“Daughter, go out and work in the vineyard today” the Gospel reading today tells me.
I don’t know about anyone else, but right now I am tapped out. Over the past few weeks of Advent I’ve found myself looking around at the (growing) list of things that need to be done and I find that I simply have no energy or will to do them. Perhaps it is the long election and post-election drama, or the seasonal lack of sunshine that my Texas heart thrives in, or the fact that my life was busier than usual in the past few months. Whatever the amalgamation of things that lead to this, the fact is, I am feeling a bit hopeless, tired, weary, and frankly do not want to go out and work, much less in the vineyard.
Yet, as the scriptures typically do, they call me back and remind me that the healing needed in order to work in the vineyard is found in God. In order to do what God asks of me, I first must go and find my strength in Her.
Zephaniah, like other prophets, serves as a spokesperson for God; he pronounces judgment of those who have failed, in this case, Israel. For modern readers, it’s easy to look around and point to the folks who fit that bill in our context; it’s much harder, and much more honest, however to see the ways in which we each fit that description. The list of Israel’s transgressions that Zephaniah provides, one of not trusting or drawing near to God, one of rebellion, lying, and prioritizing other things before God, is a description that has certainly fit each of us at some point in time. In juxtaposition to this judgment, the prophets offer encouragement and challenge us to look past this sense of hopelessness to return and draw near to God, to turn away from rebellious actions and take refuge in the Lord.
The prophets invite us to be the first son in today’s Gospel, the one who initially rejects the offer to work in the vineyard, “afterwards changed his mind and went.” Just as Christ does, the prophets desire us to be the ones who turn from our inaction, or even wrong action, and respond to God’s constant, loving call to change our hearts and minds. They summon us to constantly heed the Advent season’s call to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mark 1:3). Today’s readings remind and challenge us that to prepare the way of the Lord is to go out and work in God’s vineyard each day.
“Daughter, go out and work in the vineyard today,” God tells me. Today, though hopeless, tired, and weary, yet nourished by the love I find in God, I will go out and I will work.
Amelia Blanton Hibner is the Program Coordinator for the School of Social Work within the College for Public Health and Social Justice. Additionally, she is a doctoral student in the Higher Education Administration program within the School of Education.