MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on what it means to be the “chosen people”. What does being so very right give us a right to do? Listen to this podcast of his reflection on the readings for 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time or Proper 21 to find out. Please read Matthew 21:33-46. For Audio, “read more” below. #GreatChristianPreaching #Prayer #Sermons #Homilyhelper #Chili #Hometown #Holiness #BeingChosenIsNotWhatYouThink
For MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/5/2014 The 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time or the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 21:33-43(46).
There is something about my wife’s cooking that is better than anyone else’s. I mean, for example, let’s take chili. I have a hard time eating anyone else’s chili. When we go to another person’s house, or we have a carry in meal, I will eat the chili offered because someone worked to make it, but it is NEVER as good as homecooking. This isn’t exactly fair. My wife’s cooking is so good that I have said to her a few times, “If the meal isn’t tasty, it is the recipe that is the problem.”
I have to admit that I used to think that my home town was “all that.” If you didn’t follow Notre Dame Football, have polish sausage made somewhere on your city’s westside, and have a river running through your city, you were deficient. That was a long time ago and many lessons ago learned.
Did you know that there are Christian Churches that predate the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Churches? Melkites and Coptic Churches were there before there was a “Roman Catholic Church”. Peter may have been the first Pope, but the RCC as we know it wasn’t in Rome yet. There are a whole host of Churches that are legit. There were bishops in Britain 300 years before St. Augustine of Canterbury ever set foot on the shores. There is a whole world of Christianity that does not use the Latin or Roman Rite and its offshoots. Some recognize the primacy of Peter and others don’t. Yet, I think after reading the passage from the Gospel of Matthew, the question that should not even enter the equation is, “Who is more legitimate? Or, which one is better?”
Although, the lection for the day has the passage from Philippians, I am wondering if the passage from 1 Corinthians 13 wouldn’t be more appropriate,
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
We can have apostolic succession, the proper form of vestments for the priest to wear, the proper readings laid out perfectly, the best liturgy with all the parts in the right place, all the items chanted or sung perfectly, but if we do not have the heart of God that loves all and shows mercy, then what is the use? Is it our pride of place that will get us to heaven? Is it the fact that we are Christians that will get us to heaven? Is it that we are the proper brand of Christianity that will get us to heaven? The Gospel lesson today should throw all of that into question and even out the door.
Today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew falls into the “controversy” section. It is where the Chief Priests and the Pharisees, who are the people who are supposed to be the “Chosen People” come to Jesus and ask him by what authority he is doing healings, preaching, raising the dead. First, the irony is that they are supposed to be the people who would know and know before anybody else. Then, Jesus goes on to tell these parables about sons, one who says yes and doesn’t and the other who says no and does. Our passage today, about the vineyard owner who sends servants and then his son to tenants is directed right at the Chosen People.
The allegory is laid out carefully. The Father in Heaven is the landowner who lays out the vineyard and leaves it to the care of tenants, or in other words, the Chosen People. The Chosen People were to grow the vineyard and press out awesome wine to share with all. They were to care for the land and be ready for the land owner to come by for inspection and collection of harvest at any time. Instead, when God sent his prophets to collect the fruits of the labor, the Chosen People beat them, killed them and stoned them. Just ask Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos and the others.
For those of us who are Christians, the message of Jesus is clear when he speaks of what happens when they kill the son of the Land Owner, the Father in Heaven. It would be easy for us, as Christians to hoot and holler about the fact that Jesus is saying, and Matthew wants us to know, that the Gentiles will be asked to carry the mantle of the Chosen People with the Jews when Jesus rises from the dead. We should be happy about our inclusion. We should rejoice that being God’s chosen people is not just about praying one way, going to Temple on the right day or being born into a certain tribe or family. We should rejoice that we are being grafted into God’s promise of eternal life through baptism and living a “fruitful life.”
For Matthew, his Gospel has painted a certain picture of what a “fruitful life” life is. For Matthew, a “fruitful life” is human caring, living righteously and courageous witnessing. At the very least, these “Chosen People” Jesus encounters failed to live the courageous life when they failed to declare whether or not Jesus was doing things by his authority or God’s authority. They end up like the Church of Laodicea in Revelation, whose is spit out of God’s mouth because they are luke warm, neither hot nor cold, but just accommodating to the winds of the moment. We should rejoice that being the People of God is not left just to people who try to protect themselves from negative public opinion and avoid being kind and gracious to the needy and outcast.
Yet, herein lies the rub. It would be easy for us to say that someone else’s city or hometown is inferior because we haven’t experienced it or haven’t declared that it is true. As Christians, we ought to be rejoicing wherever there is human concern, righteous living and courageous witnessing to truth. Yet, we don’t do that.
Just the last week, a man contacted me on my LinkedIn page to ask just who I prayed to. He was telling me that he is the new prophet to call people back to God. Did I sense a concern for my humanity? Did I sense righteous living that sought the heart of God? Did I see a courageous witness to what God would want? I did see some of these things, but what I saw more than anything was judgment and a desire to put me down and put himself on top.
Praying a certain way, using a certain liturgy and being correct theologically are wonderful things, but without the proper context of love, we are just telling people that their chili and their hometown ain’t as good as ours. These attitudes are exactly what killed the Savior we want to serve. A prideful self-certain attitude is what caused the ears of the “Chosen People” to choose not to listen to the Savior they had long awaited and eventually for the leaders of the “Chosen People” to collude with the Roman authorities to kill the man we claim to be the God man.
If these attitudes are what we believe killed our Savior. Then why would we be people who would embrace them? Why would we not do our best not to be people trapped in attitudes of superiority and to be people in attitudes of service and love? Why would I not bend myself, without abandoning my principles, to love others who disagree with me so much when I know that my Savior is theirs and my Father is their Father?
The protestant reading for this Sunday goes farther than the Catholic and should put us in fear and awe of being so smug and self-righteous. Verse 44 is written for us as much as anyone else, “And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” Our Lord wants fruit from the vineyard. That fruit is the kind of love we find in the passage from 1 Corinthians: patience, kindness, without jealousy, without arrogance, without rudeness and insistence on its own way; without irritability, resentment or rejoicing in the wrong. This love rejoices at what is right. This love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Regardless of whether you think your church is the only church, the right church, the best church, whatever, we cannot escape that if we have any claim to that at all, there must be a palpable difference between us and the small group of people who killed Jesus Christ, our Savior. If we are in a Church that is more concerned about power, prestige, being right over being good, being better than being in service, then we have a moral obligation to speak out, shout out and be killed with the prophets. We cannot be like the hypocrites. We cannot.
So, where are the wrongs that your church has committed that you need to right? How can you combat it while lifting up the dignity of your opponent? How can you approach the situation to show the sheer egregious nature of the people you wish to correct without humiliating them like our Lord was humiliated? How can you stand up for truth, righteousness and goodness without tearing down your brother human being? Pray for a plan. Pray for words. Pray for those who are doing wrong. Pray for their blessings and repentance. Then go, do what the Lord is calling you to do. Amen? Amen.
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