The Season after Pentecost: Proper 26, Year A

Practice what you preach

  • Joshua 3:71-17
  • Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
  • Matthew 23:1-12

What a contrast between the kinds of leadership presented in today’s two New Testament readings. Paul emphasizes how he, Silas, and Timothy strived for humility: they tried not to be a burden to anyone, they sought to comfort and encourage those they visited, and they acknowledged that the word they brought was not their own but God’s. Jesus speaks of Pharisees who are the opposite – placing heavy burdens on people’s shoulders, preaching what they don’t practice, and looking for recognition.

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The Season after Pentecost: Proper 25, Year A

To love God is to love your neighbor

  • Deuteronomy 34:1-12
  • Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
  • Matthew 22:34-46

Over the past few weeks we’ve heard how the Pharisees continually challenge Jesus. Today they try one more time: “What is the greatest commandment?” In reply, Jesus quotes the Shema, the ancient Hebrew prayer (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). He summarizes the law and the prophets by combining the two great commandments.

Love God. Love neighbor. Commands such as these, at least in general propositions, do not seem difficult to obey. They are found throughout this week’s texts and are infused throughout the scriptures, yet we regularly need to be reminded of these commandments. Love God. Love neighbor. Our own preoccupations with ourselves makes living these commands difficult. Bot commands require that we look outward. How can we possibly love God with all our heart, mind, and soul? How can we possibly love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves? These commands are not as easy as they seem. We need the reminder of these texts to keep God and our neighbors at the forefront of our thoughts and actions. Continue reading

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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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