Emmitsburg Council of Churches


  The Holy Gospel according to St Matthew 21:23-32

21:23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" 21:24 Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 21:25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" And they argued with one another, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' 21:26 But if we say, 'Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet." 21:27 So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 21:28 "What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' 21:29 He answered, 'I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. 21:30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir'; but he did not go. 21:31 Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you O CHRIST!

Consistent Service to Christ

In my teenage years growing up on the family farm -- there were many times when I was asked to do things that I "Didnít feel like doing." My answering a flat "No" to Dad or Momís request for help in fixing the fence of vacuuming the floor as going to bring about an unpleasant response one way or the other. A flat "NO" was not going to gain me any favors, but sometimes, foolishly, thatís what I said . . . only later did I regret my negative response.

Usually, I would be given time to begin the process of emotional wondering what might have been a better response to Mom or Dad, this "time" might be accelerated by various threats or alternative sentencing . . . so the moment of decision had a way of coming to a head! If I had just answered more positively, who knows what reward might I have gained? My parents respect? Some allowance Money? Or use of the car? . . . . Whatís respect worth these days?


Usually, we donít get a second chance to reinstate our willingness to help or do the positive or right thing in life. Usually, in life, you are asked to do something, and whatever answer you give leads to an outcome (good or bad) that pretty much cannot be redirected. TO SAY AN OUTRIGHT "NO" TO OUR PARENTS WHEN A SIMPLE REQUEST IS MADE OF US HAS CONSEQUENCES. WHEN WE SAY "NO" TO GOD, THIS IS ALSO A SERIOUS MATTER.

However, if, after contemplating a matter more constructively, you decide on a course of action that will fulfill what the other has asked of you, as in the case of the Fatherís request of his son in Jesus parable, then you have an opportunity to re-write the outcome of the story. This can lead to something very positive, but in our earthly realm, not every afterthought of good will -- will be accepted, but, perhaps with grace, it might be, and we can win over the person we have, at first, let down.

If our intentions are sincere Ė we can prove ourselves by enacting what was the right thing to do, and we can hope for mercy.

Another direction this story could take, instead of just being about doing hard labor, is AN EXAMINATION OF OUR ATTITUDES. Perhaps the FIRST son had chosen to be Cynical, but then had a change of heart. As we often consider our attitudes as Optimists or Pessimists, we can imagine how Jesus would desire for us to be Optimists, but in our flesh, we are normally Pessimists.

Coming from this point of view, the (ultimately) Good Son would be one who began as a cynic, (PESSIMIST) but had a change of heart and desired to be part of the solution with a positive outcome. Rather, than a son who began as superficially optimistic, but who gave up and became bitter. As Christians, we ought to try and remain optimistic. I donít mean that we ignore the problems of the world, nor down-grade violence, economics or societal ills, but, rather, we should believe there are solutions to these problems that are found in the teachings of Jesus, the practice of our faith and that with Godís help, we can solve all things.

Another angle of the STORY could include that someone is approached and asked to give to a worthy cause, and this personís tendency is characterized as being STINGY, but if such a person were to have a change of heart and give generously of their time, TREASURE or talent -- then there would be much rejoicing.

While another might Promise the World, but not come through with anything, thus their word cannot be trusted.

Which of the sons does the will of the Father? We can find ourselves as being one way or the other, sometimes weíre both.

In another illustration, it is better to be firm with our words and actions. As Jesus says to the church of Laodicia, "So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16). I get the feeling that God prefers for us not to play games, but to use our ability to reason and commit our way to his ways and get on with life. This requires careful thought, but meaningful action.

This is the Middle Ground of Stability, which is much better than feast or famine in our Christian walk.

James says, "Let your Yes be YES and Your NO be NO!" (James 5:12b) So that, one way or the other you will not be known as an Indecisive Person or wishy washy. Dare I bring up: "Flip Floppers" or _______ Whatís the other overused descriptor?? _______

Better to be the consistent one, whose WORD MEANS SOMETHING, than to be the ONE WHO IS NOT REALISTIC or whose Word is only good "some of the time."

In one final illustration. I attended the meeting of the Kahtadin Sheep Growers International meeting, since my brother Jay raises this breed of sheep and was a speaker at this prestigious event in Hagerstown. The final presenter, after my brotherís talk, was a certain Doctor of livestock genetics from Ohio State University. This was an older man whose scientific knowledge was backed up by his decades of experience, both in the field and on the farm. The bottom line of his message was that CONSISTENCY was the most Valuable Asset in breeding livestock. You want a Yew (the mother sheep) who will consistently birth twins of a good weight and size. You then want these lambs to be capable of fast growth. If you consistently have these two factors profitability and success with the flock is almost guaranteed.

Jesus is looking for us to make our lives consistent and profitable for his kingdom. He has already guaranteed our success by his faithfulness in dying for our sins. He needs us to be people of optimism and hard work to fulfill the meaning of his death in the world. Thereís a whole wide range of areas and vineyards he asks us to work. Find your place and make that a consistent success. To God be the Glory.


Read more writings of Pastor Jon