Devotional for the week of October 25th, 2020
“You will know the truth,” Jesus said, “and the truth will make you free”
“The truth will set you free,” David Foster Wallace wrote, “but not until it’s finished with you.”
Before the truth is finished with us, it demands that we admit that we are not already free. We are enslaved to sin. This is the part of the truth that Luther called the law: the hard part that points out that we are controlled by our fears and desires, our self-absorption and self-doubt, our addictions and facades.
Here’s the truth: You are not your Sunday best or your Facebook profile. You are broken, and enslaved by your attempts to cover it up. That can be hard to hear, but until it sinks in we are unable to be released and receive the truth of the gospel, the good news of grace.
Today we celebrate Reformation Day, and in the spirit of Martin Luther the church must be always reforming, always pointing beyond itself to God’s grace. The temptation is always there to settle for so little: a cozy collective of our most presentable selves, the right side of social issues, pat answers to incomprehensible mysteries of the universe.
Jesus’ invitation is to bring the mess that we’re in, the mess that we are. We are called to show up as our true selves, fears and regrets and doubts and all. God can handle it. The communion of saints—that is, us, the people of God—can handle it. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are free.
The truth of God that sets us free first tears us open. Church can and must be a place where we bring our broken-open selves and encounter the healing power of a God who sees us, knows us, loves us as we are, and sets us free.
Devotional message and art based on the readings for October 25th, reprinted from sundaysandseasons.com.
Copyright © 2019 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved.
Rev. Joshua D. Rinas
Sunday, October 4, 2020
Lectionary 27, Year A, 18th Sunday after Pentecost
When Jesus is sharing this parable, he is alluding to the passage from Isaiah that we read as our first reading, also talking about a vineyard. Where the first reading speaks of the quality of fruit borne out of the vineyard, Jesus’ parable focuses on the characters involved with the vineyard.
In both, the vineyard symbolizes the people of Israel, and questions what is coming from God’s chosen people. Despite deliberate planning and attentive work to ensure successful planting and a valuable yield, only wild grapes result from the well protected vineyard.
In 1951 a little league team in Youngstown, OH had a winning season. As a way of celebrating, the coaches planned a gathering for the boys and their families, as told by Isabel Wilkerson in the book, Caste—The Origens of Our Discontents. They figured on a picnic cookout with some swimming at a park, not foreseeing the problems that would arise.
When the day came, hopes were high for a joyful celebration. Boys and families were ready to eat, play and swim. Inside the park, the idyllic image was tainted. Not all had equal access to the property. With dark skin, one of the team members was not allowed in the same area as everyone else present. Fortunately, teammates and members of other families sat with him so that he would not be alone watching everyone else on the other side of the railing.
People with dark skin also were not allowed in the water—swimming was out of the question. Yet, a lifeguard allowed him onto a raft. Lest this allowance be heard as pleasurable, it was punctuated with frequent shouts demanding, “don’t touch the water!”
As families and teammates departed the park that day, the one young African-American boy was offered a ride back to his home about a mile away. He refused, choosing to walk instead.
He was never the same again.
What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?
In the country of India, a caste system exists which separates society into a hierarchy of sub-groups. Born into your caste, your quality of life, identity, economic situation, and work are predetermined by birth.
Within India, Lutherans have created ministries with Dalits, the lowest caste. The message of Christ coming to the poorest, outcast, and shunned is powerful within this world.
One Indian Lutheran man who has immigrated to the United States and works within the ELCA shares the story of his entre into a Lutheran congregation. He had been interested in the work and witness of the local Lutheran community and inquired about what it would mean for him to become involved himself. He heard that baptism would be his entrance into the life of church and heard the immersion into a pool of water described, he began to cry. He went on to explain that as a Dalit, considered a filthy human being, he was not allowed to hand any shopkeeper coins as payment. Instead, he was required to drop the coins he had into a bowl of water where the stank of his caste might be washed off. Only then, could the higher caste holder retrieve what had been too dirty to hold.
The idea that water with the Holy Spirit would form the welcoming rite into the Lutheran community made his mind spin when previously anything he had touched had to be washed with water before someone of another caste could touch it.
The parable Jesus tells isn’t about tenants, or their wickedness, or the emissaries of the landowner, or the vineyard, or how God may be disappointed in our use of the blessings we have… It’s about the landowner—its about God—who loved and trusted wicked tenants, and Pharisees, and elders, and we—too comfortable Christians. That’s all decided and clear and not going to change.
Rev. Dr. David Lose asks, “What will we do? Will we hoard our blessings or share them? Will we embrace those in need or shun them. Will we use our privilege to work for greater equity and justice for others or to secure our own future? Will we, finally, reach out to the Christ we perceive in our neighbor or only come to worship the Christ of the stained glass that adorn our comfortable churches?” (Lose, 2020)
Lose, R. D. (2020, October 4). Dear Partner, Pentecost 18 A, A different answer. Retrieved from In the Meantime...: https://www.davidlose.net/2020/09/pentecost-18-a-a-different-answer/
Powery, D. E. (2020, October 4). workingpreacher.org. Retrieved from Commentary on Matthew 21:33-46: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=4598