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Speaking to the Soul: Is He Talking About Us?

Speaking to the Soul: Is He Talking About Us?

Week of Proper 8, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 119:145-176 (morning) // 128, 129, 130 (evening)

Numbers 22:41-23:12

Romans 7:13-25

Matthew 21:33-46

From time to time, I entertain an unkind thought about my fellow Christians. This thought is almost never directed at people I’ve met in person. Usually, I have this thought in response to Christians I hear on the radio or read about online. When I hear about Christians who, from my perspective, seem to value rule-following and Bible-quoting more than the overarching principles of Scripture or the person of Christ, I think to myself: “Don’t those people realize that THEY are the chief priests and Pharisees???”

At least the chief priests and Pharisees in today’s gospel can recognize themselves. Jesus tells them a parable about a vineyard owner who leases out his vineyard to tenants who reject, beat, or kill the vineyard owner’s messengers and, eventually, his son. Because of this rejection, the vineyard owner is going to find new tenants who will produce a harvest and give him their fruits.

The parable ends with the warning that, “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.” The gospel goes on to tell us, “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them.”

Might Jesus also be speaking about us? The truth is, I am one of the chief priests and Pharisees. (Well . . . maybe not a “chief priest,” but I think that “Associate Priest” could still be included in the people Jesus is addressing.) Therefore, I’m in real danger of losing my grip on the kingdom of God. But this danger extends also to all of us who are invested in the majority religion of our communities, and who uphold religious institutions that might not be as welcoming to Christ himself as we’d like to believe.

As tempting as it is to see others as the chief priests and Pharisees, we must never lose our capacity to see the chief priests and Pharisees in ourselves, and to ask ourselves, “Where are we most in danger of holding onto the church, but losing the kingdom?”

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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