As we will see from today’s reading, Jesus doesn’t care much about fairness or unfairness in the way we tend to think about it. Instead, he wants us to look at our own spiritual journey and our own relationship with God…and not to worry or to compare ourselves to others.
So he gives us this parable to ponder. (read the full version of Matthew 20:1-16 here)
...But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” - Matthew 20:1-16 -
It’s probably safe to say, Jesus isn’t that concerned about the ethics of business or labor management relations. He doesn’t seem to care who did what or who got to what place first. In fact, “the boss’s actions in this parable contradicts everything we know about employee motivation and fair compensation.” (Yancey)
But if you’ve been paying attention the last couple of weeks, you might recall me saying God’s economy doesn’t run like ours. For that we all should be grateful. This story makes it very clear that God isn’t fair. At least not like we define fairness.
Here we have the owner of a vineyard that needs to have its fruit harvested. So, he goes out and gathers the workers to do the job. Some clock in at sunrise. Others after the morning coffee break. And some come after lunch. It’s still not enough, so he goes out and hires more workers in the afternoon. And then a few more who start near quitting time.
Everyone seems happy and content to have been hired. No one grumbles about the work they’ve been employed to do. That is until payroll. Those who were first hired, the one’s who put in a full day’s work in the hot blazing sun, naturally complain when they learn their paycheck is the same as those who barely had time to break a sweat.
It’s easy for us to sympathize with their complaints, isn’t it? More than just basic mathematics, or incompetent bookkeeping, something in our gut says this is wrong. It’s not fair. We know in our heart that some things ought to be fair - like education and civil rights. But when it comes to money, or something we believe we’ve earned, well…that’s when things get a little more personal.
I have been told all my life if you want something you got to work for it. And that the harder you work, the greater the reward will be at the end. At the last ad agency, I was at, I worked three months straight to help keep the company afloat during a recession. I really believed that the sacrifices I made to my family for that job, would be well compensated if we succeeded. Which we did.
At the end of the year, we managed to keep the doors open. And with my help we even eked out a profit. That year I got an unexpected bonus. A $25 gift card to Best Buy. The same as everyone else; except for the few at the top whose jobs we had saved.
Yeah, it’s not fair. But sometimes that’s a good thing. That crappy bonus was a tipping point for me. First, it helped me realize that life is too short to burnout at work. No longer did I “live to work” but instead “worked to live.” I put my family first again, instead of someone’s profit margin.
Second, that crappy bonus led me into the vineyard where I found a new job…and a new salary. It didn’t take long for me to see that this heavenly kingdom doesn’t run on our economic standards of fair pay for fair work. It runs on God’s economy. And God’s definition of fairness.
God affirms our worth. And God alone guarantees our value. It has nothing to do with who we are or what we have done or can do. It’s based solely on who God is, and what God has done for us through Christ Jesus.
Through him, God became one like us so we could see, and feel, and experience God’s unconditional love in the flesh. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection remind us that God’s generosity is beyond our human capacity and logic.
It might not seem fair that each worker gets the same paycheck. But from God’s point of view, it’s not a matter of fairness or unfairness. It’s not even a matter of deserving or undeserving. It’s about God and what God chooses to do for us - despite all that we have done or left undone.
As Ken Kesselus puts it, “Jesus wants us to know that in the face of our limited, worldly understanding of what is fair and what is unfair, God works with a different reality, in a different direction, and by different standards.”
In this parable the boss isn’t breaking his agreement with his employees. He’s actually upholding it honestly and fairly. By paying everyone a full day’s wage we realize that God isn’t concerned about what we deserve; God gives us simply what we need.
In his great book What’s So Amazing About Grace, Philip Yancey reminds us that at the end of the day, “God dispenses gifts, not wages.”
Whether you’ve been faithful to God your whole life, or you’re new to the party, God loves you and welcomes you just the same. There are some Christians who might be thinking that’s not fair. You spent your time loving God, loving others, and serving both while other people were being sinful. Yeah, It’s not fair. That’s the point of this parable.
Imagine how those last workers felt when someone finally hired them. Imagine standing around all day not knowing if you will make any money for rent muchless food. I suspect they are paid first, because they are able to receive their wages with joy and gratitude – not with envy or pettiness.
