Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost 16

Dude with a 'Tude

Matthew 21:28-32

September 28, 2014

This week the 8th grade confirmation class studied the fifth commandment and the story of Cain and Abel. Cain's problem was one of attitude. He was a dude with a 'tude. Today's Gospel is the tale of two brothers. One of them is you. As you listen to the Gospel again, ask yourself which one you are. Then, ask yourself "why?" Let's take another look at these two "dudes with a 'tude."

Matthew 21:28-32  "What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not,' but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Both of these two have an attitude problem. Child number one is a typical oldest child. The oldest always think they get the brunt of a parent's expectations and demands. They get tired of bearing the load of responsibility associated with being the oldest. They want to rebel, even if just a little. So, the kids says "No!" but because he's the oldest, guilt and conscience kick in and off to work he goes.

Now, about child number two, you know this kid. He's the type who will say anything to get you off his back. He's a budding politician. He seems so very eager to please. He looks at agreeing with the father as the easiest and fastest way to get rid of dear old dad. What about later. What happens when the work remains undone? That's easy. Look at all the politicians in Washington. They blame someone else, cover it up and move on. That's what this kid would have done. He's a smooth talker. One way or another, he would try to talk himself out of trouble. If nothing else, he'll claim that this was a miscommunication on the father's part. So, dad will get blamed for his failure to communicate.

This story is not so much one about birth order but repentance. Jesus tells us that we will all fall into one of two groups. The first group includes those who are stubborn sinners. Our Lord compared them to the tax collectors and prostitutes. They knew the Law but they had chosen to ignore it. They want to go their own way and do their own thing but the Holy Spirit grabs hold of them. Now, with the preaching of John the Baptist, they repented. They accepted John's baptism and took the promises of the Gospel to heart. They are transformed in heart, mind and attitude. Although they had rebelled against the Lord and His law in order to go out and do their own thing, they have been transformed. They are repentant.

The second group represents people who have always fancied themselves as religious. These were the people who had challenged the authority of Jesus. They were of the scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the Law. They seem to take their religion seriously but they bend and shape their religious lives to fit themselves. They go about doing their own thing while giving lip service to God. They're sneaky and slippery. While you may suspect there's something not quite right with their show of piety, they talk so hard and fast that your head spins. In the end, they want to convince you this is all your problem, not theirs. They may give lip service to repentance but their hearts are far from being transformed.

The attitude we're dealing with here is sin. Sin is our rebellion against God. It separates us from God. Sin allows us to think we can continue to do our own thing. The interesting thing about sin is the belief by both sets of sinners that it's the great divide that separates the good from the bad, the religious from the pagan, and the saved from the lost. Sin does, indeed, separate but the proud religious types are with the other sinners on the wrong side of the great divide. They just don't know it.

This reminds me of a friend of mine from West Virginia who described a "hard shell Baptist church." He said there was a rail across the middle of the church. The saved sat on one side and the unsaved on the other. When I asked how they would know who was saved or unsaved, he said, "oh, they just know." The danger is that the "saved" become so smug in their self-assurance that they refuse to accept the repentance of those sitting on the other side of the rail. "You're still not one of us because you're still not good enough/sorry enough/you name it enough."

There's been a curious shift in our cultural attitude. At one time, you were suspect if you didn't go to church. Now society questions you if you do attend church. People who are church members are no less sinners than those who aren't. As Luther reminds us, we live with the tension of being both saints and sinners at the same time.

Once, sinners were considered people who lived outside of the boundaries of acceptable society. Now, those boundaries have changed. It seems they've become inverted. Sinners are now considered those who go to church. We are accused of being hypocrites who are narrow-minded, bigoted and unloving in all areas of political correctness.

The truth is that we are all sinners. We are all "dudes with a 'tude." The only difference is that some of us come to recognize the attitude problem. We have been brought to repentance. Even as we struggle with the attitudes of rebellion against God in favor of doing our own thing, the Holy Spirit calls us to repentance. It's all about an attitude of the heart that becomes obvious in the outward manifestations of how we live.

You see, you can fool some people all of the time but you can't fool God. The Lord recognizes the attitudes of your hearts. His call to you today is the same call He extends to everyone, "come." The Lord, like the father in the parable, seeks us out. He invites us to join Him in the vineyard.

When Jesus looked over the crowd standing before Him, He didn't see a few who were very holy and everybody else. Jesus saw them all the same way. It didn't matter if they were tax collectors, prostitutes or super-religious. They were sinners who needed Him. Nothing has changed. It doesn't matter how bad you've been, what you've done or how "good" you think you are. Jesus looks at us all the same. We are sinners who need Him.

Jesus Christ came to seek us out. He came to die for our sin. He came to die for the "bad" and the "good" alike. He came to the cross to bear the load of the sin of the world. He came to die for your "(atti)'tudes." He promises to transform us by the power of the Holy Spirit. By His love, we are all like that first kid. We've said "no way!" We've rebelled. We're stubborn but in the end, we heed the call of the Father.

He is calling you today. He is calling to you in the Word. He is calling you to come to His supper. He is calling, "come you who are weary and burdened; come, find rest and peace." You've had the 'tude. By God's grace, you have heard the call to repentance. You have been restored and forgiven. Thanks be to God for His mercy and love. It didn't matter if they were tax collectors, prostitutes or super-religious. Amen.


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