Weekly Lessons and Sermon
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Today is the last Sunday of the church year.
Next Sunday, Marks the first Sunday of Advent: The Church New year:
And the time of waiting and preparation for Christmas.
Yet even before that season of waiting for the celebration of the birth of Christ:
Even before we begin to sing about Jesus laying in a manger:
We celebrate and rejoice in Christ the King.
Today is known as “Christ the King” Sunday.
We celebrate Christ as the King of all creation.
The king of everything.
The king of everyone.
Not long ago,
I told you about my sweet one room school house Sunday School in Connecticut.
I shared with you about the kids who literally “Schooled” me—their
teacher—when they asked for a giant piece of paper and wrote “God loves
everyone the same” at the top.
It turns out, that those kids—over a decade ago--
Gave me a lot of good sermon material!
That same group of kids that said “God loves everyone the same”
Was also learning about Christ the king Sunday many, many, years ago.
As their Sunday school teacher, I was explaining to them that Christ is our King.
Each of the kids made their own crowns—in order to show that because of Christ
We too: become a part of the royal family:
The royal family of Christ the King.
After church on that Sunday, one four year old girl was showing off her crown.
I asked her: “Can you tell our friends why you made that crown today?”
She looked up at me, eyes beaming, and in the most excited four year old voice
“Because Jesus is our Prince! And I’m one of his princesses!”
I was hoping that she would say that Jesus is our King:
Because that’s what I tried to teach the children.
But I couldn’t help being pleased with the mere fact that she was so happy and
excited to boldly proclaim Jesus as her prince.
And in a way: she’s quite right.
After all: During the Christmas season: we’ll hear a lot about “The Prince of
Jesus IS our prince.
And not just at Christmas.
Jesus is always our prince, and always has been.
The birth of Jesus in the manger is not even the beginning of the story.
Which is why we celebrate Christ the King Sunday today:
On the last Sunday of the church year.
Because Jesus has been our king—our prince: all along.
Even before the creation of the world.
In today’s Gospel lesson Jesus says: “Come, you that are blessed by my Father:
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
INHERIT the KINGDOM:
Prepared for YOU.
Even before creation.
Christ the KING:
Has prepared a place for you:
Christ became human:
So that we could become divine.
That little girl was right:
She is a princess of God:
A child of God--
And we all are.
That’s why the creator became human:
So that the little girl could truly be Jesus’ princess.
So that all of us could be a part of the heavenly royal family.
And so today, after the sermon,
I’d like us to renew our baptismal covenant.
All of us: together:
As we say it, We support one another as part of Christ’s royal family:
As those who will inherit the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the
We will promise to ask for forgiveness when we make mistakes:
which we are sure to do.
We will promise to proclaim the Good News of Christ the King.
And: We will promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons: loving our neighbors
This promise: in the baptismal covenant:
Is EXACTLY what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel story.
Jesus tells us to feed the hungry:
To welcome the stranger:
To clothe the naked:
To take care for the sick:
To visit the imprisoned.
And he’s pretty clear: that in doing those things:
we not only serve those in need.
But we serve Christ himself.
Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are
members of my family, you did it to me.”
This is what it means to seek and serve Christ in ALL people.
How we treat others: who are members of Jesus’ family:
Is how we ultimately treat Jesus.
And if we remember:
If remember that Christ is the King of all creation:
That Christ has prepared a kingdom from the foundation of the world:
Christ made a place: before anyone: ANYONE was born.
Then he must have made that place for EVERYONE.
EVERY HUMAN BEING is a part of Jesus’ family.
Because Jesus is the King of everything.
Because God loves everyone the same.
There’s also that final question in the baptismal covenant:
Which asks “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect
the dignity of every human being?”
It does not say some people.
Or some human beings.
But ALL PEOPLE.
Because Everyone is a member of Jesus’ family:
And whatever we do to the least of these who are members of Jesus family: we
do it to him.
We celebrate being a part of that royal family:
Created for us:
And created for all:
Before we were born:
Before our ancestors were born:
Before this very earth was even in existence.
All thanks to Christ the King.
Happy Birthday to Charlie Johnson, Dave Nelson, Mike Sperger and Duey Stelzner
Parish Christmas Party 12/10 after the serivce.
~bring a $5 wrapped gift for Christmas BINGO!
Blue Christmas Service 12/20 at 6 pm
Christmas Eve Service at 4 pm (no morning service)
Today we get to talk about money again!!
Which is hard, because it’s something we don’t really like to talk about.
Whether we have a lot, or a little, we tend to keep our money close,
And we tend to keep our money secret.
But today, we’ve got to talk about it.
