October 1, 2017 - The Rev. Sarah Quinney

Today’s gospel is about many things but particularly about how to live. Do we live by the authority of our institutions and leaders? Or do we live by our own authority or do we live by God’s authority?

What is right and what is wrong? What is better and what is worse?

Is it better to not want to help and then help anyway or is it better to say you will help, maybe genuinely want to help and then not follow through?

Is it okay to know that a decision, a law, a rule, is not of God and still follow it or not argue against it?

Ethics… and following the way of Jesus is our ethic as Christians.  Not following the way of the Church or the authority figures of the Church, but following the way of Jesus.

I mean no disrespect to the leaders of the Church but if people had not listened for God’s authority over time even though God’s authority and rule opposed the Church’s, I would not be standing here, having been given the authority by God and the Church to preach the gospel and be your priest.

The real struggle is when everyone on all sides of an argument is claiming that God gave them the authority to do, act or live the way that they are.

So how do we know that God is speaking to us? How do we know when it is merely our ego and self-interest informing our beliefs?

I wonder how Moses felt and looked striking that rock. What I a ridiculous thing to do, to expect water to come out of it. He had to have questioned his sanity and wondered if he was really listening to God or if it was just his exhaustion and thirst making him delusional.

So how do we know that God is speaking to us? How do we know when it is merely our ego and self-interest informing our beliefs?

The answer is found in the reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

“be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”

Let Jesus think for you.

We have really downplayed this phrase lately but “What would Jesus do?”

We have downplayed it because it sounds too simple and trivial but the truth is that is that simple. And we do know how Jesus lived and if we just let the way he lived, acted and loved guide us then we will know what to do and what to belief is right and just for all.

This encounter between Jesus and the chief priests and elders is so much more significant than we probably realize. Everything hangs in the balance. This is an incredibly important moment for Jesus and how he handles it determines how the rest of the story will play out. If he loses this argument, they will not have enough reason to crucify him, and he will not be allowed to teach in the synagogues and his followers may go home.

They ask Jesus, by whose authority do you do and say these things and who gave you this authority?

Jesus challenges them. He asks them by whose authority did John baptize, authority under heaven or authority from human origin.

They know they’ve lost and Jesus has just won because they are not willing to speak the truth. If they say that John baptized under the authority of heaven, then they will be directly questioned and even put on trial for not getting baptized by John and if they say it was from human origin the crowds will turn on them.

They are clinging so tightly to their institution, so tightly to what they know and what is comfortable that they are not willing to give up some comfort and give up their power to speak their truth and do the right thing.

We’ve all been in this position from time to time when doing what we know God would have us to, when doing what Jesus would do, is so threatening to our current way of living that we cower from the truth. We convince ourselves even that we are okay, that our beliefs and our actions are right with God.

It is easy to think that the following story about the brothers working in the vineyard is a chastisement to the chief priests. I think it is meant to jolt them into action, into doing what they’ve known is right all along.

They can still change their minds and go do the work their Father is calling them to do. It is not too late. It is never too late.

Following Jesus and doing the will of God can lead us in uncomfortable places. It is threaten our way of life and challenge our relationships.

This is the heavy pruning work. And it isn’t easy. But it is so worth it because the fruits that are produced because of God’s pruning are the most incredible fruits you have ever tasted.

Life comes alive!

Let the same mind be in you that is in Jesus and as Paul said the church in Philipi work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.








Sarah Quinney