Sharing Christ’s Love: “Working in the Vineyard”

Rev. Tully M. Fletcher IV

Decatur Presbyterian Church

October 1, 2023



Scripture: Matthew 21:23-32  

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 

24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.  25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?”

And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’  26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.”  27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”

And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 

28 “What do you think?
A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 
29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 

30 The father went to the second and said the same;
and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 

31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.  32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.


One was rude, the other was false

1st son:         His answer was bad, but his actions were good.

2nd son:        His words were right, but his ‘word’ was not.

1st son (Rude)

Let’s start by looking at the 1st son,

The 1st son is so blunt, and rude.  He just says no.

Makes you wonder if in real life, if there was more to this hypothetical story, or did he speak that plainly?

Did he give some excuses why?

Did he offer the meaningless, but obligatory apology?  “sorry, can’t do it.”

Was he a spoiled brat of a 1st son, who had nothing to do with the vineyard, except to drink the wine?

Was he grumpy, and always said no, when asked?

But in the end his rudeness is overlooked, because his actions speak louder than words

Verse 29 reads:

29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 

2nd Son (failure)

And now we turn our attention to the 2nd son

The lack of detail in this story is stunning.

The circumstances of the 2nd son leaves a glaring hole for our imagination to fill in:

Verse 30 says:                 ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 

We read these plain and simple words, and the cold hard truth of it, rings loudly in our ears and hearts.

Verse 30 says:                 ‘I go, sir’; but   he   did   not   go. 

This leaves us all asking the same question… What happened?  Why?    

Did he have a good reasons?

           Something truly more important that prevented him from his duties.

Did he just forget?

           Did have good intentions from there beginning but it slipped his mind?

We all have the forgetful person in our lives, the one who makes promises, and a day later, a week later, when confronted about it, you see the shame on their face immediately,  “Oh shoot, I forgot.”

Did the 2nd son ever intend to work?     Or did he lie from the beginning?

When we read this story our brain begins to fill in the gaps. 

We ask “Why?”

We ask “What happened?”

And then we begin ranking all the different scenarios 


I used to spend my time in this place, asking the question, was the 2nd son justified?

We like to spend our time with this question, because it puts us in the position of being the judge, and we like to judge others.

… well the liar son is the worse, and the one who had an emergency come up, well he is forgiven…

Many have pondered the morality of the 2nd son, and his reasonings for not going.  Did he have a good reason?          

Is a ‘good reason’ even possible?

But the cold hard truth, that rings loudly in our ears and hearts is that the excuse doesn’t matter.

The ‘reason’ doesn’t make a difference.

The father said go, the son failed, full stop.

But we don’t want to hear that.  We want more to the story. 

We want either justification or condemnation for the 2nd son. 

We look for justification for the 2nd son
           Because if he can be justified then so can we.

If he can be relieved of his duties,

           the responsibility of it all taken away,

           the failure of it all taken away,

then    so   can   we.

We can be forgiven for all our broken promises

We can be set free from our obligations

We can be back in good standing with whomever we broke the promise. 

If the 2nd son in this story can be justified

           Then so can I

           I can be worthy of forgiveness.

           I can be set free from my obligations. 

           I can be back in the good graces of my creator.

But we don’t get that in the text. 

And the cold hard truth, that rings loudly in our ears and hearts is
that the excuse doesn’t matter.

The ‘reason’ doesn’t make a difference.

Good news

 If we choose to stop looking for a reason, then we are left
face to face with our own failures. 
And that is sobering and intimidating position to be in.

But there is good news,

In JC we are forgiven

(we are both)

For as much as we are like the failure of the 2nd son, we are also like the 1st son.

Yes, maybe we were rude,

           but we still have the chance to change our minds, and go.

We can approach this text guilt free, and know that in the end, of we go, then we do the will of our creator, and all rudeness and delay are forgiven.

What is the work

The next topic to consider is what is the work…

Any of you own a vineyard?

Any of your ever worked in a vineyard?

Any one even been to one?

I got married at a vineyard does that count?

The work in the vineyard, the work of being a Christians is this:

  • Spread the good news.
  • Serve others.
  • be generous with gifts and talents
  • Pray, grace , listening, forgiving, compassion

Being Christian is a way of living,

These are not my words, but the words of your very wise session.

…session devo story…

Session responses (we said “yes” but never followed through)

  • Serving Christ without judgement
  • Loving everyone equally and supporting inclusivity
  • Sharing my faith with others
  • One elder wrote: “We all said that we would invite our neighbors to church but we haven’t had [many] new members so maybe we really didn’t do that…..
  • Matthew 25 stuff and all
         Helping the least, the last, and the lost
  • One elder bravely admits,
    “I shy away from the homeless who join us on Sunday.”
  • Another wrote:  “I said that I would love my neighbor as myself but ignored the needs of my actual neighbors and the neighbors in my community.

Session responses (stuff we’ve said “no” to until now)

One elder asks:

“Is it time for DPC to speak up about Gun violence?  Our church could have some power if we did, even if it makes people uncomfortable.”

Another person at the session meeting responded:

“We are called to preach to all nations, we mostly preach to ourselves.”

“Are we really following what JC wants us to do? 

          Because Over time our priorities drift away form Jesus.

To What have you said “no,” but now have the chance to say yes?

Closing part 0

And the cold hard truth, that rings loudly in our ears and hearts is God is calling us to go. 

This work that God calls us to, is often scary and uncomfortable.

We will be filled with doubt.

We will be unsure what the next step is. 

It will be difficult. 

But we go because God is calling us. 

More Work

God is calling us to Love.

God is calling us to help people in need. 

The issue at hand for us these days seems to be the growing number, and ever changing population of people living on the street. 

Living on our steps.

People with no place else to go.

People with mental illnesses.

People with family problems.

People who are hungry

Side note, this is world communion Sunday, and we have lots of bread on the table to celebrate.  Take a loaf or 2 with you, but the bread is not for you… here are the bags.  Take some home after the service, and give it away

Yes, it will be uncomfortable. 

Yes, it will require you to do something different. 

Closing part 1

We have to “be ok” with being uncomfortable. 

We have to “be ok” with not knowing where we are going

We have to “be ok” with taking that next step forward, on unsure footing.

           That is the definition of Faith

The son who says “no” is filled with doubt, he is paralyzed by these questions, which is part of the reason why he says “no”

And then in an act of incredible faith, the son goes out into the field to work.  Unsure of what exactly he is called to do, he still goes out to work, that is an act of faith. 

Closing part 2

So People of DPC, go! Go out to the vineyard to work!

God is calling you.