Today we hear yet another story from Jesus:
A story about Christ’s second coming:
About being ready, and prepared:
But it also includes MONEY.
In the story, a man goes on a journey:
And gives his slaves his money--
To keep it safe, and to invest it until the man returns at some unknown time.
This man didn’t just give his slaves a few coins.
He gave them “talents”
A talent: is thought to be a large sum of money:
Worth more than 15 years of wages for a laborer.
This is a lot of money.
Imagine being those slaves:
Getting hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep safe.
To one slave the man gave five talents: 75 years worth of wages.
To another he gave two: 30 years worth of wages.
And to a third slave, he gave one talent: still 15 years worth of wages.
The man was entrusting his money and property to these slaves while he was away.
The two slaves who were given five and 2 talents,
made more money out of what the man had given them.
They “Invested” it in some way.
But the slave with one talent, buried the talent in the ground:
and hid the money.
Some might say that this slave used the best method of security:
Burying the money in the ground, so it would not be lost.
When the owner returns, however, we see his anger.
That this particular slave, responded out of fear--
He was afraid:
Unwilling to take a risk: by burying his money in the ground.
I am not suggesting that everyone should invest all of their money.
Because that’s not what this story is about.
This story: is about positive action:
Responding to our responsibilities positively:
Rather than out of fear:
Rather than Out of negativity:
Or Rather than just doing nothing--
Burying what we have in the ground.
This story is about growing in our abundance when we live in Positive action.
As the master says at the end of the story: “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance;
But from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
We need not get hung up on that second part:
Because there is NO ONE who has absolutely nothing.
Everyone has SOMETHING:
But will the response be one of positive action?
Or fearful burying?
This story is about Acting Positively:
And it is where we get the word “talent” in our modern usage.
As in: to share our gifts and “talents”
Our “natural abilities”
The things we are good at, the things that we have been blessed with:
Is the same word used in this story, for a large sum of money.
In this month of November:
We have a heightened awareness of our money:
As the holiday season begins:
And all of the bargains for Christmas presents are already beginning.
But in this month of November,
We also have a heightened awareness of gratitude and thanksgiving.
Often: when we are grateful for what we have:
We put it to good use.
We don’t bury our gratitude in the ground.
We use our blessings:
We use our talents:
And we share them with the world.
I taught this, just this week with our girl scout troop.
We were learning about gratitude.
And how when we’re thankful:
We give more of ourselves as a way of saying thanks.
Our first and second grade girl scouts explored the things they were thankful for: and then we made treats to share with the teachers and staff at their school, as a way of saying thank you: For all they have given us.
We don’t bury our gratitude in the ground.
We use our blessings, and our talents,
And we share them with the world.
And this includes money.
But that’s sometimes harder.
We are fairly “okay” with sharing our “gifts and talents” with one another, and with our communities.
But sometimes sharing our money is a bit harder.
Because it’s scary.
We can live in fear: like the slave who buried the money.
Or we can respond positively:
By sharing what we have--
Including our money:
Because giving is really about how we say “thank you.”
It’s about responding out of positive gratitude for all that God has given us.
It’s also about sharing in relationship to what we have.
And all of us are different.
This is why, the man who went on a journey,
Gave talents to the slaves to “each according to his ability.”
We don’t all give the same amount:
Because we don’t all have the same amount.
And that’s okay:
As long as we respond in positive gratitude for what we DO Have.
Because we DO all have SOMETHING.
What do you have?
What is your ability?
What blessing can you give,
Out of the blessings that you have received?
The parable of the talents is not just about money.
But about remembering that we all have something to give.
Give according to your ability.
And give it joyfully.
Celebrating Birthdays: Jan Peske, Marian Becker and George Metko
See you Thanksgiving Eve for the Community Service at 6:30 pm.
Announcements: Thank you Fr. Wilson for joining us today. Celebrate and give thanks with us on Wednesday, November 22 at 6:30pm during the Ecumenical Thanksgiving eve Service and pie social to follow. Prayers for Pat and Corrie who will be having surgery this week.
Today we celebrate one of the Principal feasts in the Episcopal church.
We only have SEVEN principal feasts.
(Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas
Day, and the Epiphany).
And today’s feast:
The feast of All Saint’s day:
Is the ONLY one that isn’t about the triune God.
It’s not a day that celebrates something significant about Jesus (like
Christmas, Epiphany, or Ascension.)
It’s not a day that celebrates the holy spirit (Like Trinity Sunday)
And it’s not a day that celebrates the fullness of the triune God (like Trinity
All Saints day is the only principal feast that’s about mortal PEOPLE.
All Saints day where we recall the faithful servants of God:
Both living and departed:
And we profess that somehow,
We are mysteriously bound together with them across time and space
through our common spiritual heritage.
