Reflection on This Week’s Readings


Public officials routinely get drilled about changing their minds, especially around reelection time. One’s past pledges as a political candidate are not easily left behind or forgotten. Earlier promises are often used to measure one’s moral character in light of one’s actual voting record. A change in opinion can be viewed with suspicion or lead to accusations of hypocrisy. We want consistency. Above all, we want to know that we can trust others to follow through on their word. This is understandable.

Unfortunately, such political norms don’t often allow for the power of changing one’s mind. Jesus’ parable of the two sons suggests that a change in heart can in fact be a sign of deeper listening and transformation. Conversely, a refusal to change can leave us stalled on our spiritual journeys. In this way, “flip-flopping” might not always be a bad thing but rather might indicate our faithfulness to God’s ongoing role in our lives.

God’s promises in baptism make such change possible. Martin Luther encouraged that we daily return to our baptism. Every day God’s grace frees us to admit the possibility that we have previously been or done wrong, or perhaps simply haven’t been able to see the whole picture before. Grace also affords us the chance to allow that anyone can be transformed in ways previously thought impossible or unexpected. The promises that God makes in baptism open the door not only for us but for everyone else too. We can learn perhaps to trust not in consistency but in the endless possibilities for change and growth. Sometimes a change in opinion goes only as far as what we think will be most popular. But changing our mind, when done in a spirit of authentic discernment and from the heart, can be transformative. It might even open us to the kingdom of God in ways unknown before.


During these standard Sundays we continue to read through Matthew, now illumined by Philippians, and interpreted in light of holy communion.
Why do we preach and follow Christ? According to today’s gospel, we have seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the will of God; in believing in Jesus as the Word of God, we enter God’s “kingdom,” that is, we participate in the life God offers. From the first century on, Christians have debated about what precisely is “the will of his father.” Preaching on Sunday has been a primary method for exploring the will of God.
This excerpt is assigned as the first reading to emphasize God’s desire for our repentance. The good news from Ezekiel is that God wants us to live. For Christians, the “new heart and new spirit” that God promises come through baptism into Christ.
We respond to Ezekiel’s call to repentance. “My enemies” ties together the ancient Babylonians with our own adversaries of sin and death. Like the obedient son, we wish to follow the will of God: the psalm affirms that God will forgive us and lead us from death to life.
This important excerpt, appointed also each year on the Sunday of the Passion, includes the early Christian affirmation of Jesus as Lord, in this context meaning Divine Authority. Thus the hymn ties in well with today’s gospel. The paradox of the faith is that we see the will of God of which Matthew wrote in Jesus’ death on a cross. “Fear and trembling” is a phrase made famous in theology because of the anguished writings of Søren Kierkegaard; yet Paul concludes the phrase with his confidence in God’s good pleasure.
Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #SAS103532.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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