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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Obedience in Action Sunday

"Glibness" by Pr. Jim - September 27, 2020


“Obedience in Action”





Whether at home or here in our sanctuary, a warm welcome to all who have gathered to worship this morning through our Zoom Service. It is our prayer that through this time of prayer and thanksgiving, the Holy Spirit will strengthen your relationship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

AS WE GATHER  “What Do You Think?”

Today’s First Lesson is a marvelous exposition of Law and

Gospel. Only the truly repentant will enter the kingdom

of heaven. To these saints, God’s love and mercy knows

no bounds. The Second Lesson addresses today’s theme

directly. The Christian puts on the mind of Christ because

of Christ himself. In his own person, Jesus had done all

that is necessary to forgive us and make us righteous by

faith. The Gospel underscores the first reading—only

those who repent will enter the kingdom of heaven. Repentance does not mean mere speech—but doing. It is a turning from not saying or doing (unbelief) to both saying and doing (repentance), thereby possessing the mind of Christ himself. What do you think?


O God, you see how anxious and occupied we are with many things. In this hour of worship and prayer, give us rest from all that would cause us to be anxious. Turn us

to listen to you and come to us in Word and Sacrament, assuring us of that peace that passes all understanding; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


“Obedience in Action”


THEME of The Day

Jesus’ parable about two sons who don’t do what they say reveals surprises in the reign of God. In the reading from Ezekiel the people claim the ways of the Lord are unfair, while God offers repentance and new life. Paul urges us to look to Christ as a model of humility, putting the interests of others above our own. Nourished by the broken bread and shared cup, we offer our lives for the sake of our needy world.

May God bless your worship this morning.


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

From the Word which God has sown, a harvest will be gathered in.

          We have been called to work in God’s vineyard, to share in God’s harvest, to

give God what belongs to God.

“My Word shall not return to me empty,” says the Lord. “It shall accomplish the thing

for which I sent it.”

 But we are reluctant to obey, to do the Father’s will.

+ A Brief Silence for Reflection +

Lord of the living harvest, we confess that we have sinned. In our thinking, speaking, doing—proper fruit has not been borne. Your final harvest fills our hearts with fear. For the sake of Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive our disobedience and hypocrisy, that we may serve you faithfully. Amen.

As the One who trod the winepress alone, Jesus Christ poured out his life for you. In him there is forgiveness, life, and resurrection from the dead. By him we are redeemed and set at liberty in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Our God has turned to us and we shall live.

   Thanks be to God!


In peace, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For the peace from above and for our salvation

let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of

The Church of God, and for the unity of all let us pray

to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For this holy house and for all who offer here their

worship and praise let us pray to the Lord.

     Lord, have mercy.

Help, save and defend us, O God. Amen.    


God of love, you know our frailties and failings. Give us your grace to overcome them; keep us from those things that harm us; and guide us in the way of salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

FIRST LESSON         Ezekiel 18:1-4. 25-32

[The prophet Ezekiel challenges an old proverb that would see the exile as punishment for the sins of the exiles’ ancestors. Rather, he says, God insists that individuals are responsible for their own sin and their own repentance.]

The word of the LORD came to me “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The parents have earth sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, says the LORD GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Now that all lives are mine, the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins shall die …

“Yet you say, ‘The way of the LORD is unfair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is

it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit

iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committee and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered their transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live, they shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the LORD is unfair.’ O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the LORD

GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away

from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new

heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of

anyone, says the LORD GOD. Turn, then, and live.

The Word of the Lord.

                 Thanks be to God!

SECOND LESSON    Philippians 2:1-4, 14-18

[As part of a call to harmony rather than self-seeking, Paul exhorts the Philippians to shine like lights in the world by sharing the love of Christ as they serve others in his Name.]

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his or her own interests, but also the interests of others….

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!

HOLY GOSPEL         Matthew 21:23-32

[After driving the moneychangers out of the temple (21:12), Jesus heals the sick and begins teaching there. Those activities are challenged by the religious leaders, who are supposed to be in charge of the temple.]

When [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, “Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

“What do you think? A man had two sons, he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second son and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you; the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

HOMILY                      Glibness            

Text: The Gospel Lesson Pr. Jim

Glibness and Attitude

+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

Glibness … that’s the best word I can think of to describe the problem Jesus nails down in the person of the second son in the brief parable which is part of today’s Gospel Lesson. The remedy for that serious problem (far more serious than we often recognize) lies in the person who told the story and still speaks to us today.