All Saints’ day is like reflecting on a family:
Filled with different personalities:
Each living into their respective lives and callings:
Yet bound by shared histories, customs, and relationships.
You could also think of All Saints as a team:
(I don’t want to say like the Green Bay Packers: But I feel sort of obligated
to say that here in Wisconsin)
But you know: a team of people: with participants from different
Who play their different roles, but all for a common purpose.
OR: I like to think of it as a quilt.
(Because I love making quilts)
All saints is like a quilt: where all different patterns and colors of fabric are
carefully stitched together:
Over a LONG TIME (Quilts take forever to make!)
And then: when it’s all together:
All the pieces combine to form a source of warmth:
And comfort: and home.
None of these images are perfect:
Because All saints is still a sort of mystery.
But what they all do:
Is show us the reality of being “knit together”
With the whole company of the faithful:
Even those who worship God in another time, or in another place:
In a greater light.
Our collect today literally says “Almighty God you have KNIT together your
elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your son
Christ our Lord.”
Today is the day that we celebrate that knitting.
That tie that binds all of us, and all those who came before us, and all those
who will come after us: into one common, mystical, body.
Today: All Saints: is the day where we truly celebrate the line that the priest
says at every Eucharist:
“Joining our voices with angels and archangels and ALL the company of
We are united to all the saints:
Knit together as a team:
Over the centuries, the church has identified the lives of the saints as
tangible expressions of the beatitudes:
The faithful who are poor in spirit:
Who mourn, who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
Who pursue peace.
It’s why we read the beatitudes for all saints day.
But let me be clear.
All Saints is not a celebration of self-righteousness.
These saints that we honor are NOT self righteous.
And some of them aren’t even famous.
And at the same time:
Might speak profound prophetic truth.
They’re life long learners:
Hungry: thirsty: to know more about God’s amazing love.
But those who strive to make connections and build relationships.
They’re people who mourn and grieve:
Who see the brokenness in our world:
And lament those deep losses.
All Saints day is not a principal feast because it lumps all these faithful
In an additive equation that makes it “big enough” to be principal.
All Saints is the celebration of the faithful:
And those that aren’t SPECIFICALLY remembered by name in the history
It’s about those saints that we’ve experienced and known in our own lives.
Those who mourned and grieved with us:
Those who spoke truth to us (even when the truth was hard to hear)
Those who taught us: and encouraged us to keep learning and growing.
And those people:
Those faithful disciples who had direct contact with us in our lives:
Are the ones that have shown us the work of God in the world.
Who are those people for you?
Who are the ordinary, yet saintly people who showed you that God’s love
can seep into the cracks and crevices of the human condition?
Those people who showed you that God’s love can be visible even in
lament and despair?
Those people who showed you that God’s love can be spoken through the
most un likely person?
Who are the people in your life that encouraged you to see yourself in a
Or to see God in a new way?
And what’s crazy is:
That the people that were that for me:
Are knitted to you.
And the people that were that to you:
Are sewed into a quilt with me.
And the people that were that to your daughter or son:
Are members of your team.
And the people that were that to another Christian across the globe:
Are a part of your spiritual family.
And today is the day to celebrate that.
The mystery that is the communion of saints.
The angels, and the archangels, and the company of heaven:
Woven, and sewn together with us: who are still living:
Into the team:
Maybe not today.
May we be those ordinary faithful saints to someone else:
Through lament that ultimately leads to comfort.
Through hunger and thirst for righteousness,
Through speaking prophetic truth:
Through reconciliation, and relationship building that brings peace.
With the angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven:
Let us rejoice today:
Remembering the ordinary saints in our own lives:
And let us strive to be those saints to others.
Announcements: Luanne shared about all the blessings the Food Pantry has received, The Thrift Store is in need of volunteers. Contact Pam 920-982-4141.
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“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
The question comes to Jesus during Holy week.
Right before his arrest and crucifixion.
It’s the last of the interrogations by the religious authorities in Matthew’s Gospel.
And it’s certainly a big one.
Perhaps THE biggest one.
Because here: Jesus gives us the overarching principle that will guide our lives.
Jesus’ response was both typical and not.
He begins his response in a rather predictable way: “‘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.”
Here: Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6.
But that’s not all: because Jesus adds a bit more.
The Pharisees ask Jesus for the greatest commandment.
He gives it.
But then he gives the second greatest:
Which is not really a separate commandment:
But perhaps an explanation of how we can fully live into the first.
To love your neighbor as yourself.
This is a paraphrase of Leviticus 19 which says:
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but
you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
Jesus then tells the Pharisees that all the “law and the prophets” The two major
bodies of text that make up the Hebrew Scriptures: Are dependent upon these
The Pharisees would have known all this: not just the paraphrased portion that
But they would have known the entire passage by heart.
