Jesus tells a parable of two brothers who are asked by their father to go out and work in the vineyard. One says yes but does not go, and the other says no but in fact eventually does go and work in the vineyard. Today’s parable is spoken to and for the religious leaders; it is surely meant to be a chastisement for their lack of living out what they preach.
Scripture scholars argue that Jesus is making the point that the religious leaders seem, on the outside, to have said yes to God, but in fact in their hearts they have said no! This “no” is manifested in their actions. In the preceding verses to the parable we heard, Jesus chastised the religious leaders and the teachers of the law for tying up great burdens on the backs of the people and not lifting a finger to help them. He goes on to call them hypocrites, who because of their actions, will be left out of heaven.
They have failed to recognize that all of the law and the prophets rest on loving God with one’s entire being and loving your neighbor as yourself!
The Scribes, Pharisees and religious leaders struggle with Jesus’ authority, perhaps because his words and actions strike at the very heart of the way they were living their faith.
They reject him because he calls them to something new, something that focuses not just on the proper completion of outward pious actions but rather a radical action of completely turning one’s heart and mind over to the will of God! For this they labeled him insane and a danger to the occupation of the Roman forces!
How many times in my own life have I said yes and then walked away and did the opposite because it was more comfortable, because it was more agreeable or just plain easier and demanded less of my time and effort?
Then, too, there have been times when I have said clearly and loudly: “NO”. And, then as time wore on, as the Spirit continued to cajole me and annoy me, I gave in. I gave up or simply changed my mind, or felt inspired and changed my “No” to a “Yes” and did what I sensed I was being called or asked to do by God.
Part of the amazing reality of Grace is that when our “NO” turns into “YES” it is as graciously accepted and embraced by God as if it had been “YES” all along!
What “NOs” of ours are we being called to turn into a “YES”?: fixing a way forward for the DACA folks, accepting refugees, working for meaningful immigration reform, meaningful work to end racism and bigotry, ending nuclear proliferation and threats of war, ending gun violence, universal access to good healthcare, working to end poverty. But, also working on all the smaller things in my personal life -- working to be kinder with others and with myself, and working to live more gentler on the earth. To become more aware of subtle forms of discrimination or marginalization that may exist in my life.
In the midst of all of the “Nos,” in the midst of all the negativity being tweeted, Facebooked and daily “overshared” in so many ways, what is the Spirit calling me to say “YES” to?
Even if I have said “NO” before, it is never too late -- by Grace -- to say “Yes” now; to say Yes to the Spirit’s call to me in my life!