When you’re the one on the receiving end of God’s generosity and goodness it’s easy to feel grateful. But shouldn’t we also feel the same when someone else finally comes joins us in the vineyard?
All that we have, all that we’ve been given in this space we call Anamesa, is a gift from God. And whatever God wants to give us will l always be more than we deserve. So yeah, it’s not fair. And thank God for that. Because we are recipients of that generosity too.
God is a lousy bookkeeper. Handing out envelopes stuffed full of infinite grace. Infinite love. Infinite forgiveness. Infinite life. It doesn’t matter who is first or who is last. It doesn’t matter where you were born, what language you speak, who you love or the color of your skin. Christ died for all. Which is our proof that God is faithful and generous to all, if only because there’s still more work to be done.
Five times the vineyard owner goes out to gather people. I imagine if he went out a sixth or a seventh time, the end of the story wouldn't change. But here’s the thing to remember: God leaves it up to us to come in and get our hands dirty.
This parable makes it abundantly clear that it’s not about who is worthy but who is willing.
Who’s willing to be the face of Christ for others to see their worth in God’s eyes?
Who is willing to be the hands of Christ so others can feel God’s mercy in the flesh?
Who is willing to be the heart of Christ, to love and forgive those who society says don’t deserve it?
Who is willing to go and do the work of this heavenly kingdom - planting and growing and harvesting the fruits of God’s glory until Christ comes again to give us our final paycheck?
We can’t calcolate God’s love on a timesheet. That gift isn’t a bonus reward based on merit, or the quality or quantity of one’s labor. It’s just it’s just something God gives freely to everyone who chooses to go into the vineyard. So, who here is willing to join me?
Adapted from original sermon Work To Be Done on September 1, 2019 (accessed on 09-21-2023).
Bartlett, David L., Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol 4. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011) pp. 92-97.
Gonzalez, Justo. Santa Biblia: The Bible Through Hispanic Eyes. (Nashville: Abington, 1996) pp. 62-63.
Yancy, Phillip. What’s So Amazing About Grace? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997) pp. 61-63.
Kesselus, Ken. An Undeserved Gift. September 21, 2014 (accessed on 09-21-2023).
Up to that point, I’d been carrying around so much anger and rage that my capacity to love had waned. Yet I knew only way for me to be free from that burden was to get it all go. Which meant, I had to forgive her. Just forgive.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. And we all love poorly.”
If we want to follow Jesus, we have to truly love like he does. Which means we have to forgive like he did. That’s never as easy as it sounds.
As every great athlete knows, success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years of practice and struggle to get to the top. We must remember that to be forgiving like Christ requires constant focus, and a willingness to do it over and over again until it becomes as natural to us as breathing. I think this is exactly what Jesus is encouraging in our reading today from Matthew 18.
Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if my brother or sister sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22.
In our world, to forgive a person once is an acceptable gesture. But to forgive someone repeatedly is often frown upon and thought of as irresponsible or even self-harming.
Using the Rabbinic scales of mercy, which requires a person to forgive another four times, Peter pushed this notion further - suggesting seven times. Maybe he was trying to impress Jesus or show the other disciples how much better he was than the rabbis.
But Jesus isn’t having any of that. He seems to be saying err on the side of caution and forgive a person seventy-seven times.
New Testament scholars will debate whether the Greek should be translated as “seventy-seven times” or “seventy times seven times.” Either way, it’s an enormous number; one so big that we can’t begin to calculate it.I suspect that’s the point.
Jesus is reminding us that forgiveness isn’t absolute like math. There is no perfect set amount because each act of forgiveness has its own set of problems and calculations.
In fact, the only specification for forgiveness is to make the deliberate decision to let go of your feelings of anger, resentment, and retribution towards any person you believe has wronged you. Again, sounds easier than it is. And yet, it’s not impossible.
You might remember that in 2006, a Pennsylvania man shot up an Amish schoolroom, killing five schoolgirls and wounding 11 others. This kind of stuff seems ordinary these days. But what should be ordinary is the way the Amish community reacted to this senseless act of violence.
While they were mourning their own children, the parents of the victims not only forgave the shooter, but also went to his house to comfort his mother because she too had lost her child that day.