“What do you think?” Jesus asks. “A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” What do you think?

Well, what I think is -- both these boys had an attitude problem! Neither one of them gets my award for son of the year. And maybe that’s part of the point. In the way we human beings respond to God … as well as those around us … there’s not one of us that does it perfectly. We all fall short. And in this story, I suspect we can see our own attitudes reflected pretty clearly.

Let’s start with the second son, since he’s probably the one most of us resemble more. This son is only too willing to please Dad. He’s polite—notice he calls his father “sir.” He’s agreeable. He commits himself to doing what he is asked. Only trouble is, he doesn’t follow through. Jesus offers no explanation, but maybe you can fill that in from your own life. What are the reasons we find for not doing what God asks? Perhaps we simply get too busy with other things. We know Christ asks us to take up our cross, to give freely of our time and talents and material goods; but other things come up, and somehow or other our commitment to Christ takes a back seat. Worship is important, but it’s only a Zoom service that I can catch later on the website. I know I should be willing to serve on church council or on one of the committees but, well, I’ve done it before; let someone else take a turn. I need my time free. Yes, I know that in my baptism I was marked with the cross of Christ, and I know that as his child I’ve been given a task to do—but really, others are better qualified than I. Let someone else do it. I won’t be missed. Sound familiar?

Of course, the other son isn’t much better. He is surly and abrupt with his father. “No, I won’t do that.” He doesn’t seem to remember the Fourth Commandment very well! Yet there’s a difference between the two sons. The first one, the surly one, later has a change of heart and goes out to the vineyard. Not the best of responses, but at least he gets it together in the end.

There’s another kind of attitude pointed out in the Second Lessons for the day—one we don’t see in either son … but one we’d like to see, one that Christ would like to see. It’s expressed in Paul’s words to the Philippians:

“Have this mind among yourselves which you have in Christ Jesus.”

The Greek word here translated “mind” could easily be translated “attitude.” “Have this attitude which you have in Christ Jesus.” Then Paul goes on to describe the attitude: it is one that causes one to humble oneself … to be concerned more for others than for self. It’s an attitude that pours out oneself for others, empties oneself. Quite a difference from the boys in the parable! And probably quite a difference from our usual attitude. Being a servant? Being obedient? “Emptying oneself?” These are concepts that are a bit foreign to us who like to be in charge of our lives … to be the master of our fate and the captain of our soul!

Of course, Paul’s point is that fulfillment really comes in this paradoxical way by having the attitude of Christ. Fulfillment comes precisely by emptying oneself. Our needs are best met when we think not so much about ourselves but about others.

“What do you think?” Jesus asks. Well, I think the real miracle comes when somehow the selfishness and self-centeredness that’s in me gets transformed into something else. I guess maybe that’s what happened to son number one. He wouldn’t go out in the vineyard … he had too many other things to do, selfish things. But then something got hold of him and changed his mind. Dare we call it grace? Dare we call it anything else but grace? Can anything but grace take selfish, self-centered people like us and change us into folks who have the mind, the attitude of Christ?

This chapter in Philippians starts so beautifully, with Paul talking about “encouragement in Christ . . . the incentive of love.” The way that grace works in us … you see … is through encouragement, and through love. When Christ begins to work in us, he also begins to work through us. He shows us … gently … simply … how to have his attitude. Maybe it has to do with how we treat others … how we learn to count them better than ourselves … in humility. Maybe it has to do with how we give … how we empty ourselves … how we become servants … how we overlook being tired and worn out. Whatever it may be, he begins to transform us by making us into his own likeness. And he does it! Despite our grumbling … our resisting … our self-assertion … he molds us and shapes us into his own likeness.

“Have this mind among yourselves which you have in Christ Jesus.”

Encouragement! … You see, Christ works in us and with us by the power of the Spirit! He moves into our heart, and says to us, “OK, I know how things look to you, but how about looking at it from this perspective for a while. Maybe your ideas will change … maybe your attitude will change! Maybe instead of looking at yourself and your needs, you can look at others and their needs. Maybe instead of saying, “No, I can’t,” or “No, I won’t,” you’ll reconsider!

Good friends in Christ, the remarkable thing is that the smallest contribution we make can do such marvelous things! Paul says, “God is at work in you,” and that’s right. God is at work in us … not just encouraging us to give and to pour out ourselves but turning the trickle into a flood … even as Lord poured out his life for us on the Tree of the Cross and floods our lives with mercy and grace.

