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    Sep 30, 2017

    Proper 21A, September 30 - October 1, 2017

    Preacher: The Rev. Joan Mason, Rector

    Series: Rector

    Category: Weekly Sermon


         Our Gospel reads, “There was a man with two children who went to the first one and said, ‘Child, go and work in the vineyard today.’  And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went.  And the man went to the second child and asked the same; and he answered, “I go, sir,” but did not go.  I would imagine that every parent here today can relate to this experience.  It does sound familiar to me as I recall the experience of my children growing up.  Perhaps because of that, we may smile a little, and then dismiss the story.

    But I assure you that Jesus had something much more in mind and it had little to do with the training and discipline of children.  It very much concerns you and me, all of us who claim to be disciples of JESUS and are called by his name.

         Family life in the time of Jesus was evidently no different than today.  And so Jesus uses the Parable of the Two Sons as an example for the people because they can understand it from their life experiences.  But that was only supposed to be an entry point; not an ending point.  Before Jesus begins this story, he asks his listeners, “What do you think of this case?”  He wants to know their opinion.  Then after Jesus tells the story about the two sons, he asks them: “Which of the two did what the father wanted?”  He wants a response from the people who are listening to him.  The answer is self-evident.  It is also devastating in its critique of human nature.  Because this is the story of so many of us – saying, yes I’ll go, but then we don’t; or being obedient with dragging feet, the last to volunteer, the reluctant apostle.

         Jesus brings us up short this (evening) morning and presents to us a contrast between verbal obedience (the 1st son) and practical obedience (the 2nd son).  Words and actions are supposed to match.  There is a word used, particularly in the church, when someone’s words and actions don’t match.  The word is ‘hypocrite’.  We are quick to use that word, usually about others; certainly not about ourselves.  The truth is, we are all inconsistent in our words and our actions.  How many times are we are like that elder brother, saying we’ll do something, but don’t get around to it?  Or we pray every week, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” and yet we continue to nourish petty grievances, or family feuds in our hearts.  Jesus wants our words and actions to match, particularly when it comes to following him.

         Our Baptismal Covenant gives us our charge from God. Our marching orders.  In addition to keeping ourselves in a good relationship with God by praying, worshipping and asking for forgiveness, we have work to do with others.  We promise that we will seek and serve Christ in all persons; that we will strive for justice and peace among all people; that we will proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.  The question is, will we do it?  Do you do it?  What is your response to that?  These covenant promises are the “working in the vineyard” that God requires of us.  Jesus wants you out in the world.  Seeking.  Serving.  Striving for justice and peace.  And proclaiming (telling others about him).

          There are many people out there who still live on the Good Friday side of Easter – in desperation, fear, loneliness, hopelessness.  We have good news to tell them.  That is, in the very midst of despair or frustration or hopelessness, the love of Christ is real.  But who is there to help them know of this hope, joy and love if not you?  So many of us may say, “I can’t do that.  I don’t have the words, or know how to do it.”  Our first reading today answers this for us.  The Lord tells Moses to take the staff in his hand, to strike a rock in front of all the people, and water will come out of it so the people can drink.  Really Lord?  Hit a rock?  In front of all those people?  I don’t think so.  Yet Moses does it, and the Lord performs a miracle through that obedience.  It is not through our own power, our words, our actions.  It is the Lord working through our willingness to obey him.  And frankly, that is the only way we can be effective in this work – by putting ourselves to the side and allowing the Lord to work through us.

         It has been said that the church is the ONLY organization that exists for those who do not already belong.  Isn’t that an interesting thought?!  (repeat)  If that is indeed true, then we should be looking far and wide for those who are not here.  When was the last time you invited someone to church?  Maybe invite someone to the Alpha Course to learn about Jesus.  It’s not too late.  Tomorrow evening is the 2nd class.  New people can still join.

         Are we taking the Good News to those that need to hear?  I believe you are “Easter People” living on this side of the Cross.  My prayer for each of us is this:

         May we not be hypocrites.
         May all of our words and actions match.
         May we indeed respond “Yes Lord” to Jesus’ call to seek and serve him in all people, striving for justice and peace.

         And may we get out there to tend God’s vineyard, inviting others to know what a difference Jesus can make in their lives.