We saw something similar when another young man walked into a historic black church in South Carolina and murdered nine people who had welcomed him into their bible study. At his bond hearing, five survivors faced the killer and forgave him.
And then there’s the story of the Korean pastor Yang-Won Sohn. After his two teenage boys were murdered because of their Christian faith, Yang-Won chose to follow Christ instead of the anger in his heart. Not only did he forgive the murderer, but he arranged his release from prison and adopted him as his own son.
You might be thinking “I couldn’t do that. I know I’m supposed to forgive but there must be a limit, right?”
According to Jesus, the only limit is to forgive as many times as it takes to love that person again.
Jesus is not telling us to condone bad behavior or continue in an unhealthy relationship. He says, just forgive them as much as God forgives you.
In the following verses he gives this parable to make his point.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him, and, as he could not pay, the lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. Matthew 18:23-35
I always like to remind people that Jesus uses parables to talk about the kingdom of heaven. Which means it’s more about God, and less about us. Here we have a servant who owes his boss ten thousand talents. I’m told a single talent is equivalent to 15 years’ worth of wages. Do the math. Take all the money you’ve earned over the last 15 years and multiply it by 10,000.
Again, Jesus uses another ridiculous number because it’s not about the amount. It’s about our willingness to do what God asks of us each and every time. It’s not the counting but the giving of our heart that makes the kingdom of heaven come alive.
This kingdom runs on God’s economy, not ours. God is the bookkeeper. And God doesn’t look at numbers, God looks at the heart. Scripture reminds us that God loves a penitent and contrite heart. More importantly, God loves you more than any offense you may have done. When we seek forgiveness from God, we are given forgiveness from God.
This is what’s called grace. The grace that is offered by God through Christ, is given free of charge to anyone who wants it. It’s free because it’s impossible to repay. And since God’s grace is impossible to pay back…Jesus tells us to pay it forward.
In the parable, the servant is shown mercy, but he himself refuses to be merciful. And in the end, Jesus said he will get what he gives.
Jesus takes the business of forgiveness very seriously. And so must we. To quote C.S. Lewis “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
You may not have murdered innocent school children, but as Paul writes, “there is no distinction. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). And yet, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Maybe there is someone in your life that you need to forgive. Maybe you have a friend who hurt you with something he said or did that has made you angry.
Maybe someone close to you has wounded you so dearly that the very idea of facing her, muchless offering forgiveness, sickens you.
Maybe it wasn’t one big thing that someone did, but hundreds of tiny annoying things that have been building up like a cancerous wall inside you.
Maybe the person who needs forgiving is you. Maybe you did something that hurt another and you’ve been holding on that shame and guilt, and it’s eating you up inside.
In my experience, personal forgiveness is the hardest. Which might explain why Jesus wants us to do it a ridiculous amount of times because there’s a good chance you’re not going to get it right the first time.
The more we forgive the more it becomes a part of who we are. It becomes our go-to action instead of reacting in ways that continue the cycle of violence, hatred and bigotry.
As I sat in my car in the parking lot thinking about all the pain and suffering that person put me through, the loss of a good job, a nice salary, and of my fragile faith I had to make a choice. Hold on to the anger or let it go.
In that moment I prayed, not for my forgiveness, but for God to forgive her. And in that prayer I added, “because God, I have forgiven her.”
We can’t control what people do to us. We can only control how we respond.
Jesus taught us to forgive one another as God has forgiven you. It’s the same equation used for love - Love one another as God loves you.
This math applies to everything we do. As it’s written, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” At Anamesa we take that to mean love God, love others, and serve both.
So, if we choose to follow the Way of Jesus, through whom God has shown us the ultimate image of love and forgiveness, than we must be willing to do the same for one another, no matter how many times it requires.
To not forgive, be it once or seventy-seven times, is to deny the power of Christ who, on his cross, took our sins upon himself to reconcile us back to God.
We might think it’s just forgiveness. But it’s an action and power we possess that has eternal consequences.
As we leave here today, let us not forget that it’s in our own forgiveness we meet the glory of God.
And so it is also in our forgiving one another that God’s glory moves through us so that everyone gets a foretaste of what is to come, on earth as it is in heaven.
Excerpts from an original sermonI Am Forgiveness. September 13, 2020 (accessed on September 14, 2023).
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A Vol. 4 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011) pp. 68-73.
