One September Sunday morning, I invited the children to gather around our aged deacon, Sybil, while she proclaimed the Gospel from her wheelchair in the center aisle of the church. Sybil was an actor and a professor of theater; even at 89, her clear voice rings beautifully through the church. As she read out the Gospel text, the children stood there, trying to hold still, a little restless, a little curious, a little bored.
She spoke out Jesus’s story of a man who had two sons: “He went to the first son and said, Son, go and work in my vineyard today. And his son said, No, I will not go. But later on, he changed his mind. He did go to the vineyard and work. Meanwhile, the father went to his second son. He said to him, Son, go and work in my vineyard today. And his son said, Yes, sir, I am going. But he did not go. He did not do his father’s work. Jesus asked, Which of the two sons did what his father wanted?”
A four-year-old girl was standing just behind Sybil. And her face lit up, because she KNEW the answer, and she said, loud and clear: “The first one!”
The congregation laughed gently. Sybil paused, then nodded gravely over her shoulder and said, “Thank you,” and continued with the proclamation of the Gospel, that rich and lively story of stories that invites all of us, from the little child to the white-headed elder, into its dance of wonder, challenge, and hope.