God's work. Our hands.

“Both/and” not “either/or” Sinner’s and Saint’s

Matthew 23:1-12 |Jesus Denounces Scribes and Pharisees

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
Because when we look at ourselves in the mirror we often see the reflection of a sinner – but when God looks at us, he looks through the reflection of Jesus – as a sinner redeemed, absolved, forgiven, and surrounded by amazing grace.

Which also means, that as we look out into the world, we see that others too, are worthy of the title saint. The person sitting next to you, your defiant 2 year old, that coworker who is always doing that one thing that annoys you, that neighbor who complains about a certain convince store, or that politician you can’t seem to agree with — not either a sinner or a saint, but both sinner and saint.

Re:Form work to be done

Matthew 22:34-46 | The Greatest Commandment

 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

The Question about David’s Son

 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

“The Lord said to my Lord,

‘Sit at my right hand,

   until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?

If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

…Because when we seek to love God above all things, by putting God first in our lives we see all kinds of amazing things happen. We begin to know a God of grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness. We begin to discover a God who relentlessly seeks us out over and over again through the ancient stories of scripture and through our history of the Christian church. When we learn that we have been set free by God in Christ Jesus we are liberated to serve the world and those in need, not because God desires it for our salvation, but because our neighbors need to be liberated from forces like poverty, disease, despair, hunger and imprisonment.

And if you ask me, those are the most important parts of our Reformation movement. So as we look back at 500 years of re-forming the church, I pray that we might look forward as well, into the future and see that the animating power of these two central laws – love God and love neighbor – as it continues to reform us, into a church that is wildly in love with the creator of all things and seeks to care for our neighbors in need around us. Because until the day that we are formed into community around one table, there is re-form work to be done. As long as there are neighbors who go without a place to live or food on the table, there is re-form work to be done. As long as the sick and tired long for rest and healing, there is re-form work to be done. May the Spirit continue to equip and empower the church and the saints for this reforming work for the next 500 years.

What is of Cesar and what is of God ?

Gospel: Matthew 22:15-22
After Jesus begins teaching in the temple, religious leaders try to trap him with questions. First they ask if God’s people should pay taxes to an earthly tyrant like Caesar.

15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap [Jesus] in what he said. 16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Weddings are strange, and so is the Kingdom.

Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14
Jesus tells a parable indicating that the blessings of God’s kingdom are available to all, but the invitation is not to be taken lightly.

1Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
  11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Pressing on towards the goal

Bible Text: Matthew 21:33-46

Matthew 21:33-46| The Parable of the Wicked Tenants

‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’

 Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

“The stone that the builders rejected

   has become the cornerstone;

this was the Lord’s doing,

   and it is amazing in our eyes”?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’

 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

I don’t know what it will take to put an end to this senseless violence in our world today. But what I do know is that I will continue to “press on to make it my goal,” to put an end to it. I can only do my little bit of good in my part of the world. So here is what I promise to you St. Mark’s – I will continue to press on in making a place where we teach our kids about loving one another. I will continue to press on towards making a community that is grounded on grace and forgiveness. I will continue to press on towards teaching confirmation and affirming the firm foundation in Christ Jesus our Lord for our confirmation students. I will continue to press on towards the goal of creating worship and space for us to hold these difficult days.

Authority of Grace

Matthew 21:23-32 | The Authority of Jesus Questioned

 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

The Parable of the Two Sons

 ‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
So thanks be to God that we have the example of a Son who did do the will of the Father – Jesus Christ, who showed us what humility and obedience really look like. We who now follow in that same example live grounded on the authority of grace. Freed by the grace of God, we too, like Jesus are free to care for our neighbors in need by rewriting the rules of who’s in and who’s out of the kingdom. We are free by the authority of grace to create a church where all are welcome, all forgiven, and all given a place at the table of God’s mercy. We are free by the authority of grace to call into question the structures of oppression in our world that seek to make some first while others last because by the authority of grace, we are free to teach that all people are loved by God and re-write the rules that say some are better than others.

And by what authority are we given to rewrite the rules of the game called life in these ways? Well that very authority of Jesus Christ.

Grace is not fair wages

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Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus tells a parable about God’s generosity, challenging the common assumption that God rewards people according to what they have earned or deserve.

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Forgiveness is our future etched in the wideness of God’s mercy

Bible Text: Matthew 18:21-35 | Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-35 | Forgiveness

 Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’
Forgiveness is our future etched in the wideness of God’ mercy. We as a community are given a process of reconciliation that leads to life and resurrection. We, who are baptized into the wideness of God’s mercy and love, who are forgiven and set free to dance, are empowered to go out into the world to practice forgiveness, to practice mercy, and show the world that God is bringing us into a future built on hope.


Living in Christian community

Bible Text: Matthew 18

Jesus teaches us about living together in Christian community