September 14, 2020
The Proper 20A Sermon Starters include commentary and illustration ideas for Matthew 20:1-16 from the Lectionary Gospel; Exodus 16:2-15 from the Old Testament Lectionary; Psalm 145:1-8 from the Lectionary Psalms; and Philippians 1:21-30 from the Lectionary Epistle.
Author: Scott Hoezee
Fred Craddock once observed that there are two kinds of sermons that are difficult to hear: bad sermons and good sermons. I think we know what he means on the latter. Because sometimes the good sermon is the one that gets under people’s skin and bothers them. Sometimes we preachers even want this, which is why it can be disappointing in its own way some weeks to have people at the church door say “I really enjoyed that sermon, pastor!” You want to reply “I was hoping it would bother you!”
In Matthew 20, Jesus is trying to bug us a little. It is one of those times in the Bible when if Jesus can get us a little upset, it creates a teachable moment. This story is calculated to offend. Educators call it cognitive dissonance. Walter Brueggemann—reflecting mostly on the effect of some psalms—calls it disorientation designed to lead to a new reorientation.
Like most parables, the basic story is very simple and very mundane. A vintner is desperate to get his crop of grapes harvested. Maybe the weather is threatening to turn bad the next day, or maybe the grapes are so bursting with juice that if they aren’t picked today, they will be rotten very quickly. Whatever the situation, the work needs to be done in a day. So at the crack of dawn he finds some eager folks lined up So he hires them, promising a denarius for their trouble.
These people work literally from sun-up to sundown, a solid twelve hours of labor including right through the heat of the day. Apparently, however, despite the diligent work of these folks, the picking is not proceeding fast enough to satisfy the farmer. So all day long at 9am, noon, 3pm, and even as late as 5pm (a scant hour before quitting time) the farmer keeps hiring more folks, handing them empty bushel baskets and telling them to fill ’em up with grapes.
Jesus purposely lingers a bit over those last folks hired. These were not the eager beavers who had been standing at the farmer’s front gate at dawn. For whatever the reason they had slept in. Maybe these were the ne’er-do-wells of the community–the kind of people who were unemployed but seemed to lack the gumption to do a whole lot about it. All day they had sat around on the fringes of the town square, sipping cheap beer maybe and just watching passively as over and over the farmer came looking for new workers. But they had not leapt to their feet each time he came to the square calling for more pickers.
Finally it got to the point where there were no other folks left in the square and so long about the time these lollygaggers were getting ready to head on home to sit on the sofa and channel surf the evening away while munching on the frozen pizza they had bought with their unemployment checks at the A&P, the farmer comes back one last time.
“Why have you guys been lazing around this town square all day doing nothing?” the farmer asks.
“We dunno,” they reply, “guess it’s cuz no one hired us.”
Well, there was a reason for that, too, of course, but when the farmer tells them to get to work at last, they readily agree. Shucks, for an hour they could put up with most anything. “A little hard work never hurt anybody” the old adage says, and a little hard work was precisely what these fellows would be doing.
Jesus is setting us up.
We are already looking at these blokes through squinty eyes. Examples of the Protestant work ethic they aren’t! But then Jesus pulls a narrative fast one: he makes sure that these one-hour pickers get paid first. Had they been paid last after the crack-of-dawn folks had already left with their hard-earned denarius tucked into their wallets, there would not have been much punch to this parable. But instead Jesus’ fictional vintner makes a point of ensuring that the people who worked the longest witnessed the fact that these lazy bums got paid one whole denarius each as well. (There would not be much to this parable had it not been for this move.)
Actually, however, that was not the moment that brought about the anger. Being fair-minded men with a firm sense of right and wrong and of what they had coming to them, they assumed that maybe as it turned out the going rate for this vineyard was one denarius per hour. And oh what a happy evening it would be in their households if they could come home with twelve denarii in their pocket! How wonderful it would be to swing by the store on the way home and at long last be able to afford a special candy bar for each of the kids, maybe even some flowers for the dinner table and one of those better brands of wine to go with dinner for once.
