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The Parable of
THE WORKERS IN THE VINEYARD
“Now he’s saying he wants to be baptized”, said Jeff.
“That old coot?” said Paul. “I didn’t even think he knew what the word meant.”
“I know ”, said Jeff. “First he spends his whole life breaking every commandment in the book…”
“Plus a few new ones”, added Paul.
“Then he wants somebody to read the Bible to him; now he wants to be baptized.”
“He’s never even stepped foot in a church in his entire life”, said Paul.
“For the past fifty years, he has been either cussing at us or pretending we don’t exist”, said Jeff. “Then he waits until he’s eighty years old and on his deathbed to see the light.”
“He left us alone to fend for ourselves, while he was out making more money than he knows what to do with”, commented Paul.
“And did we ever see any of that money?” said Jeff.
“No”, they said in unison.
“I thought he would change at least a little when Mother died”, said Paul.
“He did”, said Jeff. “He got worse.”
“Now he expects us to just drop everything and be there at his beck and call”, Paul complained.
The tinkling of a small bell interrupted them. “It’s your turn”, said Jeff. “I had the last round.”
Paul sighed and put down his beverage. “If I’m not back in half an hour, call the search and rescue team”, he said.
Jeff chuckled as Paul climbed the stairs to their father’s bedroom. Paul tried to look pleasant as he approached his father.
“Can you read to me some more, please?” his father asked.
Paul stood there in shock for a moment. It was the first time he ever remembered hearing his father say “please”. “I suppose this is as good a time as any”, Paul said.
Then his father then did something else that surprised him. He smiled.
Paul picked up the Bible on the nightstand, opened to the bookmark, and started reading. In the meantime, Jeff was on the phone, calling a local church to see if he could arrange for his father’s baptism. He decided that he wasn’t going to try very hard; he was just going to ask once, so he could tell his father that he looked into it. He didn’t think it was going to do much good anyway.
When he dialed the first number in the phone book, he got an answering machine. He left a message and hung up, then went upstairs to tell his father that there was nothing more he could do. When he walked into the bedroom, his brother stopped reading, and his father looked up at him hopefully.
“When can I get baptized?” he asked. “I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of.”
Paul met Jeff’s eyes. “You can say that again”, their eyes conveyed; they left the thought unsaid. “It may take some time”, said Jeff.
“Son, I don’t have much time”, his father said. “I can’t afford to take any chances.”
Jeff looked at his father and saw him differently than he ever had before. Instead of strong, confident and stubborn, the man he saw before him was old, frail and frightened. He was all but swallowed up by his bedcovers. The hard lines on his face were softened by regret.
Jeff sighed. “I’ll go look into it further”, he said.
It took a while to arrange, but the old man finally got his wish. Jeff found a church that was able to take him into a baptismal font in his wheelchair. As he rose up out of the water, he surfaced with the biggest smile the two brothers had ever seen. His first words to each of them were “Thank you, son.”
In the days that followed, Paul, Jeff, and their father were able to talk with each other more freely. Old pains melted away. Only a short time before, the two brothers thought they would be left with cold memories of their father. But as it turned out, what they remembered most about him was the peaceful, even joyous look on his face in the last moments before he died.
THE WORKERS IN THE VINEYARD (Matthew 20:8-14)
“So when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard said unto his steward, ‘Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.” And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the Goodman of the house, saying, ‘These last have worked but one hour, and you have made them equal to us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.’
But he answered one of them, and said, ‘Friend, I do you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a penny? Take that which is yours, and go your way: I will give unto this last, even as unto you.’”