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Partake In God's Authority

Matthew 21:23-32

The Rev. Jon Roberts

28 September


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Partake In  God's Authority

The Parable of the Father and his two Sons by Georg Pencz,

When running to obtain the promises of a heavenly treasure
Strive to become partakers rather than heartbreakers.[1]

In our churches today we need to work harder at rejoicing in the good news of Jesus Christ, to be partakers of God’s promises rather than heartbreakers, who refuse to show mercy and pity. [2]

Once there was a small ecumenical gathering to discuss such matters and to partake in some meaningful dialogue. After several invitations went out to local clergy, but only three responded: A Methodist, a Roman Catholic and an Episcopalian. The Roman Catholic Priest strikes up a conversation to get things going. He asked, "How are your congregations looking these days; any good news at all?" to which the Methodist minister replies, "Well yes as it happens, recently things have been slow but this week we had 4 new members join our congregation. It's excellent, we really think God's doing something great for our church. How our things with you back over at your church?" "That's great to hear that you have four new members," replied the RC priest, "although I hate to say this now, but we're doing better than you, as like you we had several quiet months, but this last week have got 6 new members." "6, wow that's excellent, and we thought we were doing well with four new members." Both the priest and the minister turn to the Episcopal Rector who has kept fairly quiet, "Sounds like God's really doing good things in both our churches, but you can't have had a better week than that, can you?" "Well, as great as your news is, I'm afraid God seems to be working the most over in my church, this last week, I lost my 10 worst trouble makers."

This is heartbreaking, to know that one person’s gain is based on another person’s loss, but this is how it was with the people who came to the temple to listen to Jesus teach. They left that other church, the temple because they wanted to hear something new. They wanted to hear someone who spoke with authority. Someone who seemed connected to God. The theme of humility and repentance is heard but many would not turn. Turning to God is the central message from the prophet Ezekiel, who emphasized the need to repent and turn away from such transgressions.[3] Without God you are nothing. It has to begin at that basic understanding, to germinate in this understanding of turning to God. That is the only way we can become partakers of God’s heavenly kingdom. There are the righteous who live in inequity who do not repent and there are those who are righteous who do repent. The first becomes a heartbreaker, never changing their ways, and the second becomes a partaker. When we go forward into the letter to the Philippians, we are called in a direction to live in unity. Through humility we are to regard others better than ourselves.[4]

There are lots of people who came around Jesus, including the righteous, those who resemble the current day priest or pastor. He is questioned by them, who want to know, “By what authority are you doing these things.” They want him to validate himself before believing anything he has to say. They knew he was not seminary bred and intended to discredit him quickly. Jesus was wise, knowing what they did to John the Baptist, who simply preached from a rock, declaring he was a sinner and that all should listen to what he had to say. It was the heartbreakers who turned against them. He declared his authority was given by God to preach the importance of turning to God. Knowing their devious ways, Jesus turned it back on them. He asks, “Do you think my authority comes from above or below?” They could not answer his question, so Jesus promises life and he does so in a parable about a father and two sons.[5] Both are asked to work the vineyard. One says he will but doesn’t. The other says he won’t, but does. Who was a partaker of the father’s will? Obviously the one who came around.

We are juxtaposed between those two sons. If we believe we are better than everybody else, then we are a heartbreaker to God. A partaker is one who participates and deliberates on how to turn to God and then to bring others to Christ through humility. One day we hope that people will come through our doors begging to partake in the work of God, in this church. Too many are like that son who says they are spiritual, willing to work for God, but never actually doing anything that is religious; realigning themselves to God. Others may say God has no authority over them and they do not have the time to commit. It is when they take that next step asking God to use their gifts for His purpose, and subject themselves to God’s authority when the real work takes place. We are working with both types of people in this church, hoping to see them turn around. These are the two types of workers, children of God, in God’s field. Which one have we been? Which one are we now? Which one do we want to become?

There are too many instances of heartbreak. This is why Jesus came into the world so that he would bring all people unto himself. He has vowed to us, he has promised a heavenly place that awaits where this perfect union is revealed, where everyone partakes of God’s purpose. Today we must strive to be of one mind, of one accord. When we are running to obtain the heavenly promises, with passion, becoming partakers rather than heartbreakers. Follow Jesus with your heart, your mind and your soul, asking him to help you turn, and to partake in His authority.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Proper 21 Collect from The Book of Common Prayer, 1979.
[3] Ezekiel 18:1-32
[4] Philippians 2:1-13
[5] Matthew 21:23-32

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