Except that of course it didn’t happen that way at all. Everyone got the same pay. Most people have a certain look that involuntarily sweeps across the face the moment they feel cheated. It is a kind of pursed lips, sideways glance, head-shaking expression utterly transparent to the anger that is rising in the throat. That’s how I picture these 12-hour workers the moment the master’s payroll man plopped a single denarius into their sweaty palms. They stared at the coin in disbelief and then looked askance. One of them finally whispers, “Can you even believe this!?”
The master overhears and so reminds them that he had cheated no one. This was the contract they agreed to at dawn that day. “And as for the rest,” he goes on, “what’s that to you? You’re not out anything. I can do what I want with my own money. So don’t cut your eyes at me and scorn my generosity!”
And that’s grace, Jesus says. It turns everything on its head.
But we don’t like it. And that is the rub of this parable and it creates a great preaching opportunity.
Without meaning to do it, we peg a lot of our spiritual worth, our spiritual self-assessment, to how much work we do for the church. In the heat of the day, in the dark of the night, on Tuesday mornings when we don’t feel like driving to church yet again, and on Sunday evenings when most other folks don’t even show up for worship, we’re here. And before we realize it, we slowly begin to assume that maybe we need less grace than some other folks. We’re getting to heaven on the installment plan as much as by grace. Maybe God does grade on the curve after all, and if so, by jiminy, we are determined to be well out ahead of that curve.
But as a matter of fact, if we have work to do and the talents to do it, this needs to become not a point of comparison with anyone else but a lifelong exercise in gracious gratitude to the God who enables our work in the first place. Grace called us to work in the kingdom, grace lets us perform ministry, grace compensates for our shortcomings in that work, and grace, not our own hard-won merits, is what crowns the work at the end of the day.
But, of course, there is a last point to be made and no one ever made it more poignantly than Barbara Brown Taylor in her memorable sermon on this passage. Taylor asked the key question: When we read this parable, why do we tend so immediately to identify with the folks hired at the crack of dawn?
Why do we so readily assume that when God’s kingdom fully comes, we will be the ones tempted to feel upset in that we will also be shown to have been the hardest workers of them all?
Who told you or me that we’ve been working for 12 hours? How do we know that just maybe our work totals the measly one hour after all?
Barbara Brown Taylor imagines that in the parable, when the farmer improbably hands the one-hour pickers a whole day’s wage, there must have been hoots of laughter and some “Ain’t we the lucky ones!” good-natured back-slapping going on.
But on that great and final day when Christ shall come again and bring us to himself, we should pray not only that we will indeed discover that the grace of Jesus is more than enough to get us into the kingdom. We should also pray that when we discover that eternally joyful fact, the great laughter and joyful back-slapping will be our very own.
This parable is so memorable that we are tempted to forget it has a wider context in Matthew’s gospel. It comes as part of a larger package of stories and incidents that drive home the idea of “the first shall be last.” First Jesus took little children to himself in Matthew 19:13-15 to point out that their lowly, humble status somehow has something to do with receiving the kingdom the right way. Then the Rich Young Man shows up as a foil to a child-like nature. Jesus sadly has to undercut this young man’s ideas on self-help salvation to make the point that salvation is all about God and so all about grace. Now this parable in Matthew 20:1-16 drives home that same point and is followed by yet another prediction by Jesus that it would finally take nothing short of his own death to make just that free and saving grace available. But the whole section climaxes in Matthew 20:20-28 when the disciples reveal how clueless they still are on this fundamental dynamic of the gospel as the mother of James and John tries to reserve seats of honor in Jesus’ kingdom for her two boys, leading the other disciples to get ticked off, thus leading Jesus—one more time—to try to get through their thick skulls that the world’s way of reckoning value must not be their way. But was anyone really listening?
In her sermon on Matthew 20 referenced above, Barbara Brown Taylor says that this parable is a little like the cod liver oil that mothers used to give their kids to cure what ailed them: you know it’s good for you, you trust the one who is giving it to you, but that doesn’t make it very easy to swallow even so! Most of us are born into this world with a huge sense of infantile entitlement followed by, at a very early age already, a seemingly intuitive sense of fairness and unfairness.
