Matthew 21:23-32 • September 25, 2011
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
A man applied for a job last week as a handyman at an apartment complex in Bismarck. The employer asked the applicant at the prospective interview, “Can you do carpentry?” The man said, “No.”
“How about plumbing or repairing sheetrock?” Again the man said, “No.”
The employer asked, “Well, what about electrical work?” The man said, “No, I don’t know anything about that either.”
Finally the employer said, “Well, then tell me what is handy about you.” The man replied in a matter of fact tone, “I live just around the corner.”
Sometimes the greatest ability we have is that of being available. To be available. This is an issue for me more often than not. Almost daily, I feel like I’m not able to be available to every person or in every place that I want to or should be.
This feeling was especially troubling for me as I spent time with our gospel reading and prepared for our worship today. Jesus once again challenged my perception of him. Too often I think of Jesus as a gentle shepherd with a fluffy lost sheep hanging around his neck gently placing it back in the fold. That’s a common image for me, but has little to do with what my relationship with Jesus is like at all.
Jesus is constantly challenging me, saying things that change my perspective on the world that I think I understand around me, and regularly causing me to step way out of my comfort zone. Jesus seems to enjoy putting one opportunity after another in front of me to be available. The questioning of Jesus’ authority at the start of today’s gospel or the two disobedient sons in the parable didn’t bother me. What bothered me was Jesus saying, “What do you think?”
What do you think? What do you mean Jesus, what do I think? Who cares what I think – I want to know what you think – you’re Jesus after all. But the Jesus that we hear and see in scripture doesn’t tell us what he thinks first. Jesus most often asks us what we think first. And in asking us what we think, we are reminded once again that life in Christ is about relationship. And being in relationship with Jesus challenges us to be available when he asks, “What do you think?”
Another school year has started and with that I usually get sick. You see, my children bring home new germs that inevitably have a negative impact on my health.
This past Tuesday morning – when I heard Jesus ask me what I thought – I decided that another dose of Nyquil and a day of rest would be the best response to that question. It was the first sick day I have taken in a very long time. I’m thankful for the time of rest and healing that Tuesday was for me. Answering the question – “what do you think?” sometimes causes us to just rest for a little while. And that’s often a very good thing.
That question may also cause us to stick our necks out a little from time to time. And life in Christ may not always give a quick and easy answer to difficult questions that we face in this world.
Last night, Good Shepherd, as a community of faith, joined The God’s Child Project and the Institute for Trafficked, Exploited, and Missing Persons to offer a screening of the movie Sex + Money: A National Search for Human Worth. We gathered as brothers and sisters in Christ from a variety of denominations and faith traditions to watch this film, discuss and pray about the issue of human worth, and worship together believing that life in Christ brings hope to all humanity. All people are children of God who have value and worth.
The question, What do you think? when faced with the reality of atrocities like human trafficking is not answered by any one of us alone. Good Shepherd made itself available last night for a very important conversation about an issue that affects all of us. And if you don’t think it’s happening in your backyard – think again. The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota and the Mall of America in Minneapolis are two of the most active locations for prostitution and human trafficking in the United States today.
Jesus doesn’t want us to put up walls or give up trying to answer questions of faith. In fact, I believe questions from Jesus tear down walls and empower all of us to be available to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ – when we are faced with difficult decisions and issues or simply when we are just going about our daily routine in life.
A few weeks ago my family and I were driving past Shiloh Christian School on Nineteenth Street. One of my daughters said to Wendy, “Mom, I wish we were Christian.”
Wendy was intrigued by that statement and asked, “Why?”
Our daughter said, “Because that looks like a nice school. And if we were Christian I maybe could have gone there.”
Wendy replied, “But honey, we are Christian.”
A puzzled look came on our little girl’s face as she confidently and proudly stated, “But mom, I thought we were Lutheran.”
Wendy had a wonderful opportunity to have a conversation with our daughters and come up with answers to deep questions of faith. About their relationship with Jesus – as Lutherans who are Christian. So often children reveal life in Christ to us in a most amazing and beautiful way. Wendy was available to our daughters that night and Jesus was with them in their questions and conversation.
As brothers and sisters who seek to follow the risen savior Jesus, we are called to respond and to be available. At times, we need to be available to stop and rest for a little while. At other times, we are called to be available with brothers and sisters in Christ to address difficult issues in our world today. And at other times, available for simple conversations with someone you love.
By being available, I believe that we grow in relationship with each other and with God through our Savior Jesus Christ. May God richly bless and keep you this week as you make yourself available to Jesus asking you the question, “What do you think?” Amen.