Here’s the outline for the homily The Revd Arnold Bush delivered at Episcopal Church of the Epiphany on Sunday, September 25, 2011. His text is Matthew 21:23-32.
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?” 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.
“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.”
Text and Theme: MT 21: 23-32: The chief priests and elders asked Jesus regarding his authority. Jesus answers the religious leaders with a question and a parable of a father with two sons. The parable is a challenge to us to see which “son are we”… who seeks the father’s will.
For any parents who have or had teenage children in the household, this Parable of the two sons surface memories of asking children to complete chore around the yard and house.EG Arnold’s children…
In the parable one the father asks: He went to the first and said, “Son go and work in the vineyard today.” The son answered, “I will not.” But later he changed his mind and went to work in the vineyard. The father went to the second son, and said, “Go work in the vineyard today”. The son said, “ I go, sir.” But a time later, he changed(repented) his mind and did not work in the vineyard. The key sentence in the parable is this: “Which of the two did the will of the father?” The question forces the listener to choose: which son am I like?
In the context of the story, the chief priest and elders in the Temple, said they would do what God asked them to do, they are the obedient followers of Yahweh. They change their minds and do not do as the God asked them obey. The Tax collectors and prostitutes were the ones who said, I will not do what Yahweh asked me to do, but they changed their minds, for they will enter the Kingdome of God ahead of you. You religious leaders did not believe the teachings of John the Baptist and the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe John the Baptist.
II Attitudes of the TWO sons
Son says YES, but did not GO
All show & No GO
Promises with NO ACTION
Lip Service & No Action
Changes mind to a NO
Promise & No Performance
Son said NO, but he did GO
All Go & No Show
All Action w/no Lip service
Action without lip service
Changes mind to a YES
No Promise but Performance
II Biblical Contrast of Groups
Sadducees, Pharisees (Jerusalem)
Chief Priests (Benefited from animal sacrifice)
Prayers in the Temple
Scribes/Pharisees (Interpreted the laws)
Hygiene rules, food, sanitation, fasting
Promise & No Performance
Hired by Romans, traitors
Prostitutes (in nearby temples)
OUTCASTS/NO TEMPLE WORSHIP for following…
Samaritans, Phoenician woman
This is one of 10 parables showing God’s mercy to sinners: 2 debtors,Lk7:41-43;Guests at Tables 22:1-10;Prodigal son 15:11-22;Lost sheep 18:12-14; Pharisee & publican 18:8-14; lost coin 15:8-14
III Question on authority
The parable is presented by Jesus in the context of the chief priest at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was the center of Jewish worship. Lots of external regulations and rules to follow….Yes, I will do what is expected in the laws. Did the baptism of John come from heaven or was it of human origin? They would not answer this. Next Jesus’s transition statement is “What do you think?” 2 sons….
If the key phase in the parable is “which is doing the will of the Father?” then could not Jesus be saying authority is given to the one who is PERFORMING NOT PROMISING. Thus we as followers of Christ are given authority as we perform the Will of God.
IV Application of the Parable in our daily lives:
1. We ask which son are we? More promise than performance, more lip service than action. How are we performing in mirroring the compassion of Jesus in our daily lives? Maybe the Nike advertising is very good. JUST DO IT!…JUST DO THAT ACT OF LOVE EACH DAY.
2. In Matthew 7:21 in the Sermon on the Mount he is speaking of bearing much fruit. This verse seems to captures the essence of the Parable. “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven but only him who does the will of the Father who is in heaven.” We can go around reciting the creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, I love the Lord….but he who DOES THE WILL OF THE FATHER. EG, civil religion; responding to 19% of AL population below the poverty level ($11,000 annually for an individual; $18,000 annually for a family of four)
3. “Changed our minds” The Greek word is metanoia, where we translate to TURN AROUND, CHANGE DIRECTIONS. If south to an exit on I- 85, turn east going to Auburn and but want to go to Montgomery,then I must turn around (metanoia) . We change our minds. There are many in the church who grew up with a bad taste of church life… but some how God touched them and they changed their minds to return. In studying and doing training in marriage counseling…. One phase often here is “never say never”. I have had spouses say, “I’ll never forgive him/her!” I’ll never shop at that store again in my life time…. But drive out of the way 50 miles”. Persons who have had a painful experience in a congregation may say: “I’ll never go back to one of those churches!”. In St. John’s, Pensacola, one Lent we studied a book, by Denis Maynard, “Forgive and Get Your Life Back” (also published Episcopols”) I recall several members saying, this book removed some of my bitterness and I was able to forgive those in who hurt me several years ago. A relative or parent… change your mind.
4. According to Richard Foster, we have too much superficiality in our Christian practice. We need a deep faith, mind, body, and spirit seeking the will of Jesus in our lives. As you come up for communion or as you sit quietly at home, invite the Spirit of Jesus into your personality. This morning as you allow the Spirit of Christ to invade you heart and soul, then he will be flowing out into the needs of others.
Conclusion: In the parable Jesus forces us to ask which son are we like: Say yes, to do no action? Or say No. But change our mind and take up an action? Maybe a third Son or Daughter: Say Yes, Lord Jesus, and then allow the power of Christ to energize and empower your loving acts throughout the day and week.
My take away applications in my Christian Life this week….