It’s like Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally, in the classic “Charlie Brown Christmas Special.” You may recall that at one point Sally is writing a letter to Santa Claus and in the process generates an enormous list of toys she wants. Then at the conclusion of her North Pole-bound missive she writes, “But if that is too much to carry, just send cash.” When Charlie Brown sees this and despairs over his own sister’s greed, Sally indignantly responds, “All I want is my fair share. All I want is what I have coming to me.” You can see the short clip of Sally here.
Apparently that’s all that most of us want, including long after we become much older than Sally Brown. We want our fair share. We’ve got rights and the number one right we have in life is the right to have our rights met. So we chafe, we champ at the bit, we stomp our feet and wag our heads when we spy apparent unfairness in life. We go to a high school reunion and see former classmates who never went on to college. We’ve got four, maybe eight years more education than they have and so get driven clean up a wall when we discover they made millions in a car wash business even as we slave away teaching humanities at a Christian college, barely making ends meet at times. Driving home after the reunion, we mutter to our spouse, “Life’s not fair.”
When we are children, we count how many M&Ms Bobby got from grandma to make sure it’s the same amount as we got. When we are grownups we do the same thing, albeit counting up other kinds of things than pieces of candy. We are very sure that in life, hard work should be rewarded, education should pay off, yahoos and bumpkins should not be better off than thoughtful people.
Amazing grace indeed but let’s be honest, sometimes we can be SO amazed at grace (and who gets it) that we choke a bit on the next line: “how sweet the sound.”
Author: Stan Mast
This text is about grumbling and grace. To preach it powerfully, we need to hold those two opposites in dynamic tension. On the one hand, it is easy to be so tough on Israel’s ungrateful grumbling that we miss how completely human their complaints were. If we do that, we won’t see ourselves in them. On the other hand, it is easy to underestimate how gracious God was to them, in spite of their egregious sin. For God to give them exactly what they were grumbling about is a display of grace that should boggle our minds. That combination of understandable grumbling and incomprehensible grace points us to Jesus.
The first verse of Exodus 16 locates this episode in time and space. It is exactly one month after Israel’s exodus from Egypt (though some scholars think it was a month and a half). At any rate, they have been out in the desert for a long time. After living for years in the well-watered area of Goshen, they are now in a place where water was limited to the surprising miracle (like the one at Marah) and the expected oasis (like the one at Elim which they have just left). They are now headed further into the desert of Sin (no pun intended) away from the Promised Land, in fact, as far from it as they can get. They have been wandering for a long time and they are a long way from anywhere. Now their water crisis has become a food crisis.
Here’s their reaction. “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” That word “grumbled” is repeated 7 times in 5 verses. That was the overwhelming, unanimous response of Israel to that place in time and space. What do they say in their grumbling? “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt. There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
Do they cry out to God for food? Do they confess their faith in the God who has delivered them from slavery and thirst in the past? Do they ask Moses and Aaron to intercede for them? No, they don’t say a word to God—not a prayer, not a confession of faith, not a reference to God’s promises. Instead, they express their desire to have died in Egypt along with Pharaoh’s people; “if only God hadn’t passed over us!” And they reject the leadership of Moses and Aaron, blaming them for their situation. They completely turn their backs on the God who has done miraculous things for them.
You would think that that their recent experiences of God gracious power would have resulted in a stronger faith than that. Well, if you think that, then perhaps you have never walked in their sandals. In our congregations, most people have never had a completely bare pantry or empty refrigerator. Most of us live close to stores or food pantries, or at least know family and friends who will lend us a few days’ worth of food to tide us over. Most us have never felt the grumbling of a completely empty stomach or heard a mother crying because she can’t feed her children or felt the helpless rage of a father who can’t provide for his family. Israel was completely out of food and they were many days and many miles away from any supplies. Their grumbling was understandable, because their “present anxiety distorted the memory of the recent past (New Interpreters Bible).”
Does that make their grumbling acceptable? No. As that quote from the NIB says, their grumbling was a distortion of reality. Yes, their hunger was real, but so was God’s past record and future promises. Yes, Egypt had been a place with plenty of food, but it was also a place filled with oppression and death. They should have known that God was bigger than any obstacle or problem they could ever face. They had seen that over and over. Rather than blaming their human leaders and forgetting their divine Redeemer, they should have cried out to God in faithful, hopeful desperation.
