I'd like begin by calling to mind the words of the today's Psalm, before we break open Matthew's Gospel.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
words from Jesus today, were spoken first to the chief priests and elders.
Jesus at this point in his earthly ministry has fed the thousands, has walked
on water has demonstrated that he is a teacher and preacher like no other,
giving us the beatitudes.
along the way he has been warning his disciples about these very chief priests
and elders. These would be the ones that would hand
him over; under their authority he would suffer and die.
we are. He has made his way to Jerusalem. He
has ridden in on a donkey to the cries of children singing out:
Hosanna, to the son of David!
cleansed the temple, made it again a sacred place for healing and for teaching.
And after he did all of this -- as he has stepped fully into his authority as the Son of God, as the
master teacher and preacher -- the chief
priests and elders ask him, just before this passage:
"By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?"
This is the question they have just asked him. And he responds with a parable--this parable that holds up a mirror to us this morning, just as it held up a mirror to the chief priests and elders.
What is this parable of the two sons?
The one who first says, "Oh no, I'm not doing that. I'm not going to go out and do the work in the vineyard."
Maybe some of us can resonate with that in our own spiritual journey, our walk with God -- that when God calls us our first instinct is to say, "Oh no, I'm not going there to do that work."
of my three-year-old son, who -- every single time his older sister asks him to
share something-- the first response he always has
is "No!" But if you just wait a few moments,
you'll see the wheels turning, he'll often change his mind, reaching out
to say, “Here Micaela, I'm ready to share."
parable of the first son reveals that God knows that often our first response
is to say, "No way." And so God waits, and in God's mercy gives us
the space and grace to make another choice, to go out
and in fact, work in the vineyard.
brings us to the second son, the son who says, “Yes,"
but then doesn't go.
How many of us have said our "yes" to God -- have met our Sunday obligation all these years, have served on parish councils, have taught the baptismal prep classes. We are saying “yes,” desiring to do this work in the fields... but find ourselves maybe growing stale, or feeling overwhelmed? What good could this “yes” do in a world that seems hell-bent on violence and death dealing? Where is this authority of Jesus that he seems to be professing and inviting us to.
“Sure, Jesus, yes. But I need a break. (I heard about a new show on Netflix that I think I need to catch…)
I'm going to stay home.”
some of us are feeling convicted and challenged by this second son in the
asks these chief priests which one does the will of the father. They get it
right. They often knew the right answers, the right way to do things: The first one. That's who does the will of
And Jesus responds, Yes! Can't you see, my authority here... on whose authority do I preach and teach and heal and set free? Somehow my authority is bound up here on earth, in your willingness to go and do the work in the fields.
awesome and terrifying mystery this is! Jesus gestures in this parable that
somehow his authority here on earth is deeply bound to our own willingness to
turn and do the work in the vineyard.
this good news this morning: In a world that
tries to lock us in to different factions and divisions, parties and roles, to
convince us that the only way to be in the world is to exercise our little bit
of authority over those who might be under us... it's not too late to chose a
If we said no, it's not too late to turn and believe. And go do the work that God is calling us to do – God’s work of healing and love, of care and welcome of the stranger.
said, “Yes,” but maybe have been hedging,
afraid to take a risk and step out, and stretch, it's not too late to embody
that yes -- to let it live and trust that God does go with us, that God
promises to go with us, that the God who remembers his mercy, shows us the way.
"Yet even when you saw that
you did not later change your minds and believe him."
This morning may we hear God's invitation to turn and change our minds.
Casey Stanton, M.Div., spent the last two years working as a chaplain with Interfaith Prison Ministry for Women at the Raleigh Correctional Institute for Women. It was here that her call to preach was awakened. She deepened her formation with Clinical Pastoral Education training at the Durham Veterans Affairs Hospital.
Ms. Stanton has over a decade of experience working in leadership development and building collective citizen power with diverse coalitions of faith communities, labor unions, and nonprofits. Her commitment to political engagement emerges from her faith convictions and her experience with women who are survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
From 2007 to 2010, Casey worked closely with clergy and lay leaders in South Bend, IN and St. Louis, MO to bring the Gospel to life and help bring congregations into public life around affordable housing and transportation access. This led Casey to become the Deputy Director of national Transportation Equity Network in Washington DC and then to work with the Department of Field Mobilization and Training for the 300,000 member Amalgamated Transit Union.
Most recently, Casey joined the organizing staff at Durham CAN, an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) network. In this capacity, she works with a broad base of faith communities in coalition with others to address issues of affordable housing, immigration advocacy, public education, access to good jobs, and police accountability.
Casey currently serves as a lector in her parish, Immaculate Conception in Durham, NC, where she lives with her partner, Felipe and their two children. Ms. Stanton holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame and in 2016 graduated summa cum laude with a Master of Divinity Degree from Duke University.
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