Pagano, Joseph S. Forgiveness. September 7, 2020. (accessed September 14, 2023).
West, Cindi. Forgive Someone Seventy Times Seven. July 1, 2019. (accessed September 11, 2020).
In the last church I served, there was someone who made my job impossible to do. It was killing my spirit to continue to do what God had called me to do. Knowing what I was going through emotionally and spiritually, a concerned friend put me in touch with someone who had just experienced a very similar situation.
That person was Rev. Dawn. In that space between Los Angeles and Terra Haute, God met us in our pain and anguish. And led us to a place of joy and flourishing. This is the place we call Anamesa. The sacred and holy space where God comes to reconcile our hearts and tend to our wounds.
Today’s reading comes from a place in Matthew’s gospel, where Jesus gives us some pretty basic things to know about being the church. Things like be humble as a child, be caretakers for one another, don’t do anything that would be a stumbling block to someone’s faith, forgive one another endlessly and look out for those who have strayed away or gotten lost.
In the middle of this list, Jesus offers up this “how-to guide” for reconciling with someone in the church who has wronged you. Here's what he had to say:
It’s easy to imagine why this passage is so popular among new churches as they develop their polity and practices. Like I said, the church is made up of humans which means there will be conflict and disagreements.
Although I’m sure Jesus wishes that didn’t happen, he doesn’t pretend it won’t. So he gives us this short check list to help us deal with the issue when someone in the church does or says something hurtful.
Step one, use direct and respectful communication to the person who has offended you. Don’t go to five or six of your closest friends and talk behind his or her back. Instead, engage in dialogue with that person one-on-one and let them know what they did.
If that conversation does not yield good fruit, go to step two. Try again with a small group to make sure there isn’t misinterpretation or gaslighting. If there is still no progress, then move on to step three which is invite the entire church community to search for a solution.
There’s no guarantee that this will work perfectly, or at all. The times I caught an employee at my last church spreading damaging lies and rumors about me, I applied these first three steps.
When all our efforts failed to produce any changes of behavior, I was ready to implement the fourth and final step where Jesus says, “When all else fails, treat that person like a Gentile and a tax collector.”
watch video message here
Up until that point, I believed this meant I had permission to fire and shun, and even excommunicate this troublemaker. Since our church polity didn’t allow me to do that, I was forced to leave the congregation I loved in order to save my reputation.
This destroyed my heart, my faith, and my security. But did nothing to change the behavior of the other person because it happened again with the next minister.
Having spent the next couple of years nursing my wounds here in what I have come to call Anamesa, I realized I’d misunderstood this passage and Jesus completely. I mean, look at how Jesus treated gentiles and tax collectors.
He never shamed or shunned them. Instead, he loved them and heaped mercy and grace upon them. He invited them to share in his ministry, like he did with Matthew, the tax collector turned Apostle.
Jesus always interacted with others and welcomed everyone with an open and loving heart. Even those who betrayed and killed him. This can be hard to do when you are hurting, frustrated, and angry like I was. And yet, in the same passage I was using to judge someone, Jesus was telling me to treat that person with loving kindness because they too are made in God’s image.
Jesus’s mission was all about reconciliation – which is the entire point of Christmas and Easter stories. At every turn, Jesus extended himself graciously to all people. He never gave up on a person, never stopped reaching out to them with loving awareness. He always gave, and continues to give, grace upon grace to help us restore all that we have damaged and broken.
Jesus knows what humans are capable of. And he still loved us, no matter what. He also knows what God is capable of; believing there’s enough room in God’s heart for every human soul to flourish.
I think he believes there’s room in our hearts as well. Perhaps that’s why he sends us out into Anamesa to love God, love others, and serve both. And to do so in his name. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
That’s Anamesa in a nutshell. Being with the divine in the space between. It took having my heart and faith busted open to realize this. I had become blinded by my own frustration and pain that I couldn’t see how Jesus was there this whole time holding space between me and my offender.
Jesus is the one who stands in the space between heaven and earth, redeeming and restoring us; making us whole and complete with God and with one another.
Realizing this was a game changer for me. Not only did it help me find my peace but it helped me forgive those who had been a stumbling block to my faith.