Now, we’ve talked millions of times about how our lives are meant to be lived out
That life is difficult.
Even the Christian life is difficult:
And we need each other to live it.
And we also know that Living in community is hard work.
Disagreements are bound to happen,
Other people will annoy you and you will annoy other people.
Our tendency: when we have disagreements: is to “cut and run”
To leave the community or relationship and find another one.
Funny enough: when we leave without resolving our issues,
When we go somewhere else:
We invariably find the same problems, the same disagreements, with others in
the new community.
When we leave out of anger:
Out of unresolved issues: History often repeats itself:
Behavior replicates itself and there is no reconciliation or opportunity for spiritual
We can act pious and holy all we want,
but unless we do the hard work of forgiveness and reconciliation:
Our faith is kind of a sham.
Nobody said it would be easy.
It’s easy to say we love our neighbors in the abstract –
But it’s much harder to put it into practice.
In fact, Jesus’ command to love our enemies sometimes seems easier.
We tend to push enemies away and keep them out of our lives.
It’s easy to love in the abstract, at arm’s length.
But maybe that’s not love at all.
Because Love, is about relationships.
It’s hard to love up close when things get messy:
loving our next-door neighbor, whose dog barks incessantly and who won’t do
anything about it;
or members of our congregation who don’t see things our way or just bug us;
or community leaders who don’t listen to our concerns;
or the priest who just doesn’t get it.
In each case, what makes it hard is the pride of our own egos:
The pride that seeks the self rather than the good of the other.
But letting go of the ego is the way of the cross:
The way of Christ.
As Christians: we uphold living in community--
Which means loving God and neighbor--
And by extension letting go of the need for fighting, vengeance and grudges.
It is a way of spiritual transformation that calls us into becoming more Christ-
like— and Into becoming spiritual adults.
Sister Joan Chittister, an author and nun writes:
“Adulthood is not a matter of becoming completely independent of the people
who lay claim to our lives. Adulthood is a matter of being completely open to the
insights that come to us from our superiors and our spouses, our children and our
friends, so that we can become more than we can even begin to imagine for
This is the transforming power of God –
and it comes to us through our neighbors who are up close and in our face.
It comes to us by being in real relationship with one another.
Life in community is hard work.
And Jesus’ two commandments show us that we cannot love God and harbor
hatred for the people that God loves.
Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, only comes with humility:
The humility to love the very people that God loves too.
Even those who seem to us to be unlovable.
Because, after all: none of us are fully loveable ALL the time.
And this is where we see the Grace of God.
The TRANSFORMING Grace of God.
When we are at our worst and most unloveable, God still comes to us.
That radical, unmerited love has the power to move our hearts to love our
Even the ones hardest to love.
Which is no easy work.
But we undertake it.
Quite imperfectly to be sure,
Because in doing so we experience grace, mercy, and healing in Action:
Laying down our egos, our long held grudges and resentments,
And seeking the way of love is where we find the fullness of life in Christ and one
Let’s take a moment of silence together now,
To pray for those that are hard for us to love.
Try to think of those people, that make Jesus’ commandment to love your
Let’s pray to have our hearts opened,
And ready to love those who seem unlovable.
Let’s pray for ourselves: that we might find the strength to love our Lord with our
whole heart, soul, an minds, and to love our neighbors (ALL our neighbors) as
Save the Date: Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service at St. John's, 6pm, Wednesday, 11/22/2023, see the calendar
and Pie Social
Happy 31st Wedding anniversary on Tuesday to Sue and Duey Stelzner
Welcome to our annual stewardship Sunday!
I was shocked to discover that on the day we talk about giving money to the
We were handed a Gospel text that talks about money.
(I swear I didn’t plan it that way!)
And it’s not just about Money:
But everyone’s favorite topic:
But this story isn’t actually about taxes at all.
And it’s also not really a debate about the relationship between Church and State.
Instead, Jesus is stuck in a conversation with some people who are trying to trick
Under the guise of taxes.
It started out as a plot to get Jesus in trouble,
Or at the very least arrested,
And at the most, killed.
Matthew, the Gospel writer says upfront that these Pharisees were trying “to
entrap Jesus in what he said.”
They were plotting against him:
Trying to trick him and trap him.
That if they ask him if it’s lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not,
That no matter which way Jesus answers,
Someone will want to go after him.
If Jesus says that it’s NOT lawful to pay taxes to the emperor,
Then he could be arrested for treason.
