Devotional for the week of October 4th, 2020
Throughout his ministry in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus draws in people at the margins of society. As the leader of a reform movement, Jesus spoke as a Jew to fellow Jews. When we read these stories centuries later, we must remember that his intent was to condemn exclusion and abuses of power—not to reject Judaism. His critiques still ring true for the power structures of the religious institutions of our time.
Jesus’ parables stirred people up, provoking questions, doubts, even hostility. When his listeners recognized themselves in the parables, it was rarely comforting or affirming. Do we have the honesty and vulnerability to see ourselves critically in the stories as the chief priests and Pharisees did?
There aren’t any clear heroes in this story, as in any story of class warfare. Perhaps the tenants turned to violence out of frustration with the economic injustice of their situation. The Pharisees were quick to side with the powerful landowner, asserting his right to kill the tenants and crush their revolt, yet Jesus does not affirm this escalation either.
We begin worship with a prayer of confession, recalling the image of God’s goodness in each of us and yet honestly admitting our shame and guilt. Today’s parable also issues a call to confession, alluding to the vineyard of Isaiah 5, which yielded wild grapes instead of sweet. God has created a world that can provide abundant life for all. What are the fruits of our congregations? God’s heart longs for justice for all people. How might we unintentionally and unknowingly cultivate the sour wine of exclusion, discrimination, and injustice?
In the prayer of the day, we ask: “Beloved God, . . . lead us . . . to know those things that are right, and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them.” Empowered by God’s grace and forgiveness, we set to work removing the blinders that keep us from recognizing ourselves in parables’ antagonists and repenting of the injustices that we perpetuate.
Devotional message and art based on the readings for October 4th, reprinted from sundaysandseasons.com.