By

Gospel of St. Matthew 21:23-32
23 When Jesus 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?”  24 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.  25 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?’  26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we
are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.”  27 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.
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go
and work in the vineyard today.’  29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed
his mind and went.  30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he
answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go.  31 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.  32 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.

When Jesus encountered the Jewish authorities of his day, the stakes were high.
A day earlier, after entering Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus had overturned the tables
of the money changers and benches of those selling doves in the Temple
Courtyard. He pronounced: “My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you
are making it ‘a den of thieves.’ That act put a dent in the Temple’s daily
economy. It also sealed Jesus’ fate.
From that time onward, many of Jerusalem’s Jewish leadership wanted Jesus
exterminated. Yet, some Jewish leaders wanted to hear more of what Jesus was
teaching. And, still others only wanted to discredit the young, Galilean rabbi and
send him back home in disgrace.
Jesus was sharply aware of his opposition. The stakes were high.

Jesus had to retain his credibility, not for himself alone, but also for those faceless
Jews to whom God had sent Jesus to rescue from religious oppression.
The overbearing, Jewish religious leaders created and maintained harsh, abusive
and unnecessary barriers between God and God’s people. Jesus would have none
of that.
The stakes were indeed high.
Jesus was wise in dealing with his opposition. Just when they thought he was
backed into a corner, Jesus proved them wrong; often returning the favor. It’s
comical that those on a foolish mission often turn out to play the fool.
Jesus wouldn’t let his opposition or any other distraction jolt him away from his
divine purpose. For our sake, he couldn’t.
Today, we carry on Jesus’ divine mission. With God’s help, you and I are
entrusted with the urgent and necessary mission of drawing people to God.
We are acutely aware of our world needing God. All people need God’s love and a
meaningful connection with the One desiring to fill us with hope, peace, joy and
purpose.
You and I must learn to be aware of our opposition and find ways of creatively
overcoming the powers that wish us silent. Our opposition includes racism and all
evil and selfishness attempting to bombard, divide and destroy people,
communities and humanity’s sense of being connected to one another and all
creation.
Like the daunting tasks of our government and humanitarian agencies assisting and
restoring the lives of people living in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the
Caribbean Islands ravaged by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, our Christian
mission is also vital and immense.

But unlike those ill prepared for their task, we must be prepared to take risks in
loving, giving, serving and welcoming all people into the presence of God.
The stakes are too high for us to turn our back on Jesus and his mission.
Yesterday, two of our neighbor children came to the table where Ted and I were
sitting. Their family, like us, had decided to go out to Saturday morning breakfast
at Cracker Barrel.
The friendliness, innocence and delightful stories of those children stirred my soul.
To me, those kids exude and represent God. Oh, if the world would only value and
exhibit virtuous qualities often experienced in children – how different our world
would be!
Last Thursday, I ran into one of the former teachers from Grace Learning
Academy. She held her month-old son in her arms. She offered me a glance. Her
tiny boy yawned and looked so very comfortable and content.
I was reminded that babies are born to instinctively reach out in trust and love. It
is only by hearing words and observing other behaviors that children learn to fear
and hate. Only by learning to favor healthy behaviors, do adults overcome the fear
and hate we once learned.
As followers of Jesus, we are given opportunities to demonstrate healthy
behaviors, loving one another and our neighbors, and trusting in God to guide us as
we journey through life.
The stakes are high. As Jesus’ followers, we will not concede to the evil and
selfishness of this world.
With God’s many gifts providing for us and Jesus’ companionship encouraging
and empowering us, we will impact people’s lives with God’s love and invite them
into God’s transforming, life-giving embrace.
As we travel the Path of Gratitude, we will impact lives and connect others with
God, and so, help Jesus with his immense and crucial mission.

Thanks be to God!

 
St. Paul's is located at 33 W. Dixon Ave, Dayton, OH 45419; phone: 937-293-1154; fax: 937-293-3723 Office hours are Monday - Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.