Thursday, September 22, 2011

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, September 25, 2011:

First Reading: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 17:1-7

Psalm: Psalm 25:1-8 (Psalm 25:1-9 NRSV)

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

Second Reading: Philippians 2:1-13

Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32

This Sunday's Gospel continues to explore the notion of fidelity and fairness. In the parable that ends the Gospel lesson, we might ask ourselves which of the two sons most represents us. Of course, neither one is a flattering picture.

We like to believe that we are people of our word. We say that we will do something, and we actually do it. But neither of the sons is that type of person.

One son says he won't go work, but he starts to feel bad, and so he reports to work. The other son agrees to go to work, but never shows up. Our parents would not encourage either type of behavior. And yet, how typical of humans are these two behavior types.

The lesson of this Gospel is clear: we get credit for our actions, not for our speech. This idea may fly in the face of what we believe to be good Lutheran theology. What about the idea of grace? Many of us were taught that we're such dreadful humans that there's nothing we could do to justify the gift of salvation. God swoops in and redeems us, even though we're fairly hopeless people. That was the message I got from many a church event, Lutheran and otherwise.

But as a grown up, going back to revisit these passages, I'm amazed at how often God requires more of us than just saying we believe in Christ, more than just accepting Christ as our saviour, more than just having faith. In the words of Luther, faith should move our feet. In the words of James, faith without works is dead.

It's important to strive to be people who can be counted on, people whose actions match our words. Hypocrites have probably done more damage to Christianity than many other disasters that have beset the Church. Our goal each and every day is to be the light of the world, the yeast that makes the bread rise, the radiance that allows people to see God at work in the world.

The good news of today's Gospel, and many of the others that we read throughout our 3 year lectionary cycle, is that even when we fall short, God will still love us. If we've said we'd do the work, and we fail to do it, we have other days when we can show up. God will still welcome us. The world is full of darkness, waiting for our light.

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