That would be one way to preach on this text—wag a finger of blame at Israel and at the small faith of today’s believers. We could preach a sermon on the sin of grumbling. The Apostle Paul did in I Corinthians 10:10 and John Calvin often chided his congregation about how grumbling was a rejection of the gracious providence of God. Preaching against grumbling might do our people a lot of moral good.
But that’s not where our text goes, because that’s not what God does in our text. You would think that God would give them a good tongue lashing for their towering ingratitude and nasty grumbling and invisible faith. But he doesn’t do that. Oh yes, he acknowledges that he has heard their incessant grumbling, and he isn’t happy about it. But instead of chiding them, he provides for them. “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.”
That is incomprehensible grace. After all God had done for them, he might have said, “I’m done! You can go back to Egypt. I will not pass over you the next time; I will pass through you as I did with those cruel Egyptians. I will leave you to die out here just as you say.” Instead, God gives them exactly what they need, even though they don’t have the faith to ask for it. I heard a preacher say yesterday, “It all depends on you. God will provide, but it all depends on your faith.” Well, not here. Here God by his grace gives to people who don’t have the faith to ask for his blessing.
There’s more to it than that, of course. God doesn’t give bread and meat and then just disappear into the desert. No, God has more in mind. He wants this experience of grace to do something deeply spiritual to Israel, just as he does with us. “In this way, I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.” From the beginning of his creation of human beings and from the beginning of his covenant of grace, God has wanted people to love and obey him freely, so that he can have a real relationship with us, not a pre-programmed, robotic response. That has always required that there be a test, commands to be obey (or disobeyed). Think of how God tested Adam and Eve with that tree.
Here, God tests his people with simple instructions about how to collect and share the bread from heaven. Each day they are to gather the manna for that day. Don’t take more than a day’s supply. (“Give us this day our daily bread.”) Share if you have more than you need. On the sixth day, collect twice as much as on other days. It will last for the Sabbath, even though the surplus on other days will rot and be eaten by worms. Simple instructions, with profound intentions.
In this provision of and instructions about the bread and meat, God wants to teach his people the most important lesson in life. Your God is Yahweh who has delivered you from Egypt, and all the glory is his and his alone. “In the evening you will know that it was Yahweh who brought you out of Egypt and in the morning you will see the glory of Yahweh….” In the parting of the Red Sea and the defeat of Pharaoh, Yahweh gained the glory (Exodus 14:17,18) that has been stolen by all the false gods of the world. Until we know who the one true God is and give him the glory, we cannot live the kind of trusting and obedient lives God desires for us.
That’s all God has ever wanted, but our small faith and our forgetful ingratitude and our constant grumbling rob us of that life and God of his glory. Thus, from time to time, God gives us a special revelation of his glory, as he did for Israel before he actually gave the manna and the quail. Moses called the grumblers together before the Lord; “come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.” They might have expected some sort of plague such as they had seen in Egypt a few weeks ago. Instead, “they looked toward the desert (away from Egypt?), and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.”
We have seen the glory of the Lord many times, but we have often said what Israel said when they first saw God provision from heaven. “What is it?” We have seen the glory, but we haven’t recognized it. So finally, God revealed his glory for all the world to see and explained what they were seeing. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” That’s what God gave Israel in the desert and what he gives us in our deserts.
It was not accidental that Jesus identified himself with this story. After miraculously feeding 5000 people in a deserted place, Jesus referred to this story and made a claim that astonished and repulsed his questioners. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35).” That led many Jews to “grumble about him,” and many of his own followers stopped following. Even some his most faithful disciples grumbled about the difficulty of his sayings. But when he asked them if they too wanted to leave, they answered for all true believers. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68)
Indeed! Use this text about understandable grumbling and incomprehensible grace to call people to the Holy One of God who alone can give us the provisions that can transform even the desert into a place of abundance.