If he says that it IS lawful to pay taxes to the emperor,
Then he is discredited as a good and faithful Jew:
Because in that time, in that empire,
paying the emperor was like claiming his divinity:
Making the emperor into a God and idol:
A big no-no for the Jews.
No matter what:
Jesus is trapped.
The Pharisees ask him a yes or no question,
Knowing that both answers will get Jesus in trouble in one way or another.
But as we’ll see,
As we KNOW:
Jesus will not be tricked.
And Jesus will not be trapped.
Instead, he asks for a coin.
And that coin was not too different from our own coins today.
Instead of an image of a president:
That coin had on it the image of the emperor.
And pointing to the image on the coin Jesus says the famous words,
“Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the
things that are God’s.”
Holding the coin, Jesus refuses to fall into the trap,
He refuses to answer yes or no,
And instead, he basically says, “give it back to whom it belongs.”
And since it has the emperors face on it,
it obviously belongs to the emperor.
It’s not actually a statement about taxes.
It’s not a statement about the relationship of religious people to their
But it is a statement about ownership.
And about belonging.
As usual, Jesus doesn’t make it easy.
And his words aren’t simple.
All he says is, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s
and to God the things that are God’s.”
He doesn’t tell us which is which.
He doesn’t give us a clear division:
That this is the emperors,
This is God’s.
And this is what you get to keep yourself.
So we have to draw on what we already know,
In order to see that what Jesus is talking about is much deeper than taxes, money,
The coin belongs to the emperor because it was stamped with the emperor’s
It was marked with an inscription that probably said, “Tiberius Caesar, majestic
son of divine Augustus, High Priest.”
At the very least, that particular coin, belonged particularly to Caesar.
It literally said so.
It was made BY the emperor for the emperor’s purpose.
If the coin is stamped and marked in the image of the emperor,
it belongs to the emperor.
So what belongs to God?
What is stamped and marked in the image of God?
What is created for God’s purpose?
I think you know the answer.
One characteristic of human beings in particular:
Over all other animals:
Is that we are created in the image of God.
And that’s not all.
We believe that we are further marked,
Or using the same language as the coin:
We are stamped, and inscribed with the sign of the cross in baptism.
As my favorite line in the prayer book says,
The words that the priest says when anointing a recently baptized person:
“You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism,
And marked as Christ’s own forever.”
It’s who we are.
Humans, made in God’s image,
Marked as Christ’s own forever.
BUT even THAT’S NOT ALL.
We also believe that GOD:
Became human, in the person of Jesus:
Became ONE OF US.
So that we might become even more like him.
The image of us,
the image of God,
The image of Jesus himself,
Are all wrapped up in each other.
Belonging to each other.
When Jesus says, Give to the emperor the things that are the emperors and to
God the things that are Gods,”
He’s not merely talking about money, taxes, or politics.
He’s talking about our deepest allegiances,
Our ultimate loyalty,
And the REALITY of who we really are,
Who we are made to be.
We belong to God.
And all that we do is to be marked by that conviction.
All the competing claims for our lives,
And for our allegiances,
Should be understood in the light of who we are,
And whose we are.
Whose image, likeness, and stamp we bear.
That same one: JESUS:
Who took on humanity in its fullness,
In order for us to bear that stamp even more deeply.
This doesn’t make our politics easier.
It doesn’t give us answers about the tax code,
Or what kind of tax reform might be best.
But it does remind us of who we are, and whose we are.
And that should guide our efforts as we move throughout this broken world.
Give to God what is God’s--
For God owns that which he has made in his own image.
God is Lord over that which bears his inscription.
It is God’s image,
And in other.
That should guide our actions,
For justice, compassion, righteousness, and truth.
It is God’s image that gives value and meaning to what we do,
And to who we are.
It is God who marks us,
And with love breathes upon us.
It is God’s image that assures us that who we ARE matters.
That what we DO matters.
And today, in just a moment,
we have the opportunity fill out a pledge card for our giving to God:
Particularly to God through St. John’s Church.
And if we’re being honest:
We know that our money is huge part of our lives:
(Not the only part: And not the most important part) but certainly a big part.
Our money is also a huge part of our selves:
And our lives, our selves:
Our image and our likeness is that of Gods.
I urge you now:
To take a few moments of silence,
Fill out your card:
And you’re ready: come up and offer it on the altar,
And Give, therefore, to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s.
But Give to God the things that are God’s.
Next Sunday: Stewardship Sunday and Pie Social, Join us!
Happy Birthday Pam O'Brian
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“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.”
We haven’t had sweet Gospel stories lately, have we?
This parable that Jesus tells today is a hard one to wrap our heads around--
Its hard to understand what Jesus is getting at.
But I think what Jesus is getting at, is the larger story of salvation history,
all the way up until Jesus’ time,
and the confrontation between himself, and the religious leadership of his day.
