For the time being, until a more ‘normal’ routine is established, we are holding one service each Sunday at 10.30am and Robert will be basing his sermon on the “weekly reflection” that is sent out to members and friends together with our News-sheet.
We will continue to post this reflection each week, here on the web-site, please use it for your own personal devotion.
If you would like to listen to the most recent service a sound file is available on the ‘Recent Events’ page.
Reflection for Sunday 27th September 2020
Matthew 21; 23-32
One of the things I remember of Granny Jordan living with us, is that she taught us to play Snap. When Anne, Granny and I sat down to play it was always exciting. We had to pay attention at the cards that were coming down, our hand ready to jump in and shout “Snap”. And sometimes we would get over-excited and shout out when it wasn’t the moment. I think it was the excitement and the sound of the “Snap” that made it fun.
The reading today is one of those “Snap” moments in the Gospel stories, probably because the tension is palpable, and we can witness the different characters ready for “that” moment.
If you remember last Sunday’s Reflection, it ended with Jesus predicting his death to his disciples. And after today, it is clear that the prediction has just come closer. As a matter of fact with each of the readings that follow on from today, we realize how the powers are clubbing together against Jesus.
Since the reading last Sunday, Jesus has entered Jerusalem (a reading reserved for Lent of course). And we need reminding perhaps that when the Gospel of Matthew refers to a “vineyard” it always means the people of God, as inspired by Isaiah chapter 5.
Our reading today has Jesus coming from the Temple courts having clashed with the Pharisees and Sadducees, who have just questioned his authority, quite probably as a result of the multitudes crying Hosanna when Jesus entered the capital. And to their question Jesus responds with another question, about John the Baptist. How they despise Jesus when he does things like that! The tension is rising in front of us and we know where it is heading. And so we reach the reading for today.
Here Jesus doesn’t address the disciples but the leaders who have questioned him just now: “What do you think?” and he goes on to tell the man with two sons whom he asks to go and work in the vineyard. Clearly in this parable, the man is a figure for God, the vineyard represents the people of God, and the two sons represent the social format of the people of God – on one hand the sinners who don’t keep the law, and on the other hand the just who are keepers of the law.
All is so clear cut, so easy…yet, as the story progresses we discover that the emphasis in not on who they are, but rather on what they do/don’t do; which here is summed up in what the sons say and what the sons do. And Jesus’ question: who did the will of the father? And when the Sadducees and Pharisees agree that it was the first son, the one who said no but then had a change of heart and went. That’s the SNAP moment of the parable; by their own words they will be judged.
Jesus then points out that the leaders are the second son, the one who says yes but then decided not to go to the vineyard. And this is how Jesus closes the story.
Tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before they will. Nothing could be more shocking to the leaders. There were no people more despised and rejected than tax collectors and prostitutes. If these are the ones who will have priority, what then is it all about? It all refers to their reaction to the teachings of John the Baptist – those who ignored him, those who realized he had a message to follow. John showed all the people a way forward, some believed him, lots didn’t. Some changed their ways, others didn’t.
In this parable Jesus has changed the whole understanding of the Kingdom. The call to change our ways, even for those who would be rejected by the accepted ways of society; that is what opens the kingdom. And this is why the parable is so important in our current reality. How are we going to live the decision which God is offering all people? What sense does ‘Walking the Way’ have? To the surprise of many, both in Jesus’ time and in ours, the kingdom has open doors, at all times. No early closing, no late opening here. And for this we give thanks to God.