Now here’s another thing I realized seeing this passage with new eyes. By my faith alone, I am the one who invites Jesus to dwell among us. Same is true with your faith.
In knowing he is there stretching out his arms out to embrace us both, we might be less inclined to fill that space with acts of violence, words of hatred, and thoughts of bias judgement.
Knowing that Jesus is everywhere our we are, should encourage us to seek and support a more just and fair society where those who are lost or marginalized and shunned have a real place at God’s table.
The way I see it, Jesus isn’t only giving us instructions to help us reconcile with others. He’s showing us a way to live in harmony with one another as well.
To know and see and act with Jesus in the space between is to discover, as Kellan Day so beautifully captures, “how the human and the divine collide, the earthly and the heavenly kiss.”
She goes on to write, “Our reconciliation serves a greater purpose; it will help us to learn to stand one another long enough that we might recognize Christ in one another’s faces. We are given this work so that we don’t give up on each other, and thus, give up on the body of Christ.”
At the end of the day, if we can’t forgive and reconcile like Jesus does, then how can we ever claim to be part of his holy body.
Just as heaven and earth dwell in the person of Jesus, so too must humanity and divinity dwell together in us, in Anamesa; where our earthly lives are graced with the presence of God, who is reconciling all things to one another and to God’s very self.
It only takes two or three gathered in Christ’s name to be his church, where he is truly present. And so it is the Christ who calls out to us to meet him in the middle, to see and recognize this sacred space for what it is.
A sanctuary where God comes to us in flesh and blood to love on us – whether we deserve it or not.
Bartlett, David L and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word Year A, Vol. 3 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011).
Day, Kellan. Reconciliation. September 4, 2023. (Accessed on 09-08-2023)
To most of us, what Jesus knows he has to do is not shocking news. It’s good news. We know what he means when he said, “on the third day, be raised.” But Peter and the gang haven’t read the gospel.
So, you got to hand it to him for having the guts to try to stop anything bad from happening to his beloved teacher. I mean, who among us has what it takes to rebuke Jesus to his face?
Writing on this passage, Eugene Peterson so poignantly stated, “We want to follow Jesus, but like Peter we also want to tell Jesus where to go. Jesus does not need our advice; he needs our faithful obedience.”
As so many of my atheist friends have pointed out, too many Christians like to talk the talk, but only a few are willing to walk the walk. They love to worship Jesus as long as they don’t have to do much more.
As I’ve pointed out before, nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say, “worship me.” Yet all throughout the gospels he says, “Follow me.” Watch what I do and do that.
And “From this time on, Jesus began to show his disciples…” what that entails – healing the sick, feeding the hungry, showing compassion, mercy and forgiveness. He shows the Twelve how to be the perfect embodiment of the gospel, no matter the cost. What they will discover is that real change begins with making hard and difficult sacrifices.
We have all made sacrifices… for our kids, our parents, our jobs, etc. I can’t even imagine the sacrifices my wife has made by being married to me. But all kidding aside, that’s not the kind of stuff Jesus is talking about.
It’s not so much about sacrificing dessert so you can lose a few pounds. It’s about denying oneself, for the sake of everyone else. Just as Jesus manifested divine love by sacrificing his own life, so too must we.
To gain the abundant and authentic life that Jesus offers, one must be willing to walk away from one’s self-centered ambitions, goals, and choices, if one is going to follow him truly and faithfully.
Of course, the ego doesn’t like that. In fact, it will fight hard against it. But for real transformation to happen, our heart must become one in Christ Jesus, who put aside his ego for the sake of others.
Likewise, we too must move beyond our need to be right or better than others. And the way we do that is to allow our hearts to lead the way. I think this is what it means when Jesus said, you have to deny yourself and pick up your cross.
He’s not talking about a literal cross, or a dogmatic type of cross. Jesus is talking about embracing his moral and ethical teachings, and becoming visible incarnation of God’s love, compassion, and justice in the world. And to faithfully embrace that life with your whole heart, including all the sacrifices and suffering you will endure.
We can’t call ourselves Christ followers if we are not going to actually follow his way of giving, healing, forgiving, or being.
We can’t claim his name if we are still holding on to past grudges, or ignoring another’s needs.
We can’t shine his true light if our hearts are full of darkness and deception. Jesus was pretty clear when he said, “Whoever wants to save their life will have to lose it.”