As it says at the end of the passage,
“When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that
he was speaking about them.”
Using another parable about God’s vineyard,
Jesus likens the religious leaders of his time to the wicked tenants, who beat,
stone, and kill the land owners slaves.
And ultimately, Jesus foretells of his own death,
As the wicked tenants in the parable also kill the landowners son.
No doubt those leaders felt threatened and angry:
And decided to arrest Jesus.
But they had to wait for the time to be right, because they were afraid of
resistance from Jesus’ followers.
And we know what happens next:
Jesus’ betrayal and arrest,
His trial and crucifixion,
All followed by the resurrection that began a whole new relationship between
God and humanity.
It’s a story that we already know,
Even if it’s hard for us to initially figure out what’s going on and who’s who in the
So let’s sum it up:
God the landowner has a vineyard: And the vineyard represents the people of
God leases the vineyard to tenant farmers, who are the Jewish religious leaders.
When the time is right, the landowner sends his slaves, who are the old testament
prophets to collect the produce of the vineyard.
The religious leader tenants beat, stone and kill the prophets,
And eventually even kill the landowners only Son, Jesus.
In the end, the landowner takes the vineyard away from the tenant farmers,
He puts them to a miserable death, and leases the vineyard to a new people,
People who are not just the Israelites,
but all those who follow Jesus, and produce the fruit of God’s kingdom.
Once we understand who is who in the story,
It’s a nice enough story, as long as we are the ones who are producing fruit.
It’s not so nice if we’re the tenants:
The tenants who failed to give God his due,
And suffered a miserable death,
Losing all they had hoped to gain for refusing to pay their fair rent,
Not giving God the landowner what he deserved.
The hard reality is that sometimes we ARE like the tenants.
Sometimes we shy away from what Jesus would have us do.
Sometimes we are selfish.
Sometimes we participate in violence.
Sometimes we refuse to share the fruits of the vineyard.
Sometimes we fail to respond lovingly to the gifts of God’s creation that envelop
How can we face the seeming inconsistency of knowing God as loving, gracious,
and all giving on the one hand,
And on the other--
Seeing God as judging and punishing?
Do wicked tenants make for a wicked god?
In order to answer that question,
We have to start with the fact that God initiates the relationship with US.
Not the other way around.
(Remember God’s invitation to the vineyard in last week’s parable?)
God calls us to be in unity with God and all people.
God’s reaching out to us is best understood as his giving us everything we have--
With no strings attached:
And without our deserving it.
Without our having done anything to gain it.
Our collect for today puts it well,
That God always wants to give more than we either DESIRE or DESERVE.
Jesus made it clear that we are the most precious beings in all creation:
That we are worth dying for.
We don’t have to earn God’s love:
It’s given freely.
So why would a loving God put us to a miserable death?
Maybe it’s not God:
But we who might choose that for ourselves.
The wicked tenants received all they needed from the landowner,
But they refused to accept his graciousness.
They turned their backs on him, his servants, and even his son.
And they were given multiple opportunities to try again.
They weren’t even cast out the first time that they participated in violence,
But instead, it wasn’t until the THIRD time.
By their actions and inactions,
They cast themselves out of the vineyard.
One could even say its similar to the way that Adam and Eve’s disobedience
resulted in their loss of the benefits of the Garden of Eden.
The miserable death we might experience can only result from our failure to
accept the gifts of God,
And respond to them in thanksgiving,
Again and again and again.
The miserable death can only result from our selfishly acting as if the vineyard is
Or should be all ours and no one else’s, let alone God’s,
And doing so again, and again, and again.
We have the capability to cast ourselves out of God’s vineyard:
Producing a self-inflicted kind of misery,
That we alone can create.
Today’s Gospel is not a story about a vengeful wicked God.
It’s a warning for us about what we can miss out on if we act like the wicked
It reminds us that God gives us more than we either deserve or DESIRE.
It’s like the words to the famous doxology:
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”
Praise God who freely gives us more than we deserve or desire.
And what we have is not ours to own,
But is on loan from God.
We need to remember that God’s way of grace and love is wooing us to respond
to our good fortune,
Of living in his vineyard,
By reflecting that love in our actions toward others.
And remembering that we have been blessed, in order to be a blessing.
God has already set up the vineyard for us.
And it’s more than we deserve,
More than we can even desire.
But it remains God’s vineyard.
We can share it,
Or we can try to hoard it for ourselves.
We can stay,
Or we can go.
God has already acted.
The next choice is ours.
We are WEEKS deep into hearing Parables from Matthew’s Gospel.
And today’s parable is yet another illustration of what God is like.
