Come, let us return to the Lord, that we may live before him. Hosea 6:1a, 2b
Grant, O merciful God,
that your people may have that mind that was in
Christ Jesus, who emptied himself, and took the
form of a servant,
and in humility became obedient even to death.
For you have highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name, Jesus Christ, the Lord;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, in everlasting glory. Amen.
- Exodus 17:1-7
- Psalm 78:1-4, 11-16
- Philippians 2
- Matthew 21:23-32
- Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
- Psalm 19
- Philippians 3
- Matthew 21:33-46
A Thought to Ponder
Pentecost 17 Matthew 21:23-32
The parable of the two sons: “Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.”
Today’s parable of the two sons is a devastating condemnation of the Jewish religious leaders whose faith is confined to words and rituals. Jesus states unequivocally that those the self-righteous consider to be the very antithesis of religious will be welcomed by God into his presence before the “professional” religious.
Prostitutes and tax collectors were the most despised outcasts in Judaism. In light of the First Testament tradition of God’s relationship with Israel as a “marriage” and Israel’s disloyalty as “harlotry,” prostitution was considered an especially heinous sin. Tax collectors were, in the eyes of Palestinian Jews, the very personification of corruption and theft. According to the Roman system of tax collection, tax collectors (also called publicans) would pay the state a fixed sum based on the theoretical amount of taxes due from a given region. The publican, in return, had the right to collect the taxes in that region – and they were not above using terrorism and extortion to collect. Tax collectors, as agents of the state, were also shunned as collaborators with Israel’s Roman captors.
Jesus’ declaration that those guilty of the most abhorrent of sins would enter God’s kingdom before them deepened the Jewish establishment’s animosity toward Jesus.
Jesus’ simple story of the two sons takes the Gospel out of the realm of the “theoretical” and places the mercy of God into the midst of our messy, complicated everyday lives. Compassion, forgiveness and mercy are only words until our actions give full expression to those values in our relationships with others; our calling ourselves Christians and disciples of Jesus means nothing until our lives express that identity in the values will uphold and the beliefs we live.
The words of the Gospel must be lived; Jesus’ teachings on justice, reconciliation and love must be the light that guides us, the path we walk, the prayer we work to make a reality. Discipleship begins within our hearts, where we realize Christ’s presence in our lives and in the lives of others and then honouring that presence in meaningful acts of compassion and charity.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shatters labels and stereotypes in order to uphold the sacred dignity of all men and women in the eyes of God. Christ calls us to move beyond our own contemporary version of the designations of “tax collector” and “prostitute” to recognize, instead, the holiness that resides within the soul of every person, who is, like us, a child of God.
You can read the Pew Sheet herePentecost-17-A