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Matthew 21:23-32 “Will You or Won’t You?” RSUMC 20140929

JakElwd_BrothersWhen 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. “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. 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. 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. [New Revised Standard]

Who is invited?

Text: The question is framed by a conversation about authority. Jesus makes the authorized teachers and leaders nervous and uncomfortable at the temple.

Cut the chase: Jesus you don’t belong here, you are not doing things the right way. You are rocking our boat and we don’t like the waves. We want you and and our comfort restored.

Who is doing what it right?

Text: The challenge of authority is rebuffed through a rabbinical challenge of conversation, logical and teaching. Jesus answers question with a question. Was John the Baptist a prophet? If they say yes just as so many in the community believed they are saying John had authority from God that was different from the temple polity and pecking order. If God can work around the temple leaders, why not work through Jesus as well.

If the teachers and leaders said John the Baptist was not a prophet they would challenge the faith and experiences of the community that found awakening and revival through John. They’re only option to save face is to say, “I dun’ know.”

Who is welcome?

Text: Jesus teaches with a parable, which is a teaching style Jesus introduces for the wise and the not so wise. It is an obvious conclusion: Who is the faithful son of the father? The one who says yes but does not go, Or the one who says no but ends up doing what the father expects? Answer: duh! the one who does the work.

Who is at home? Authority, Welcome, Belonging

Text: John spoke the words the teachers and leaders were suppose to be telling and teaching. The people responded to God’s call but not at the direction of the established insiders.

Who is who is in the teaching? Are we the bold prophets proclaiming a call for repentance? Are we going about our travels proclaiming goodness to those who are forgotten, rejected or excluded? Are we those who are comfortable in the cozy familiar safety of the church and hope people will take it upon themselves to be more like us so they can feel safe and cozy too?

Homework: Tell me you won’t go welcome someone to church next Sunday, but then actually go do just that. Say I won’t do, but do the opposite. Tell you neighbor on your pew. I’m not going to do anything bold this week. Safe and mediocre will do, but during this week you see, hear or find someone who needs grace, love and welcome. And you bring them home to the spring.

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