It’s also an illustration that reminds us what WE are like.
In a conversation with the Chief priests and elders in the temple,
Jesus tells a story about a father and his two sons.
The father asks both of his sons to go to work in the family vineyard.
The first son says something like, “Sure! I’ll get right on that!”
But in the end, he doesn’t follow through.
We know what that’s like.
We ask our spouse or child to take out the trash, or empty the dishwasher, and
they say “Sure! I’ll get right on that:
Just as soon as its halftime.”
Or “Sure! After this chapter is over.”
Or “Sure! At the end of this episode.”
If we’re honest, more than a few of us have surely been guilty of that response
We all know the first son because we’ve all made promises or commitments that,
for whatever reason we fail to keep.
But then there’s this other son.
This is the son who gets most of Jesus’ attention.
Unlike his brother, the second son initially says he won’t help out in the vineyard.
But then he winds up doing so in the end.
Now, we can ask all sorts of questions about why the second son changed his
Preachers and biblical scholars have been asking those questions for centuries:
But that’s not what we’re going to dig into today.
The truth that this parable brings to bear has nothing to do with the second son’s
And EVERYTHING to do with the fact that in the end:
He showed up.
In fact, the pattern of this parable is the pattern of our life with God.
No matter what we’ve done,
Or what may have initially prevented us,
God is always extending an invitation to us.
We are constantly being drawn into a new place--
To new depths of faith.
No matter if this is the first time we’ve heard the Gospel,
Or if we’ve been faithful Christians for decades:
This parable shows us one significant fact:
That God isn’t done with us yet.
Although we might wish for God to say to us,
“Okay. You’ve gone far enough:
You can retire now and spend the rest of your days relaxing in the back pew”
The truth is that the Christian life has no top status.
And in order to live into God’s invitation:
We must be willing to leave the past behind--
No matter how comfortable or familiar or profitable--
And turn toward the future:
Complete with all of its uncertainties and questions and anxieties.
And that’s HARD!
Consider the Chief priests and the elders of Jesus’ time.
They had quite a bit invested in the status quo.
Leaving the past behind,
Meant forfeiting their claims to power and position:
Which had become a part of their identities.
Stepping into life with Jesus meant leaving all of that behind in favor of a future
they couldn’t fully predict and couldn’t control.
One can’t help but wonder if the first son had similar thoughts.
After all, saying “yes” is the easy part--
Particularly when we don’t pause to consider the costs.
But actually doing the work?
Actually showing up?
That’s a different story.
God isn’t satisfied with just letting things stay the way that they are.
There’s always more work to do;
More kingdom to build,
And we hear that, and we get excited and we say,
“Yes! Sign me up! That’s what I want!”
But then reality sets in and we look around and we think.
“Hmmm… The status quo really isn’t all bad.
My life is okay the way it is now.
I don’t need to do the extra stuff.
I’ll just settle back in.
Plus: Who knows if I’m going to like the work that God is calling me to?
And more importantly, who knows if I’m going to get along with the OTHER
people who show up to work in God’s vineyard?
So… I know that I said yes, but I’ve thought about it, and well…”
Then there’s the other son.
And for as much as preaches and scholars have wondered why he changed his
mind, I can’t help but wonder what made him say “no” in the first place.
Could it be that he himself had been told “no” so many times that he thought
When all you’ve ever known is oppression, why in the world would you trust that
this time would be any different?
But as our parables usually show us:
God isn’t like you and me.
God doesn’t take no for an answer.
Although institutions and structures and people do their best to wall off and box
God is always breaking barriers and crossing lines and pushing boundaries to
invite us to new and abundant life!
The parable that Jesus tells is universal because at one time or another,
Every single one of us has found ourselves in that thin place between the relative
ease and comfort of saying “yes,” to God:
And actually putting one foot in front of the other and walking along the rocky
and dirt-paved path to the vineyard.
We’re all caught somewhere between the excited “yes” of the first son,
and the slow conversion, change of heart of the second son.
Much like the first son,
We’ve all been fed one of the biggest lies ever told in the name of Christianity:
That following Jesus would be easy.
And much like the second son,
We all know what it’s like to feel as if too much has been asked and that its too
far to go.
But at the end of the day, one thing remains true:
There’s more kingdom to build,
More vineyard work to be done:
And God has put out the call to all who dare to join him.
So Come to the vineyard for work!
Even if you show up late:
Even if you don’t want to come the first time your invited. (or even the second or
God CONTINUES welcomes you to the vineyard:
And you can walk in and join in on the work at any time.
no video of sermon today
In the Episcopal Church, and many other mainline denominations,
our Sunday readings come from a compilation called the Lectionary.