In my remarks above, I said that most of our congregants can’t relate to the kind of hunger that moved Israel to grumble. But that won’t be the case for many Christians around the world. Food insecurity, if not outright starvation, is a reality for millions, even in places of abundance like the US and Canada. Medical experts tell us that humans can live for 3- 4 days without water and up to three weeks without food. Around this world, many people are near the end of their three weeks. Do they even have the strength to grumble? Let us pray for the Bread of Life to come to them and feed them, through those who take his words in Matthew 25:34-40 as words of eternal life.
Author: Scott Hoezee
Yogi Berra is the one who famously coined the phrase “It’s déjà vu all over again” but of late it is the Revised Common Lectionary that seems to be making us live that out. As I looked at the Psalm selection for the Year A Proper 20 or the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, I knew I had seen this before. And I had: it was assigned just last month in mid-August. And when I saw that last month, I knew I had seen it before and I had: it had been assigned the prior month for July 5, 2020.
It’s a great psalm and all but honestly, there are 149 others. So rather than pretend yet again that I have fresh things to say about this poem since I pondered it in July and then repeated that pondering again in August, I will provide this link to the last time I posted on it and hope you find inspiring sermon ideas there, assuming you have not already tried to preach on this twice in the last 10 weeks that is!
Author: Doug Bratt
One of the most lyrical expressions of Christian hope is embedded in the first Question and Answer of the Heidelberg Catechism. There Reformed Christians answer the question, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” with the lovely, “That I am not my own, but belong in body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”
The apostle Paul predated the Catechism’s writers by perhaps 1500 years. But this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson suggests that he would have embraced at least their Catechism’s first question and answer with his whole person.
There is a great deal of godly wisdom in the RCL’s editors’ selection of texts. Those who follow it find it to be, by the work of the Spirit, a wonderful guide for proclaiming the full counsel of God. But one of the RCL’s biggest flaws lies in its choice of where to begin and end particular readings.
That’s certainly the case with this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson. It doesn’t, after all, just begin in the middle of a chapter. Philippians 1:21-30 also begins in the middle of what many English translations of the Bible present as a paragraph.
So this Lesson’s proclaimers may choose to begin their reading with verse 12, if not verse 1 – while still focusing their presentation on verses 21-30. We will certainly want to add this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s context to our proclamation of the text.
Douglas Moo notes that Paul writes to the Philippians in order to both thank the members of its church for their support of him and to encourage them to remain united in Christ. Chapter 1:21-30, in fact, touches on both of those themes.
Paul begins by singing, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (21). The second half’s “to die is gain” can found on a number of old tombstones over Christians’ graves. But they’re especially bold words for an aging apostle who almost certainly suspects that he’s under a Roman death sentence.
Philippians 1’s proclaimers might want to spend time unpacking verse 21. We might explore what Paul means when, for example, he says that to “live is Christ” for him. Biblical scholars “land” in a number of places on this. But nearly all of them land somewhere near the idea that Paul’s is celebrating how his life is caught up with his crucified, risen, ascended Lord.
So Jesus’ followers don’t have to die in order to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. To live in a faithful relationship with Jesus Christ is to enjoy a whole person relationship with him on this side of life in God’s eternal presence.
At the same time, however, the apostle adds that to “die is gain” for him. His death may well follow further and even greater suffering than he’s already enduring. But it will, by God’s amazing grace, also earn Paul a place in God’s eternal presence where there is no room for suffering or death.
Perhaps no society in history has had a stronger aversion to death than 21st century North America. We naturally do nearly whatever it takes to avoid dying (as well as dying people). Yet might that have something to do with our contemporaries’ seemingly increasing uncertainty about what happens to us after we die?
The theologian N.T. Wright points out that western civilization has adopted a number of theories about death. Some, he notes, assume we’ll somehow become part of some great ocean of consciousness or unconsciousness. Others think we’ll simply be absorbed into the cosmos. Those who proclaim Philippians 1 might fruitfully spend some time examining their own specific culture for attitudes about death and its aftermath.
