It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Who's In Charge of Me, Reflection on Matthew 21:23-32

The question underlying the confrontation in today's reading is "Who is in charge of me?" They don't ask it that way. The chief priests and elders ask Jesus who is in charge of him. Jesus, this guy who has demonstrated a willingness to shake things up (see 21:12-13) and an ability to attract crowds (see 21:8-11).

Put yourself into the position of those chief priests and elders. You have an important role in the religious life of your people. You work in the temple, the most important and most visible site of that religion, the place where the people can gain access to God and to God's forgiveness. But, you owe your job security to the secular authority. The Romans are in charge of their empire and you live in a small and weak part of it. To maintain your own security, you have to appease the ones in charge.

Here's what they did way back then. They confronted this problem head on. They asked him to provide his credentials. In response, he turned the tables on them. Because they were insecure, they waffled.

Think about the answer underlying the answer Jesus gave them when they questioned the source of his authority. What is his authority? Who gave him this authority? Do you live as if you agree with what you believe?

One thing this parable is about: Doing, not just saying you will

In the September/October 2008 issue of Alive Now, Andrea Woods writes about Mr. Pritchett. Although he doesn't have much education himself, he is one of the best teachers the young folks have. What he says: "I don't care where you go to church on Sunday morning or how you sing your songs. What I care about is what you do with Sunday when Monday rolls around."

They heard him say this, and they saw him live it. He fixed broken windows. He drove sick people to the doctor. When they were unable to take care of something in their daily lives, he would step in to help. He remained even-tempered. He was able to listen to other people's troubles. The Monday man at work was exactly the same as the Sunday man at worship.

Being a Christian inside the church during the worship service is one thing. Being a Christian in the world during the week confirms that thing.

Another thing this parable is about: Who can get into heaven
Jesus attacked the religious leaders by telling them that the tax collectors and prostitutes were going to get into the kingdom of God ahead of them because they believed. It's not just that the leaders are dependent on the good will of Rome, so are the tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus says "ahead of you" not "instead of you." (thanks to Allen & Williamson, Preaching the Gospel for this phrase).

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