"Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "he first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you." - Matthew 21:28-32
Darn that Jesus! Isn't it just like him to mess up my Sunday. Here I was planning to go to church where I could pledge my support for truth, justice, kindness, generosity and all right causes and feel pretty good about myself, before coming home to take a long nap, watch a violent football game, have a few stiff drinks with dinner and go to bed.
And then this. This story of two brothers. One a yes-man. "Yup, Daddy, that's right, I'm off to the vineyard. No, don't thank me, it's the right thing to do!" He then snuck out the back to go joy-riding and catch a movie. The other son, never very cooperative, told the old man, "forget it." But then, surprise, he couldn't quite forget it himself and went down to the fields to help out, working a long, hot day.
How does this happen? How does it happen that we say "yes" but do "no"? How does it happen that we say things, and really believe them at the time, but they don't translate into the way we live and the actions we take?
And how does it happen that at least sometimes the people that don't seem to give a hoot about all the right values and pretty much thumb their noses at them, go out of their way to help out and give all they've got?
Well, here I am stuck in church, messed up by Jesus . . . Here I am wondering if it's me he's talking about. Here I am thinking the amazing thing is that despite all the times I have said "yes" and done "no," he's come to sit now at my side. And this is what he says, "Let's give it another shot. Don't just believe in me, follow me. Here we go. That's right. Just follow me, you'll get it."
Thank you, Lord, for disturbing my fool's bliss, for asking hard questions and letting me struggle with the answers. And thank you that when the true, honest answer isn't pretty, your verdict remains the same: grace. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.