St. Paul's Episcopal Church
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                                                                                                Proper 21/A: 9/28/14

                                                                                                The Rev. Dee Anne Dodd

                                                                                                St. Paul's, Wallingford CT

 

Jesus said to them, "What do you think?"

 

[Puts on shawl]

What do I think?  I don't know what to think!

 

I'm just one of the people in that crowd who came

to see Jesus teach in the temple.

I mean no disrespect to the chief priests and elders;

their teachings have always been revered by me and my family.

But I can't help noticing that they seem to be, well,

a little defensive around this Jesus.

 

Can you blame them?

Jesus has done nothing but turn things upside down

since he rode into Jerusalem here yesterday.

 

Of course I'd heard about Jesus -- how he healed the sick,

welcomed the outcast, even took women like me seriously.

So I went to see what all the fuss was about.

I didn't mean to get involved,

but stand outside the crowd and observe as he rode into town.

 

But before I knew it, I was holding a palm.

Then I started to wave it.  Just a little.

But I didn't go so far as to shout "Hosanna!"

Well, ok, maybe I mumbled it, softly, a few times.

 

I couldn't help myself.  There was something so loving, so compassionate,

so energizing about his presence that it almost seemed . . . otherworldly.

 

The whole town was abuzz, asking, "Who is this?"

I was shocked when the crowds -- even some people I know --

started saying that Jesus is a prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.

 

But then we saw that he wasn't all sweetness and light.

Because when he got to the temple -- the temple! -- he started overturning tables.

Now, look, you've got a pretty nice place here.

How would you feel if someone came barging in like that?

 

But now that I've had some time to think, maybe Jesus has a point.

Maybe his problem isn't with supporting the temple.

After all, he ended up spending a lot of time there,

and he clearly knows his stuff.

His little band of followers they call "the disciples"

seem pretty well-versed in the Torah as well.

Maybe he drove out the money-changers to show that

we don't have to buy sacrifices to make God love us.

We choose to give sacrificially because God loves us.

Yeah, that's it -- we give sacrificially in thanksgiving for God's love of us.

 

You know what got me thinking about this?

Right after Jesus raised that ruckus with the money-changers,

all the blind and lame folks who linger outside the temple

because they're considered too unclean to go in,

came in after him.

And instead of shooing them away, Jesus cured them.

I can't tell you how many times walking by

seeing their condition has broken my heart, and now they're whole!

You gotta give the guy credit for practicing what he preaches.

 

Which leads me to today.

Jesus is back at the temple and he's piqued our interest.

We're listening to what he has to say.

I hate to admit it, but frankly I'm a little embarrassed by the treatment

he's getting from our chief priests and elders.

They're asking trick questions, and not giving straight answers.

This is not the behavior I'd expect from our spiritual leaders.

 

But then Jesus tells one of his stories -- and doesn't he tell great stories!

About families and farms and things I understand.

 

This one was about a father asking his two sons to go out and work in the vineyard.

The first son says "no" but later changes his mind and goes.

The second son says "yes" but does not go.

Which did the will of the father?

 

Well, naturally the first.

I was proud that the chief priests and elders answered correctly.

But that's not how Jesus saw it.

He said it meant that the tax collectors and prostitutes

would go into the kingdom of God before some of us.

Maybe before some of you.

 

So now I'm wondering --

Could it be that "the way we've always done things"

isn't the only way to do things?

Could it be that changing one's mind can be a sign of strength?

And, maybe, the best way to show what we believe

is not only what we say but what we do --

how we treat one another,

the most vulnerable, the outcast, and all of creation?

 

What do you think?         

 

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