Just before Jesus launches into the payout sequence in this parable [Matthew 20:1-16], he says, “ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης, when it was evening, the lord of the vineyard said to his steward….” I have an image for that. On Shelter Island, where I used to live, there is an odd local custom. Every Friday evening, at exactly five minutes of five, the fire siren goes off. For years, I wondered about it. What was the point? They tested the siren every day at noon, so it couldn’t be that. I even asked around, but nobody seemed to know a thing about it. Then one day it finally dawned on me: rather than run the risk that the festivity of the rural weekend by delayed even one minute beyond the drudgery of the working week, some gracious soul had decided to proclaim the party from the top of the firehouse – the 4:55 siren was the drinking siren. Miller Time on Shelter Island.
ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης. Heaven is Miller Time. Heaven is the party in the streaming sunlight of the world’s final afternoon. Heaven is when all the rednecks, and all the wood-butchers, and all the plumbers who never showed up – all the losers who never got anything right and all the winners who just gave up on winning – simply waltz up to the bar of judgment with full pay envelopes and get down to the serious drinking that makes the new creation go round. It is a bash that has happened, that insists upon happening, and that is happening now – and by the sweetness of its cassation, it drowns out all the party poopers in the world.
Heaven, in short, is fun. And if you don’t like that, Buster (ἑταῖρε), you can just go to…well, you’ll have to use your imagination.
You’ll need it: this is the only bar in town.
Robert Farrar Capon, “Kingdom, Grace, Judgment”, pages 396-397