The lectionary runs on a three year cycle:
Which means that every three years, we hear the same stories,
And TWELVE years ago, when we heard this parable of the laborers in the
Was a day that I remember well.
I was in seminary,
And I was working at a small church in Connecticut—Emmanuel Episcopal
It was also known as “The Little Church in the Wilderness”
I was hired there to start a Sunday School program
And I was the sole Sunday school teacher.
In a one room school house style,
children from age 3 to age 12 sat with me on Sunday morning to hear the Gospel
After I told the children the Gospel story we read today—I asked them to draw or
write about the story--
This activity was something that we did every single week.
On that day—the kids said to me, “We need a very big piece of paper.”
When I asked why, they said,
“We’re going to draw one big picture all together--
Because we’re a community.”
They said it as if it were the most common thing in the world--
And looked at me as if I were a moron.
I was stunned.
And obviously couldn’t argue with that.
They spent the rest of the time,
Working together on a big picture of these laborers in the vineyard.
At the very top, they wrote:
“No Matter what, God loves everyone the same!”
That was a very proud day for this Sunday School teacher.
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
And here I am, twelve years later: telling you about it in a sermon.
Because it’s the DEEP TRUTH.
We are indeed a community--
A community who needs to do things together--
who needs to support one another.
This has been a consistent theme in the last few weeks.
We heard about resolving conflicts in our communities,
And we heard about the importance of forgiveness.
And today we hear that we’re also a community of equality--
Where God loves each of us the same.
And never abandons anyone--
Never gives up on anyone--
No matter what time they arrive--
No matter how long they’ve been working.
Jesus’ story tells us about a landowner,
who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
At 9’oclock he went out and found some more laborers,
He did the same at noon,
3’oclock, and 5’oclock.
And all of those laborers,
Get paid the same amount.
Is it an Injustice?
Or could it be justice?
It strikes me that the kids at the little church in the wilderness had no problem
with the seeming unfairness of this passage.
It made perfect sense to them.
But to our grown up modern ears--
This story seems unfair.
The workers—who have been working ALL day--
Get paid the exact same amount as the workers who worked for only one hour.
It seems unfair.
It seems unjust.
Especially because it’s about MONEY.
But we must remember that this is a parable--
Which means its a story that Jesus tells to illustrate what the Kingdom of heaven
And in this story, God is like the landowner,
And we are like the laborers.
Jesus isn’t talking about our understandings of THIS WORLD--
Where we are rewarded or paid by the hour.
Or where if you’re first in line, you are guaranteed the newest i-phone, or tickets
to the polar express train.
And if you’re too far back—you might not get one.
Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of Heaven--
Where our understandings get turned upside down.
Where there’s real equality.
Where God promises to love every person No. Matter. What.
Looking at it again,
This passage should not strike us as unfair.
After all: The laborers who worked all day AGREED to the wage ahead of time.
And they were given the wage that they agreed to.
The landowner did not trick them.
The landowner did not take anything away from them.
He just gave everyone else the same amount too.
This passage should instead strike us as a relief.
Not as unfairness:
But as the most GENERIOUS FAIRNESS possible.
It should give us great hope that God is a God of equality.
A great and generous God.
A God who never abandons.
A God who forever loves everyone.
But that’s also sometimes the hard part.
(Are you on to me yet? That I’m almost always going to bring us to the hardest
Because if God is a God of equality--
A God of generosity--
Then although God loves you DEEPLY, VIGOUROSLY, COMPLETELY,
No matter where you are in line, or when you showed up to work--
That also means that:
God also loves EVERY ONE else that way too.
That’s hard for us to grasp--
In a culture of winners and losers.
A culture where people “get what they deserve.”
A culture paranoid with being the best.
Having the most.
Climbing the ladder,
Grasping for the top.
It’s amazing to me that the children at the Church in the Wilderness deeply
That “God loves everyone the same.”
And I didn’t tell them that when I read them this story.
I literally just read them the story.
They figured it out all by themselves.
And they proceeded to live into it:
To participate in a common project--
All the same--
There was no way they could evaluate who drew the best picture--
Or who wrote the smartest thing.
Because they did it all together--
As a community--
Knowing that God loves them ALL the same.
And generously gives to everyone ALL the same--
Regardless of what anyone deserves:
God has set out to create a huge community of equality.
A community of unimaginable “Fairness”
But where Fairness becomes something quite different than our culture currently
In God’s kingdom,
Fairness and Justice is God loving all of us the same:
Loving EVERYONE ELSE The same too.
No matter how many people enter our doors,
No matter how long we’ve been working,
No matter how long we’ve been members of the church.
No matter where we live,
No matter where we are in line,
No matter what.
God loves all of us the same.
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