For 6 April 2020: Sixth Monday of Lent – Holy Monday
Read: Matthew 21:28-32
The sunshine is dappled this morning. I love when the light is like this. It reminds me of fond memories when the light shown in dappled beams. Part of the reason I love dappled light is the way it plays with light and dark, shadow and light. As I watch the dappling walk through the morning, I am reading from Matthew the passages after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. What happened next in the Jesus story? It isn’t just Palm Sunday and a triumphal entry then hanging out waiting for Thursday. What happened next?
Matthew tells us Jesus went to teaching by both deed and word. He began to shine bright and remove shadows. He cleansed the Temple. He answers questions about who he is, although his entry into Jerusalem should be a clear and radiant sign of who he is; the Prince of Peace returning to Jerusalem. Yet, he is questioned, and he shows the signs which others have demanded of him all this time. Instead of the miraculous, he points to the outcome of his ministry.
The parable Jesus tells in the reading for today is the story of two siblings. One changes their mind and does the will of the parent; the second gladly and quickly embraces the will of the parent but never does what was asked. Jesus tells his listeners that tax collectors and prostitutes are the first of the children in this tale. While resistant at first, the tax collectors and prostitutes recognize their need to change their mind and their ways. While those who have embraced the message resist changing themselves or their ways. Matthew is inviting us to embrace the dappled, shadowy places in our lives. God redeems those places.
When I began in ministry, I made it a point to visit all the shut-ins in my congregations. I served two small congregations on the east side of Danville. Each Sunday, I drove through the large public housing projects and towers; my congregations flanked that work. Some of my congregation’s residences where still in those same neighborhoods. I made it a point to visit those seniors who lived in those neighborhoods in particular. Most had little or no family. One gentleman I visited had served in World War 2. His stories were fascinating.
In our conversations, he began to tell me about some of the events and happenings in which he participated and witnessed while a young man serving in Europe during the war. He had spent a lifetime holding back all he felt from those days. We had long conversations over really bad coffee about the shadows of his life. He had tried to run from them, hide them, deny them. In his final years, he recognized the “tax collector and prostitute” in himself. Our conversations were long conversations about a loving God who seeks us out. Our conversations were about a God who doesn’t give up on us so that even if we say “no” the first time; the invitation always stands. We had conversations about how not “getting it” didn’t change the fact that God still loves us and keeps inviting us even when we say, “no thanks.” God's redeeming love isn't for the best of us, but for the worse of us.