Reflection on Matthew 21:23-32 (17th Sunday after Pentecost)

Let us Pray: Everlasting God, you do everything possible for our spiritual growth and well-being, yet we so often choose the path of alienation and violence. Let us pray trustfully to the God who has loved us into being and cherished us all our lives. This we pray in Jesus name. Amen

 Matthew focuses on the nature, source, and consequences of Jesus’ power, that his power is of a different kind, a power that produces healing and reconciliation rather than alienation and violence. Should we also be focusing on Jesus’s power to bring us healing and reconciliation in our world today. Seems the world is intent upon power, power that is based on violence and alienation.  The Covid virus has brought out both good and bad in people.  People who continually question authority like the Chief priests did as they questioned the authority of Jesus. Then we have those who understand the authority and they show the desire to promote healing and reconciliation.  Apparently, “believing” requires making a decision about what kind of power is legitimate, Jesus’ power or that of our leaders. Only Jesus manifests a form of power that requires us to change our minds about the source, nature, and fruit of true power. Can we discern the nature and source of the powers that hold us in suspense? Can we distinguish the rewards of divine power in the midst of all that the powers of this world promise us? Where do you fit?   

Why in the situation did he bring up a parable of the two brothers? He did so because Jesus wanted to show the distinction between the two brothers about action versus word. He wanted to show that actions speak louder than words. He used this exchange to expose what the leaders really felt. What they really felt about John and about Jesus’s authority.  The chief priests’ and elders’ failure to believe and respond reveals the truth about where they stood and which brother they actually represent. The chief priests and elders respond in unison, “the first.” It is obvious that even though the son refused to work, the fact that he did, in the end, is far better than the son who agrees to work and never enters the vineyard. Jesus then uses the parable to draw the unmistakable conclusion that they, the chief priests, and elders, are the second son who has failed to do the father’s will. “You preach and preach, but you never practice the words you proclaim.”

One of the hardest things to admit is that we are more often like that second son than the first. After all, here we are sitting in the vineyard, preparing to go out to harvest the grapes. But as Christians, we can become blind to what God is doing in the world around us. We have little excitement about what God’s living Word and grace are doing in our community. Like the second brother we say that we are going to work in the vineyard, but instead of harvesting grapes we spend our time rearranging the stones along the path.

What are we doing as Christians? Do believe that God continues to do amazing things in the world? Do we hope and pray for God’s will to really be done here on earth among us? We have been authorized to do great and wonderful things in the world. Let us remember and believe that the Lord will provide, that nothing will ever separate us from God’s love, and that we have been called to work in the vineyard.

In the name of the Father, and of the son and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

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