The Season after Pentecost: Proper 24, Year A

Power & Authority

  • Exodus 33:12-23
  • Psalm 99
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
  • Matthew 22:1-15

Today’s Gospel is a timely one, as the gap between rich and poor continues to grow. We are a nation of economic privilege, yet the divide grows larger between those who have and those who don’t have. Joseph Donders, writes in his poem from Jesus the Stranger: Reflections on the Gospel:

[God] coined us in [God’s] image . . . We are [God’s] money, and we should be spent . . . Money should circulate; money should go from hand to hand, we should go from hand to hand; . . . money should be used, we should be used; . . . money is going to be worn, we should be going to be worn.
We should be spent, we are coins, God is trying to use us, to pay off our debts, to pay off our debts we owe each other here on earth . . . 
Let us risk being used, and we will be increased, and the end will be glory . . . 

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 23, Year A

The Messianic Banquet

  • Exodus 32:1-14
  • Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23
  • Philippians 4:1-9
  • Matthew 22:1-14

Two parables are in today’s Gospel reading: the invitation to the wedding feast and the wedding garment. The first parable suggests that the Kingdom of God will become known whether people are ready for it or not. It is God’s gift, and all sorts of people will be included, though many may not be worthy by the standards of the world. The second parable reminds us that we must be ready for the King at all times. His invitation comes unexpectedly. Continue reading

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 22, Year A

Fruits of the Kingdom

  • Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
  • Psalm 19
  • Philippians 3:4b-14
  • Matthew 21:33-46

This Sunday we have another parable located in a vineyard. The story is an allegory: the landowner is God, the vineyard is Israel, and the tenants are the people of Israel. The servants are the prophets who endured insult, imprisonment, beating and even death to bring God’s message to the people. The final messenger is God’s son – the Messiah and heir.

Jesus uses the imagery of Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard as the religious leaders continue to question his authority. Jesus begins by describing a common practice in first-century Palestine in which an absentee landowner planted a vineyard and then leased it out to tenants for a share of the final crop in payment. At harvest time, the landowner sent his slaves to collect his share. However, the tenants beat the slaves and killed one of them. When the landowners sent even more slaves a second time, they too were beaten and driven away. Thus the landowner decided to send his son in the belief that “They will respect my son”. However, the tenants plotted together and killed the son in order to seize his inheritance. Continue reading

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 21, Year A

True righteousness

  • Exodus 17:1-17
  • Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
  • Philippians 2:1-13
  • Matthew 21:23-32

In these days of early autumn the parables of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel seem to pile on, one after the other. They are not only histories of confrontation between religious leaders and Jesus; they also function to confront and subvert our accommodations to the world around us as we live in this society.

Today’s parable of a man and his two sons was originally told by Jesus to warn the religious types of his day that they couldn’t afford to be complacent: they might say they were serving God, but all sorts of sinful people were serving God much better. In other words, actions speak louder than words. It is better to repent and obey than to promise obedience and do nothing about it.

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 20, Year A

God’s gracious compassion and generosity

  • Exodus 16:2-15
  • Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
  • Philippians 1:21-30
  • Matthew 20:1-16

Matthew narrates one of Jesus’ controversial parables, in which Jesus says the reign of God is like workers who get paid the same no matter when they start. The parable about the laborers in the vineyard is not a commentary on economic justice, but an illustration of the boundless generosity of God. It challenges our common assumption that God rewards people according to what they have earned or deserve.

Knowing the immense power of a first-century Palestinian landowner, Jesus compares this powerful position to God’s freedom to dispense gifts where God wills. The rewards of discipleship are not earned, but given (19:26). Begrudging God’s generosity is inappropriate. There is enough for all. Continue reading

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 19, Year A

Living in community under God’s dominion over evil and sin.

  • The Collect (BCP 182/233): We ask that God’s Holy Spirit may direct our lives and rule our hearts in all things.
  • Exodus 14:19-31: The Lord saves Israel from the Egyptians as Moses divides the waters and the people cross onto dry land. This creation theme helps interpret Israel’s exodus out of Egypt as God’s defeat of the primal forces of evil and chaos in the world.
  • Psalm 114: A poetic accounting of the Exodus, wilderness, the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land and God’s sanctuary; OR (Canticle) Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21: The Songs of Moses and Miriam
  • Romans 14:1-12: Paul offers instructions about what is required when people from different backgrounds with strongly held opinions try to live together as a community of faith. The Christian community in Rome had significant struggles with diversity. Paul helps us understand that despite different practices in worship and personal piety, we do not judge one another.
  • Matthew 18:21-35: A lesson on human forgiveness, following Peter’s question to Jesus regarding how often he must forgive his brother if his brother continues to wrong him. Jesus shares a story showing that forgiveness has no limits. Human forgiveness should mirror the unlimited mercy of God.

Congregational life must express forgiveness found in today’s text, including the healing divisions within congregations, the community, and the world. The passing of the peace is an acting-out of this forgiveness principle. God’s forgiveness must be passed on to others if it is to be realized in our own lives. “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”  (Matthew 5:23-24) Continue reading

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 18, Year A

Conflict and Forgiveness

  • Exodus 12:1-14
  • Psalm 149
  • Romans 13:8-14
  • Matthew 18:15-20

Conflict is a part of relationships and life in community. We live in a world of conflict, just as Jesus and his followers did. At the center of any community is the question of who or what binds the community together. Jesus makes it clear that it is he, his presence, his person, his ministry, that is the connective tissue with the community. As Christian disciples, by virtue of our baptism, we have a responsibility to confront the evil that we see in ourselves, in one another, and in our society. And sometimes this causes conflict. The need for safe communities to be open about our disagreements is a core ingredient to a healthy group or congregation. On the other side of confrontation is forgiveness. We should not confront to destroy another person. We should confront to lead a person into a deeper relationship with God and with neighbor. Continue reading

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