October 1, 2017
Today, I would like to begin with a confession of sorts. There are times when I say yes but then I don’t really do the work. I think my intentions are good but I often get distracted or put off what I say I will do and then it never gets finished.
So, for example, I promised my wife that I would cut up some boxes and put them in recycling but I forgot and didn’t get that done. I have said that I will send a note to someone or call someone and I forget. My intentions are good but my follow through is not always so good.
The gospel for today caused me to think about this issue. Let me give you another example. On Friday and Saturday, a group of us attended the diocesan convention. It was wonderful to join with other Episcopalians and celebrate our ministry and to decide what we are called to do.
One of the activities of convention is to discuss resolutions, proposals for our common life. I must admit that it is not my favorite time. I find our resolutions to be nice words that often don’t change anything. And then I realized that I may be the problem.
There was a resolution that created an expectation that our church would minister to the Native American community. I think it is such an important ministry. God bless those who are a part of it. Arizona has the largest number of native people in the United States. I would hope that we seek to understand and assist the indigenous people in whatever way they find helpful. But the resolution as submitted didn’t seem to change anything. And after all we connect with the native people in several ways, through the products that we grow in our Chili garden and also, I hope, through our outreach programs.
So, I thought to myself that I would agree with the resolution and then not do anything. And that’s when I thought of the gospel and the story of the son who said he would go and work in the vineyard and then didn’t. I decided I should try a different approach. I have asked a Navajo person to help me construct a prayer that we can offer for Native Americans. And I asked two Episcopal deacons who are native Americans to come and visit us here at Transfiguration. Maybe that will happen next Sunday. I want to do something not just say I will.
Given my own experience this week and thinking that I may not be the only one who sometimes promises and doesn’t do the work I would ask you to consider your promises to God. Has there ever been a time when you promised to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and not done the work? I am not speaking just of some sin, doing something you shouldn’t do, falling into a sin that you thought you had overcome. We all do that. We ask for forgiveness and try to change. I am also asking about the acts that perhaps we should do but have not completed.
Let us take a moment and consider the stories we find in scripture. The story about Moses and the Israelites in the desert is a good example. God had delivered them out of Egypt. God had taken care of them to this point. But now they were complaining to Moses and complaining about God. Their faith and trust in God seemed to be short lived. They wanted God to take care of all of their problems and seemed unwilling to stick with God when trouble arose. They said they would follow but wanted to quit when it became difficult.
In the gospel, Jesus told the parable of two sons. One said that he would not go work in the vineyard but did. The other said he would but did not.
Which one did the will of his Father?
Let me provide a little context. The Jewish people believed that God had offered the Law to all people but only the Nation of Israel accepted it. They said yes. But most of the Prophets in the time before Jesus preached that the people of Israel had not followed God’s wishes. Just like the second son, they said they would go but did not.
Jesus continues this line of prophetic thought. In this case, his argument is directed towards the chief priests and elders, the ones who would eventually have Jesus killed. They were the ones who wanted everyone to follow the Law. But they didn’t here the voice of John the Baptist. They didn’t heed John’s words to repent. They obeyed the word of the Law but did not live according to the meaning of the Law. Instead, John the Baptist converted the tax collectors and the prostitutes. They may have been sinners before but now they repented and returned to the Lord. They had said no but followed God’s wishes anyway. They accepted the teachings of John. Sadly, the chief priests were not swayed by the way these former sinners responded to John’s preaching. They did not accept what John had to say.
What does this passage mean to us. Well, in the first place, isn’t it a warning to organized churches? That is us but the way. We must be careful to always seek God. We should not think that simply coming to church on Sunday means that we are doing what God wants. We are to work in the vineyard outside of the church. And we must not think we are the only ones that have the answers for we might learn that there is a John the Baptist out there who is telling us to repent and return to the Lord.
The words of Jesus are also personal, something for each of us to consider. Have we said yes to Jesus but not done the work in God’s Kingdom. There are many ways to look at the work we are called to do but today I just ask you to consider what have we done for our neighbors.
Have any of you said that you wanted to help the victims of the hurricanes that have ravaged the US mainland and the Caribbean but haven’t yet done anything? Isn’t that just like the son who said yes but didn’t?
This weekend at Diocesan Convention the theme was ministering on the margins. It was a discussion about all those people who are on the edges of society, the ones who need help but often are not seen. We heard a powerful presentation from Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest who started Thistle farms, a place to help woman who were the victims of trafficking and abuse. We had the opportunity to hear about others such as the poor, the imprisoned and the racially marginalized, and others that we might not think about, the disabled, the chronically ill and members of the LGBTQ community.
Our congregation does reach out to some in these communities and I think it is wonderful. But how often do we sit down and listen to their stories? When have we sat with them, shared a meal and treated them as if they were equals? Perhaps we can help them to feel more a part of the community and perhaps we might learn something from these marginalized people.
Paul encouraged the people of Philippi to act this way. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” Paul wants us to care for others and he believed that when we acted that way we were following in the ways of Jesus. He wrote, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”. Paul said it was all about love.
For me, today is about asking ourselves if we are following Jesus, if we are doing what Jesus did. It is more than saying we will be followers of Jesus. Yes, it is about talking the talk. It is also about walking the walk. Mother Theresa offered this, “Following Jesus is simple, but not easy. Love until it hurts, and then love more”. The gospel of John says it so clearly, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” I invite you to join me as I work to live out my commitment to Jesus.
May we all do the work of God in the kingdom and share God’s love with everyone. Amen.
Last modified on Friday, 13 October 2017 21:55
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