In what world does that make sense?
Paul would go on to write, “the message of the Cross seems like sheer madness. But to us who are being saved we know it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). And what is power of God if not love?
Jesus is our living example of how God’s love gives our sacrifice and suffering purpose. What we give up for others, and the suffering that may come, are keys to unlocking our true self and our true faith, because it requires us to put real trust in a God whose merciful grace overcomes death with life.
Jesus showed us that faithfulness is a daily sacrifice we all must make – a constant dying and resurrecting; always shedding the old as we step into the new. Giving up ourselves, our comforts and wants, might seem foolish or hard at first. But then we have to ask ourselves, “For what will it profit you to gain the world but lose your soul?”
We all have our cross to carry. As Henri Nouwen pointed out, “We can ignore them, reject them, refuse them, and even hate them. Or we can lift them up and follow Jesus who gives our suffering new life and new purpose.”
While the disciples are confused and scared, Jesus assures them that whatever they give up will pale in comparison to what they will gain: a foretaste of heaven, here and now. The same is true for all who choose to faithfully follow him.
Now let me say this. I’m not sure the disciples aren’t following Jesus to get a free pass into heaven or acceptance into angel university. To quote Shane Claiborne, “What good would Jesus’ wisdom be if it were meant only for the afterlife? How hard could it be to love our enemies in heaven?”
No, I believe the disciples are willing to risk losing their own lives to follow Jesus, because they know who Jesus really is. The Christ, God’s salvation and saving grace for the world. They have seen what God is capable of doing through him. And they want to be a part of that.
Jesus did not just speak about changes, cures, new life, he actually created them. He did not just forgive a person for what they did, he loved them and, in the process, transformed them, and their communities. Just as the power of God’s love moved through Jesus, so too does it move through us. (Nouwin)
If we dare to follow Christ, then our actions must be modeled after him; living without division between our words and our actions; loving without division between who deserves it and who does not.
If we live and love as Jesus taught, then our crosses will be easy to carry. If our actions are pure and purposeful like his then we too can transform ourselves and others, creating a more just and right world for all of God’s children.
For real transformation to happen, “Our faith must be alive. This implies practice, living our daily life in mindfulness. Praying not just with hearts and minds, with our actions in the world.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)
This is what it means to be the church – to be the very incarnation of God’s love made manifest in all that we do. For real and authentic transformation to happen, in us and in the world, we must deny ourselves and pick up our cross. Our egos must step aside so our hearts can lead with purpose and passion.
I think this is what it means to love one another as God first loved us. At the end of the day, love is the ultimate cross we will bear. It’s the ultimate sacrifice we can make for, and with, and towards one another.
It’s a giving of one’s heart unselfishly that the world is able to see God in their midst. It’s in the way we love God, love others, and serve both that the kingdom of heaven comes alive right here, right now in Anamesa.
As Jesus moves towards Jerusalem, where he will endure real physical pain and suffering, the disciples will come to discover that this is not the end of the story. Death never has the final word. God does.
Thanks to God in Christ Jesus, we are Easter people. As Christ showed us on the cross with his own body and blood, out of the hardest sacrifice and the worst kind of suffering God brings new life. That has been the gospel message since the beginning. That God so loved the world, he would give his only begotten Son to become one with the world in order to redeem it back to God’s open and giving heart.
Peter would eventually discover the real power of living faithfully to this gospel, by living faithfully to God’s everlasting love in Christ Jesus.
He would go on to write, it is this love that “we have been given a new birth into a living hope; an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is in this love that we can rejoice, even if for a little while we have to suffer various trials. It is in this love that genuine faith will be praised, glorified, and honored when Jesus Christ is revealed” (c.f. 1 Peter 1:3-8).
And so in closing let me simply ask you the same question Jesus asked the Twelve.
What will you give in return for your life? What sacrifice will you make today, and tomorrow, and every day so that God’s glory will be made manifest and know in all that you do?
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A Vol. 4. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011.
Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution: Living As An Ordinary Radical. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.
Hahn, Thich Nhat. Living Buddah, Living Christ. New York: Riverhead, 1995.
Nouwen, Henri. Bread For the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
Peterson, Eugene. A Year With Jesus: Daily Readings and Meditations. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2006.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”