Grace 2

this one is for tomorrow – twice at another church in the same team. I really didn’t intend so much overlap from last week , but there it is…!  ( and another Sara Miles quote too!  (if you haven’t read her stuff..why not? read it!)

Trinity 15 year A

The Parable of the Two sons
recording of sermon for Trinity 15a
Politicians and children often have something in common, when faced with a question they don’t want to answer they do their darndest  to wriggle out of it – they ask a different on, say something unrelated.. you know the scene!

Jesus didn’t always give a straight answer to questions either, but rather than being evasive he tended to turn the spotlight back on the questioner & their motives often with powerfully uncomfortable results!

In our Gospel today Jesus has been challenged by the chief priest and the elders, they’re, as always trying to catch him out, they want to trip him up, probably to catch him out on a blasphemy charge, or some other violation of the Jewish law.

They want to out him as a radical and a heretic.  So they ask him in whose authority does he teach.

Jesus isn’t daft – if he said God’s then he’d be hauled off on the grounds he was usurping authority; if he said his own, far worse, that would be blasphemy too.

But Jesus doesn’t answer –instead he asks them a question – what about John?  Where was his teaching from?  and they realise they’ve been had again. Caught in their own net of rules and expectations.

Jesus doesn’t persist with the authority theme though, instead he talks right into the root of the problem, telling the parable of the two sons.

He doesn’t elaborate, or waste words, but simply says to these religious leaders ,

“tax collectors & prostitutes are going into the Kingdom of God before you”

That would have hit them right between the eyes. Jesus has picked two of the most reviled and despised   jobs in society tax collectors were enemy collaborators,  who cheated their country men  for their own gain,  and prostitutes were considered lowest of the low, unclean, unworthy, unredeemable.

These outcasts were entering the kingdom of God, the life and presence  of  God among us??

How very dare he suggest such a thing?

But what Jesus said , shocking and radical as it was, and indeed is, is the truth,

For these religious leaders were blind, so tied up in their notions of respectability and right-ness

So concerned for their reputations and their rules,

They worked  on the basis of who was in & out,

Outcasts were essential to their ways of thinking because outcasts define the centre,  without outcasts,

well it would be unthinkable, everyone would be included.

They’re whole world view was built on

“we know we’re right because they’re so wrong”

WRONG says Jesus,

What’s happening here is that the religious leaders are missing the point

Missing the point of what the Kingdom of God is all about

For the Kingdom of God is not a country or a structure with borders and passports

It’s not a Kingdom  with an immigration policy that wants to legislate  about who is in or out, who belongs or who doesn’t.

The Kingdom of God is about grace, undeserved love, mercy forgiveness from God to all of us

Grace flows from  Jesus  incarnate -God with us, the Word made flesh, present with us.

Grace flows from  the cross and  from the empty tomb.

Grace is radical, generous and yes, frankly offensive.

It offends our notions of right & wrong,  it offends our comfortable status quo, it offends our walls our barriers and our insistence on in & out, worthy and unworthy.

God is merciful without reason,  his love is for everyone, saint, sinner Archbishop, drag queen everyone.

Radical mercy disrupts the mentality of  centre & outcast, it blows it open

Sara Miles says

“ Jesus keeps making the point that salvation doesn’t depend on worldly status or even on religious observance. In a whole series of stores Jesus demonstrates that God deliberately chooses the stranger, the outcast the foreigner, the sick the unclean  – in short the Wrong people – to show the scope of his love”

And we find that hard.

Tucked up in our churches, feeling like perhaps we’ve got this sorted.  We know what we believe and what we’re doing.. and yes if we’re honest we know that a bit because of the people out there – the people we’re not.

And yet Jesus says to us too “you’re missing the point”  it’s not about all this, it’s about Grace, and its free and it’s for everyone,

And we struggle –

Because we’ve made it comfortable, and static, and we don’t much like change or mess.

Rachel Held Evans , a Blogger & Theologian writes “

I don’t like the idea of God using people and methods I don’t approve of and yet that seems to be God’s favorite way of working in the world—outside my expectations, right where I’m prejudiced, against all my rules.”

My rules, our rules aren’t what matters.

What God is doing is what matters and he is working in whom so ever he chooses, not to our direction, or preference but because he offers his grace freely to us all.

And we all need it, we’re all sinners. There’s no centre and no outcast, we’re all the same – in need of God’s grace. We cannot dictate what God does because we’re the ones needing that mercy and forgiveness, as much as the next person, and the next and the next..

The glorious thing about Grace is that we can just say yes to it,   open our hearts and our eyes to what God is doing,  ask for his mercy and join in with what he’s doing – wherever it is.

As we experience the radical grace & mercy  of God we’re called  out of  being  like the second son, lip service and no action,  into being like that first,  changing our mind, admitting our failures and  going off gladly to do our Father’s work.

Let us pray for an experience of that transforming grace in our lives and communities.

Amen

 

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