However, against all of society’s speculation about death and its aftermath, Paul insists that the status of those who die in a faithful relationship with Jesus Christ is unassailable. In fact, it doesn’t really change. Whether we live or die, God has adopted us to be both God’s sons and daughters and Jesus’ younger siblings. In both life and in death, Christians belong to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
So Paul recognizes, as Wright writes, “he would indeed be better off dead.” Those who die in a relationship with Jesus Christ, after all, “depart” to “be with Christ” (23). But the apostle also already lives with the Lord in prison.
So if Paul somehow survives his prison ordeal, as he apparently fully expects, he can continue his “fruitful labor” (22). He can continue his ministry of both spreading the gospel and encouraging those who have faithfully received it to remain in a faithful relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul, in fact, assumes that he has more work to do. So he can even insist that it’s “necessary” (24) for his Philippian audience for him to survive his prison ordeal.
The apostle spends the rest of this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson explaining why his Philippian audience needs him to survive his ordeal. Douglas Moo suggests, however, that it might be summed up as his readers needing to stay united in the face of everything that would divide them.
While Philippians might be what Scott Hoezee calls the “warmest” of Paul’s letters, it has a somewhat challenging context. Its readers seem to face threats from both within the church and outside of it. Those threats pose an existential threat to Christian unity that is so much a fruit of a faithful relationship with Jesus Christ.
Paul doesn’t identify the outside threats to Philippi’s believers. Moo suggests they may be the false teachers and their teachings to which he later alludes in chapter 3. Or, he goes on to point out, the apostle may not have anyone specific in mind.
As many as 2,000 years after Paul first wrote Philippians 1, the Church that reads it remains under duress. Jesus’ followers continue to suffer and die for their faith at alarming rates. So those who proclaim this Lesson might spend some time familiarizing ourselves with websites that highlight that misery so that we can both pray for those who suffer and familiarize our hearers with their plight.
Yet not all Christian division is imposed from outside the Church. For example, Americans who proclaim and hear this Epistolary Lesson are in the midst of a volatile political season. Some Christians are so politically divided that they can barely speak in civilized ways to their Christian brothers and sisters with whom they disagree. Add to that disagreements about how to respond to the global pandemic and racial injustice, and we have a recipe for deep divisions among even Jesus’ followers.
So while its meaning may not be the same for 21st century Christians as it was for Paul, verse 27’s “whatever happens” has profound implications for his adopted siblings in Christ. Whoever is elected the American president and other leaders, “conduct yourselves,” we hear Paul say, “in a manner worthy of the gospel” (27). Whatever happens with and to COVID-19, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Whatever happens in pursuit of racial justice and reconciliation, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.”
Whatever else that loaded phrase “manner worthy of the gospel” means, it at least calls for behavior that’s consistent with the status of being called by God to himself through that gospel. It’s at least so see those with whom we disagree as those whom God creates in God’s image and passionately loves. It’s to find ways to work together with even those with whom we disagree for God’s glory and our neighbors’ well-being. It’s to seek to imitate Christ in humbly and self-sacrificially giving ourselves away to the last and the least.
Those who proclaim Philippians 1 would benefit from exploring within our own hearts and lives how we might do that with Christians with whom we fundamentally disagree about things largely peripheral to the gospel. We might look for examples of how local as well as worldwide Christians are coming together across various lines to do things like feed people who are hungry, mentor students who are at risk and help people whom violent weather and fires have harmed.
That will, however, as Paul warns in verses 29 and 30, be deeply costly. After all, those who work on God’s behalf for what God is passionate about will “suffer for” Christ’s sake (29). We won’t just potentially endanger our well-being and even lives for the Lord. We’ll also give up our natural selfishness and self-interest to advance God’s interests in the world. That, after all, wasn’t just Jesus’ fate. It wasn’t just Paul’s fate. It isn’t just many of our Christian contemporaries’ fate. Suffering is also the fate of all who would follow Jesus into the world for which he gave his life.
In his book, Terms of Service, Jacob Silverman writes about a PayPal cofounder and early investor in Facebook (and another [Ayn] Rand disciple). Silverman notes that that person has “derided the inevitability of death as an ‘ideology’ while plowing millions into companies that might, as he said, ‘cure aging.’ Google’s own first foray into life-extension research, through a biotech subsidiary called Calico, reflects its belief that it can solve death — at least for a paying fee.”