Pastor Steve Mechem
Matthew 21:28-32 New Revised Standard Version
What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of 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 after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
There is a mom. She is a single mom, and like so many parents who are raising children by themselves, she is extremely busy and is often stressed out. She works two jobs, raises two daughters, is involved in her kids’ school, and is active in a local church.
Because life is so hectic, she relies on her daughters, (both teenagers) to help out around the house whenever they can.
Both daughters are great kids. They love their mom. They are good students, one runs track, the other plays volleyball, they both sing in the show choir. When it comes to chores however, they are both pretty lousy at it.
So, the house can get pretty messy with dishes stacked in the sink, clothes left unwashed, yard left uncut, chores left undone. Its not like a episode of Hoarders, but it does drive mom a little crazy.
She walks into the TV room one Saturday morning and finds her daughters lounging on couches. One has her face glued to her phone screen, typing and staring, smiling, typing and staring. The other daughter is reading a book.
Around the room are scattered blankets, pillows, cups, paper plates, and a pizza box. The mom tries to recall the last time they ordered pizza and can’t remember when. That box has been there awhile.
She says to her daughters, not grouchily, but matter of factly, “Hey guys, I have picked up a extra shift at today so I will be at work.” She picked up the extra shift to help pay for prom dresses. She continues, “I really need your help today.” To the older daughter she says, “I need you to clean up the kitchen.”
The older daughter looks up from her phone and says, “Sure mom, I’ll get on it in a sec.”
“Great, honey, thank you,” says mom.
Turning to the younger daughter, mom says, “I really need you to mow the lawn. The neighbors are beginning to complain.”
“Sorry Mom,” says the youngest daughter, “I have to get this book read by Monday for Lit Class. I have 500 pages to go, so I just don’t have time to do it today.”
“Seriously,” Mom responds, “I need you today.” She shakes her head, sighs a mom sigh, and turns to walk out of the room. The older daughter looks up at her mom and smiles. Mom smiles back.
Mom leaves for work.
An hour passes, a second hour passes. The youngest daughter, having read 110 pages, looks over at her older sister. She has spent the past two hours reading and sending texts, playing games, putting dog noses and floppy ears on selfies to post on Snap Chat.
“I thought you were going to clean the kitchen.”
“Yeah, that’s not happening.” replies the older sister.
“But you told mom you would.”
“She is always happy that I say “yes”. She doesn’t really notice if I carry through on things or not. If you would follow my example, little sis, you could keep yourself out of hot water with Mom. Always say yes, even when you mean, “no.” That way, mom feels in charge, she smiles, and you can avoid the mom sighs.”
The older sister looks back at her phone and continues doing whatever she is doing.
The younger sister reads another 20 pages or so, and decides that reading can wait- until evening and tomorrow. She gets off the couch, changes into old clothes and walks out back to the shed.
She pulls out the mower, checks the gas, and begins mowing the lawn. Forty-five minutes later, she puts the lawn mower back in the shed.
She walks back into the house and plans to get a soda out of the fridge, but she looks around and realizes that the kitchen really does need cleaning- it’s a disaster.
So, as her sister chills in the TV room, the younger sister cleans the kitchen, washes the dishes, wipes down the counters, puts things away, sweeps and mops the floor.
Before she starts cleaning the kitchen, however, she takes a load of laundry down to the wash room and loads it into the washing machine.
After she finishes the kitchen, she straightens up around the house, changes a couple burned out light bulbs, replaces the battery in the smoke detector, does some dusting, runs the sweeper, and picks up trash, including that pizza box.
She takes trash bags out to the cans in the garage and puts the recycling in the recycling container.
She comes back into the house, looks around with with a sense of satisfaction, gets a soda from the refrigerator and goes back to the TV room, sits on the couch, picks up her book and begins to read again.
The older sister continues to lounge, gazing at her phone.
The mother comes home within the next hour. She notices the mowed lawn as she pulls in the drive-way. She is pleased the younger daughter has done her chores, even if she had said “no” at first.
As she walks through the house, she is thrilled to see laundry is picked up, dishes washed, and stuff put away.
She walks into the TV room, noticing that the pizza box is gone.
“Thank you so much, my daughters, for all you have done today.”
The younger daughter smiles.
The oldest daughter says “No problem Mom. Glad to help out.”
The younger daughter shakes her head a little, chuckles an almost inaudible chuckle, and continues to read.
Now, which of these two children is the one who was obedient to her mother?
Among the people who made up the crowds who came to listen to Jesus were religious stalwarts. Folks who defined themselves by their religious acumen.
They have spent their lives practicing religion. They know all the right words to say, the right songs to sing, the right clothes to wear, the right scriptures to quote. They are respected and respectable.
And they are really struggling with Jesus. His words seem to run contrary to their long held traditions.
And, they are struggling with Jesus’ followers. They are sinners, low-lifes, folks who could never feel at home in their highbrow, morality-infused religious settings. But for some reason, they felt at home with Jesus.
Jesus, hearing the ongoing complaints from the religious people about his brand of follower told several parables and uttered many aphorisms to counter the complaining.
These new followers, not bound by traditions that no longer had meaning, were like wayward children coming home again, they were like workers coming at the last hour, they were like children who after saying no, decided to say yes, eventually.
Unfortunately, the religious stalwarts were more like an older son who was angry with his brother's homecoming, they were like workers who begrudged latecomers acceptance and equal pay, they were like children who after saying yes, decided to say no.
And yes, eventually, is preferable to no, eventually!
Yes eventually is enough!