Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

September 27, 2020

A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go.

How many times I have said, “Yes” to something and then failed to follow through. By forgetfulness, ignorance, or by choice, I must confess that I have neglected a duty (or two) to which I had once committed. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever said, “No” to someone and then fulfilled the request anyway — warped sense of humor aside.

I wonder if Jesus’ message in the Matthean parable this weekend might be about people who say “Yes” to following the way of Christ — in baptism, by profession, and by wearing the name ‘Christian’ — yet are not living up to the depth of our commitment. It is much easier for me to say that I will strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being rather than actually doing this difficult work. Conversely, there are people who have said, no to organized religion, maybe even no to the invitation to follow Christ and yet who fulfill the spirit — if not the letter — of the command to strive for justice and peace among all people.

This week, in his Daily Meditations, Richard Rohr challenged his readers to look beyond the labels we ascribe to others — “unbelievers, non-believers, non-Christian, the lapsed, even ‘pagans’” — somewhat derisively, and consider instead what they do with their lives. With that metric, it is much harder to say that people who work hard for justice and peace and dignity are on the other side of some imaginary line in the sand that separates ‘believers’ from ‘non-believers.’ Fr. Rohr says that we must be honest and humble about this: many people of other faiths, like Sufi masters, Jewish prophets, many philosophers, and Hindu mystics, have lived in light of the Divine encounter better than many Christians. And why would a God worthy of the name God not care about all of God’s children? (Read Wisdom 11:23–12:2 for a powerful Scripture in this regard.) Does God really have favorites among God’s children? What an unhappy family that would create—and indeed, has created.

For me this week, Fr. Rohr’s writing connects with the dying and honoring of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. A person of intense conviction, she left a legacy of justice and peace and dignity far more than I could ever deliver. A Jew by birth, RBG was moved by the call to justice and then worked diligently for its universal application. Not particularly observant in her faith, it was the call for justice she heard as a young woman while attending synagogue school that fanned to flame the spark of passion in her.

She didn’t offer an overt no either to Christ or to her own faith. However, the fight in her was the fight of God. Her entire professional career was dedicated to the one proposition that justice was meant for all people based on our essential dignity. We’ve all seen the recent memes stating, “If you are a single woman with a credit card, if you are a woman and a homeowner… you have a debt to RBG.” I will not be surprised to find Ruth Bater Ginsberg in a future copy of The Episcopal Church’s commemoration of “Holy Women, Holy Men.”

This may be to what Jesus is referring when he distinguishes between those who say yes and do nothing and those who say no and still take up the battle to fight for God’s people. The path of Christ is not at all a walk paved with our meaningless verbal yes. It is a pathway of doing justice, working for peace, and honoring the dignity of all persons; the pathway upon which we embarked on the day of our baptism.

We gather in person tonight at St. John’s in the courtyard at 5:30 p.m. — our new time going forward — for Eucharist. Please make your reservations for next week, Saturday, October 3 on the home page beginning Monday morning.

St. John’s continues to pray daily as a community:
• Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we pray Morning Prayer at 9 a.m. Here you’ll find the worship bulletin for September 27.
• Nighttime Prayer is prayed on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
• Bible Fellowship (open to all) continues on Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m.

To ensure participants’ online security during worship and fellowship, we don’t publish the ZOOM links; if you did not receive the church-wide email from me with the links, and would like to attend services, please email me and I’ll add you to the e-blast, and send you the links.

The Adult Forum starts Sunday, September 27 at 10 a.m. with an informational meeting. Then, beginning October 4 and continuing thereafter, we are embarking on a journey to discuss and inwardly digest the book, “I’m Still Here; Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness,” by Austin Channing Brown. Reading this book is essential in order to join coherently in the discussions. If you’d like to attend, please contact Scotty King and she’ll send you the ZOOM link.

Rev. Karen Maurer and I are posting our office hours for you. These meetings are, naturally, ZOOM conferences where you can do a virtual drop-by to say, “Hi,” or to ask any question on your mind.
This will not be a confidential setting. If you wish to have personal time with us, simply speak to us about this and we can calendar with you.

My ZOOM office hours: Tuesdays at 10 a.m. Here’s my ZOOM link.

Rev. Karen’s ZOOM office hours: Thursdays at 10 a.m. Here’s Rev. Karen’s ZOOM link.

May the Holy Spirit give us the courage to DO the good work that was begun in us by God.