Preparing to preach this Sunday, I feel as if I have preached this sermon before. In fact, I feel as though I have been preaching the same sermon for the last month. Ok, maybe not the exact same sermon, but variations on a theme. And I'm ok with that, because I feel like Jesus has been doing the same thing in the appointed lections for the last month.
- The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt 20:1-16, Proper 20A). Not actually about good management or employment policies. Some were concerned with what other people deserved / received. Jesus' sermon: Stop worrying about what others receive, and live the life that you are called to.
- The Parable of the Two Sons (Matt 21:23-32, Proper 21A). Not actually about parenting styles or the assignment of chores. Some were concerned with saying the right things, keeping up the right appearances. Jesus' sermon: What you say and how you appear are not as important as what you actually do, so go and live the life that you are called to.
- The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Matt. 21:33-46, Proper 22A). Not actually a guide for landlords or renters. Again, talking to the same people who were concerned with what they deserved, based on who they were. Jesus' sermon: It ain't yours, it belongs to the landowner, your job is to get out there and produce fruit - so get out there, and live the life you that you are called to.
- The Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matt. 22:1-14, Proper 23A). Not actually a guide for good wedding planning. Talking to those who were sure that they deserved to be at the banquet. Jesus' sermon: Everyone is welcome to the banquet, but those at the banquet should clothe themselves in lives of love - so get out there, and live the life that you are called to.
- The Enacted Parable of the Coin (Matt. 22:15-22, Proper 24A). Not actually about money, or taxes. Still talking to the same folks, concerned with tripping Jesus up over the minutiae of the law. Jesus' sermon: Quit obsessing over the little things, get out there and love your neighbor, and live the life that you have been called to. (Or, as Paul said, live lives that are so filled with faith and love that we don't even have to speak of your faith, everyone already knows.)
Notice a common thread? Ok, so maybe this isn't where your exegesis has taken you for the last five weeks But between events of the world, the Gospel texts, and the other appointed texts for the day, this is where I have landed.
Jesus is concerned with the lives that we are called to!
And this Sunday, Jesus drives it home. This is the conclusion of what the lectionary has given to us as a six week sermon. View the rest as illustrations, this is thematic statement that pulls the whole thing together. How do we work in the vineyard of the Lord? How do we become the child who does the will of the Father? How do we produce fruit in the land that we working for the Landlord? How do we clothe ourselves for the banquet? How do we render to God that which is God's?
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. On this hangs all the law and all the prophets - this is the life that God is calling us to. And, as Martin Luther taught, we love God precisely by loving our neighbor.
So let us get out there, and live the lives that God has called us to.