
“But I earned it!” Jillian screamed. She stomped out the door angry.
Like the workers hired first, Jillian worked hard for the privilege to visit Grandma and play her piano. But she lost her privilege to her younger cousin, who was like the worker hired last. Grandma thought it was more important to share the piano with the youngest than with the hardest worker. It wasn’t good for Jillian, but it was great for Gregory.
Earning something. Sharing something. Sometimes we earn a privilege through our hard work. Sometimes we have to share the things we have for the good of others. I earn things for myself. I share things for others.
When I lose something I earn, I feel cheated. It’s not fair. But, sometimes the things I lose help others who are in need. They benefit from my loss. It might be unfair to me, but it helps others to grow. That was the point of Jesus’ story.
Closing Question: What is your favorite thing? What would happen if you shared it with others? How could it help others, especially those who don’t have as much as you do?