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September 10, 2023

People Know Us By What Our Lives Say

Pastor KJ KIm

Matthew 21: 28-32

In today’s passage, we just read the story of the “Yes” and “No” brothers that Jesus gave to the chief priests and elders. Their main concern was Jesus, who was a “no” guy. Instead of answering them, Jesus asked them a question—“What do you think?”—and he told them a story.

Today’s story, the story of the Yes and No brothers, is about two children who are old enough to work in the family vineyard but are still working out their relationship with their father. When the father asked each of them in turn to go work in the vineyard, the No brother said he would not go but later changed his mind and went. The Yes brother said he would go but never did. It was not what either boy said that mattered but what he finally did.

Only that was not the part of the truth that led Jesus to the cross. What got Jesus killed was the second part, when Jesus told the chief priests and elders which brother they were. Jesus told them, “You are the Yes men,” who said all the right things, believed all the right things, and stood for all the right things; however, who would not do the right things God asked them to do?

This story of “yes” and “no” is about the story of hypocrisy, which has always been the number one charge against religious people—that we say one thing and do another, promising we will love each other on Sunday morning, but finding a dozen ways and reasons to slander, cheat, or plain ignore each other on Monday.

It may be true that this story can be a disturbing truth for each of us, as we sometimes put on a Sunday mask or wear a fake fur of faith, which can be accessories when we only come to this building. Please do not get me wrong that I am not blaming anyone, but none of us is free from this matter, living in the tension between who we are called to be and who we really are, between who we are on Sunday at church and who we are on Monday at home or the grocery store.

Have you ever thought about visiting a sick friend or church member, thought about writing a card, thought about giving a phone call? Or have you ever thought about getting to know someone around us at this church better and more closely? Have you ever thought about how we continue to keep doing and being a church together in these challenging times? I wonder if we sometimes have done something we have really only thought about doing, meaning that we do not do those things as we roll the ideas around in our mind, then we swallow them—congratulating ourselves on our thoughtfulness.

There is indeed no shortage of people who say, “I believe and stand for all the right things.” What God is short of are people who will go where God calls them to go, even the narrow path leading us toward the cross that is rocky, thorny, and bumpy. What God is short of are those who will do what God gives them to do, even say what goes against their beliefs. Whether we say yes or no to God is apparently less important than what we actually do. People would know who we are and whom we trust by what our lives say.

Thanks be to God.

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