The readings for Sunday, September 28, 2014:
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. People ask about Jesus--who grants him authority? Jesus gives them a question they're afraid to answer, for fear of getting the wrong answer, and Jesus refuses to answer the question.
Instead, he gives a parable about two sons, neither of which is true to his word. One says that he'll go work in the vineyard, and he doesn't. One says he won't work, but then he does. Which son represents you?
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. We don't confess belief in Christ so that we can relax on the sofa. We confess our faith and go to work in the vineyard.
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. Notice how small our actions can be. The yeast is tiny, but from its small actions, flour and water transform into bread.
Ideally we're yeast and light, but 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.
feeling the feelings…
6 months ago