Maybe you’ve heard the story of the mother who, wishing to encourage her young son’s progress at the piano, bought tickets for a performance by the great master Paderewski. When the night arrived … they found their seats in the front row … just beneath the majestic black concert Steinway on center stage. The mother began a conversation with the person in the seat next to her and didn’t notice that her son had slipped away. When 8:00 arrived, the house lights dimmed … the audience quieted … and only then did they notice the boy sitting at the piano bench, innocently picking out “Twinkle, twinkle little star” with one finger. The mother gasped. She was about to retrieve the boy when out walked the great pianist. He slipped on to the bench beside the boy, and whispered to him, “Don’t quit! Keep playing.” And then Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began improvising a bass line; and his right arm reached around the other side encircling the child … to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized.

Encouragement in Christ. “Don’t quit! Keep playing!” In our lives … unpolished as we may be … sometimes as reluctant as we may be … perhaps as discouraged as we may be … perhaps as tired and worn out as we may be … it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear: “Don’t quit! Keep playing!” And as we do … strengthened through Word and Sacrament … our Lord augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created. He takes what little we have to offer and uses it to change our way of thinking … our attitude … our way of doing … to form us after himself. What do you think? I think that with a Master like that, all the bad attitudes in the world and in my heart don’t have much of a chance.

So … what do you think?

+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +


I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven

and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life + everlasting. Amen.


Drawn together in the compassion of God, let us pray for

The Church, the world, and all of God’s creation.

A Brief Pause

In all the world, give your Church unity. Inspire all the baptized

with the mind of Christ. Where The Church is powerful and

where it is weak and struggling, shape us with humility and

obedience so that your love may be at work in us. Lord, in

your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Your creation is a precious gift, O God. Mend and redeem

places that are polluted and damaged by our poor stewardship. Turn our hearts to share its resources wisely rather than in selfish gain. Provide needed rains and weather conditions to bring all wildfires under control. Protect all firefighters and first responders as they seek to gain control and manage further devastation caused by all of the current wildfires. Bring strength, comfort, and relief to those affected and displaced by the Almeda Fire, especially: Pat & Penny, Lyle & Sandy, Richard & Doris, Norm & Marilyn, Sharon, and Linda (Vernia’s caregiver), together with those we name in our hearts. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Your desire, O God, is for us to live peacefully with one another. Lead us along the paths

of justice and give us delight in living with honor and loving our neighbor during these days of protests, rioting, and civil unrest. Calm our anxiousness and bless us with the necessary healing and change that only you can give. Fill all leaders with mercy and understanding, that they advocate and genuinely care for those who are poor, marginalized, and most vulnerable. Bring peace, justice, and calm to Belarus as its citizens seek a more democratic representation and government. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Tend to all in need of your compassion and love, O God. Hear the cries of those awaiting justice and those yearning for forgiveness. Give community to the lonely and neighbors to the outcast. Shelter all who are vulnerable in body, mind, or spirit especially your servants: Marguerite (MaryAnn’s mother) and Shari, together with those we name in our hearts … brief pause … raise the spirits of those who are homebound in our parish, especially Sharon, Joyce, Richard & Doris, Rusty, Bonnie, Vernia, and Elma that they may be assured of your presence through our prayers and acts of service and love. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Turn this congregation, O God, away from our own anxiousness and interests toward the interests and needs of others. Fill us with your compassion and sympathy. Make us into signs of your mercy and compassion for our neighbors and the communities in which we liveLord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

We thank you, O God, for those who have gone before us with the sign of faith and now rest from their labors. By their faithful witness and example, teach us to confess Jesus Christ as Lord in our lives until we join them. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

Receive our prayers, merciful God, and dwell in us richly, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

In the night in which he was betrayed,

our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;

broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying:

Take and eat; this is my + body which is given

for you. Do this in remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,

And gave it for all to drink, saying:

This cup is the new covenant in my + blood

shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness

of sin. Do this in remembrance of me.


Our Father who art in heaven;

hallowed be Thy Name,

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom

and the power and the glory

forever and ever. Amen.


Blessed are you, God of heaven and earth. You satisfy us with good things as an eagle feeds her young. Renew our strength, that we may go with eagerness and joy into the places where you send us to work in Jesus’ Name. Amen.


The Lord bless you and keep you.

The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

The Lord look upon you with favor and give you + peace. Amen.

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