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Living Truth: Faithfulness

Sharing God's Word, Living His Love
Living Truth

Matthew 21:23-32

October 1, 2023

I need a little advice from all of you this morning. Several months ago Sue and I bought a new refrigerator. However, a few weeks later, we noticed that the hardwood floor in our dining room, located next to our kitchen started to warp. Each week more areas of the floor started to warp and one of our dining room baseboards even started to pull away from the wall. We thought there must be some kind of water leak somewhere, but we couldn’t find it. We had a professional come in who pulled up part of the hardwood flooring in the dining room, part of the kitchen flooring, and cut holes in the wall trying to figure out where the leak was located, but we still couldn’t find it. Finally, we discovered that it was our new refrigerator that was leaking, but the water was going underneath a cabinet mounted on the floor in the kitchen next to the refrigerator and then into the dining room. It was not until we removed the cabinet that we saw the leak was coming from the refrigerator. I contacted my insurance company about having the floors repaired and they reimbursed me the cost to have the floors repaired, minus my $2500 deductible. I asked them if they would contact the manufacturer of the refrigerator to get my $2500 deductible returned to me since the refrigerator was under warranty. They told me, “No,” I would have to contact the manufacturer myself to get the $2500 reimbursed. So I contacted the manufacturer of the refrigerator and asked to have my $2500 deductible reimbursed and they told me “Yes,” they would reimburse me the $2500 as soon as I sent them some required paperwork and photos of the damage to the floors.

I sent in the paperwork back in July and the manufacturer told last week when I checked on the status of my claim that they were still working on it and now could not guarantee I would be reimbursed. Meanwhile, I received an unexpected call from my insurance company last week telling me that they would work to get my $2500 reimbursed from the manufacturer after reviewing my case. So who should I work with to get this done, my insurance company who initially told me they would not work to get my $2500 reimbursed but have now changed their mind or the manufacturer of the refrigerator, who told me they would reimburse me the $2500, but after 3 months don’t appear to be doing anything about it and may have changed their mind?

In our Gospel lesson for today, a father asked one of his sons to go and work in his vineyard. Now I would guess that this was a very simple or normal request in those days. It was probably as common as any of us asking our children or grandchildren to clean their room or do their homework. But this son said, “No.” I’m sure the son was very familiar with the work that was involved in the vineyard, but He didn’t want to do it. Jesus compared this son to tax collectors and prostitutes. Everyone in those days knew that tax collectors and prostitutes lived their lives in a blatantly immoral way in order to get a lot of money. They knew what God wanted them to do, but they rejected God’s will by saying with their lifestyles, “I am not going to live the way God wants me to live.” Later, though, this son obviously felt bad as he knew his father wasn’t asking too much, so he changed his mind and went to work in the vineyard. In a similar way, tax collectors and prostitutes when confronted with their lifestyle, later confessed their sin. The father then asked his other son the same question, and this son said, “Yes sir, dad,” but he didn’t go.

Unfortunately, this son also changed his mind. I’m sure he thought about working out in the vineyard – the dirt, the hot sun, and long hours, but then he obviously decided that he did not want to do it. Jesus compares this second son to the chief priests and elders he was speaking to at the moment. While these guys were all about hard work and commitment as they enjoyed their positions as the religious leaders of the land, they thought they were better than everyone else and did not have to follow God’s Word. As far as they were concerned, they didn’t need forgiveness, like those tax collectors and prostitutes. God should be pleased with their hard work and holy lifestyle. But like the second son, their lives were characterized by empty words.

So when Jesus asks these religious leaders, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” and they reply, “the first,” meaning the one who initially said, “no,” but then changed his mind and went to work in the vineyard, the point is quickly made that what we say is not always as important as what we do.

I know all of us can relate to both of these sons, because we know what it’s like to change our minds. Our loving God has asked all of us to go and live Christian lives, namely to be holy in an unholy world, to love those who are unlovable, and to be a reflection of Jesus to everyone we meet every day. And we all say in a variety of ways, “Yes, Father, I’ll do as You ask. I’ll let Jesus be reflected in my life for all people to see.”

But then, 5 minutes after walking out of this place of worship, some families will start fighting just like always. Or our renewed enthusiasm to be faithful Christians can disappear as soon as we get home. Or our thoughts can be filled with all sorts of sinful desires by Monday morning. How often do we say to God, “Sure, God, I’ll do what you ask, I’ll be faithful to you,” but then we change our minds before we even get home? I’m sure God never holds His breath too long, because He knows how we are when it comes to keeping our promises. God asks us to do some tough things, but Jesus knows what it’s like for us to struggle with what God the Father asks of us. There was a time, before any of us were born, when God the Father spoke to His Son, Jesus, and said, “Son, I love you, but I have something very hard I need you to do. I need you to go to earth and become a human being. In particular, I need you to be born into a poor family, and to grow up with sinful people. I need you to heal people, preach to them, and teach them, even though they may not always welcome you. And later I need you to be beaten by whips, crowned with thorns, and then I need you to die in their place on a cross, so that these sinful people can live with us forever. Will you do this for me?”

Even though this job was so awful, Jesus obviously said, “Yes, Father, I will do it.” What God asked was hard and we read in the Bible that Jesus wrestled with it, even asking His Father on the night of His last supper with His disciples if there was another way, other than dying on a cross, for Him to save humanity. But Jesus never changed His mind. He did exactly what God asked Him to do, because He loved His Father and He loves us, and knows us. He knows we will often change our minds, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad. He knows there will be moments when we find ourselves knowing what’s right in God’s eyes and yet knowing we’re doing the exact opposite. But every day when we’re faced with the challenge of what to do, Jesus will always be right there saying to us, “Remember me. Remember what I did for you on the cross. You don’t have to make the wrong choices anymore. I am your strength. My body and blood that I give you at the altar will strengthen you. The new life that I have poured over you in Baptism will refresh you. The people I surround you with in your church family are there to support you. And I am always with you.”

Every day when we’re faced with the choice to do the right thing, what God wants us to do, Jesus will be there with us. Even though we may change our minds and do the wrong thing, Jesus will never let go of us. He will never change His mind about saving us. He will never change His mind about forgiving us. And He will never, ever change His mind about raising us from the dead. Isn’t that great to know?

Because Jesus saved all people through His death on the cross, whenever we say “no” to God, He hears only “yes,” because He hears Jesus’ voice over ours. And whenever we say “yes” to God, only to show we really mean “no” by our inaction, God the Father sees His Son’s perfect life in place of ours. In Jesus we have complete forgiveness. May we all seek to be faithful to our loving God, not with empty words, but with repentant actions motivated by Jesus’ “yes” for us.

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