the one about God's inclusivity...
October 3, 2017, 7:20 AM

Sermon from October 1, 2017

Text: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 and Matthew 21: 23-32

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, as I read these passages for this 17th Sunday of Pentecost, I really focused in on the Old Testament and the Gospel, because though all the texts interweave with one another our first reading and gospel text really connect well. And, the way I see it, they connect because they speak about freedom and hope.

Seems kind of weird right, since they appear to have a lot more to do with authority. Who has it and from whom one is able to do the things that they are able to do. The Pharisees – the thorn in Jesus’ side as he is the thorn in theirs – want to know by whose authority he is capable of doing and saying the things that he’s doing.

Keep in mind, this text comes immediately after Jesus cleanses the temple and curses a fig tree. Let’s just say that the Pharisees are probably not all that happy with Jesus at the moment. They want to know why and from whom he can say and do this sort of stuff.

Of course, Jesus parries their question with his own and then turns the tables on them. He tells a short parable about two sons who are asked to work in the field. The first says ‘no’ and then changes his mind, the second says ‘yes’ and doesn’t follow through.

Through this, Jesus seems to be less concerned about their initial question of authority and more concerned about what his authority frees people to be.

Now, today we aren’t that removed in our outlook on people’s lives than from how people thought back then.

Even today, we still look at what a parent has done (or perhaps an older sibling) and think – big things are in store for you! Or even (and probably more common) ‘I’m going to have to keep my eye on you because I know who you’re kin to.’

We do that a lot, don’t we? Especially when it comes to sports or business. This woman’s dad was so astute in the business world – we’re going to have to watch her and listen, I’m sure the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. This guy’s brother was an excellent athlete, I’m sure he’ll be pretty good too.

But, more often than not we hear things like, ‘Your dad was a drunk, and fooled around. I don’t expect much from you either.’ ‘Your sister was a cutup in class, I’m going to keep you on a short leash. Don’t test me.’

We view someone’s family and assume – one way or another – what that person will be like.

They did that a lot in the time that we are reading into as well. Though, they went even deeper. Your grandfather’s father sinned in such a big way that you’re still paying for it now. Your family name is one not to be trifled with or interacted with.

Your dad was a tax collector, so you are. Your mom was a prostitute, you will be too. Even if you try to get out from under that burden, too bad. We know – and God knows – who you are.

That’s pressure, isn’t it? To live in such a way that you can’t escape what your parents did. Conversely, your children wouldn’t be able to distance themselves from what you will do.

That’s bondage. Those are chains shackled to our hands and feet to prevent us from being equal, loved, forgiven, accepted.

Yet, God speaks through Ezekiel as the Word of God happens to him – it’s an experience – and he states God’s intention. Sin doesn’t transfer through blood. Your very being and life is freed from what your parents have done, and your children are freed from what you will do. God loves all. God loves you.

Freedom. True freedom in God’s kingdom.

Jesus builds this up even more in our gospel reading. Here Jesus talks about tax collectors and prostitutes. Those who are ‘beyond the pale’ in society. Those who use others and use themselves in ways that are hurtful, deceptive, and sinful.

Those people who society has cast out, God has called to the table.

These past few weeks we have been seeing God’s radical love being shown against the common culture.

First it was forgiveness. God has forgiven us, we are called to live into forgiveness with those around. Where because of what God has done, our lives are fundamentally changed. We live our life as ones who notice what God has done.

Next, it was generosity. Are we envious because God is generous? If you didn’t figure it out last week, the answer to that question is yes, yes, we are. God shows merciful to all the people of God. Constantly calling all and welcoming them into the kingdom. God is inviting us into that life of mercy so that we don’t take the easy road in being slow to love and abounding in steadfast anger.

This Sunday, we see Jesus pointing out God’s radical inclusivity. All that forgiveness and generosity. All that mercy and love. All of it is not just directed at you, those who have been here from the beginning or those who feel destined to be loved by God because of who they were born to or where they’ve always lived.

No, God’s love and inclusivity is given to even those cast out. Those on the fringes. Those who have experienced God and have changed their mind. What they did, have done, or perhaps will do does not prevent them from God’s love. It never has.

I can only imagine what the Pharisees thought when they heard Jesus speak those words. Perhaps they thought they were being ‘persecuted’ because another and lower voice in their society was being listened to. When in actuality they were just being treated with the same love that they expected for themselves.

God gives people hope and freedom. Jesus shows us how far that freedom and hope extends. It extends far beyond our own perceptions and beliefs. Extending to those we wouldn’t expect. Even extending to us. That can be scary, it can seem unfair, it can even make us ask the question ‘why even me?’

These past few weeks have been building up that word of hope and that act of freedom through God’s forgiveness, generosity, and inclusion. No longer are just the ‘usual types,’ the ‘expected ones’ loved by God. Even the downtrodden and outcast are loved, welcomed. In fact, they’re going to be first.

Here is what I believe to be true, as it is shown in God’s theme throughout scripture. If God is to err (if that’s even possible) God errs on the side of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. God abounds in all of that.

That is hope. There is hope for all. No one is excluded from God’s love. No one.

We hear that we are loved and forgiven. We repent and turn towards God because of that generosity. We are included – all of us – in the kingdom of God. Amen.

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