Sorry for this one being a little late; I spent the early part of this week at a professional training event.
This coming Sunday, October 1st, is World Communion Sunday. It is a day to remember and celebrate the unity of the Church, which the Lord creates and sustains through the bread and wine of Holy Communion. When we gather at the altar for Holy Communion, we gather together with our brothers and sisters in Christ from all times and all places in the world. Because of this, we keep an eye out for anything in the readings that points us toward this unity in Christ.
Here are the readings for this Sunday. Following each reading are my first thoughts, shared in italics.
Ezekiel 18:1 - 4, 25 - 32:
1The word of the Lord came to me: 2What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? 3As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.
25Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?
30Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.
Ezekiel 18 is the point at which the Lord drops the old stipulation that not only will the person be punished for certain sins, but the person’s children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren will be punished for those sins. From now on, each person will be accountable for the sins they commit, but not for the sins their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents committed. Is this unfair? Some argued so, but the Lord answers back. The Lord calls for Israel to repent, to turn back from their ways.
Psalm 25:1 - 9
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.
3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness' sake, O LORD!
8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
The confession and repentance that Israel needs to offer at the end of Ezekiel 18 may sound a lot like Psalm 25:1-9.
Philippians 2:1 - 13
1If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
9Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
12Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Philippians 2 is Paul’s call to unity. This is not an artificial unity, but a unity formed through Christ. If we have the same mind as Christ, we will work for the good of others rather than for our own good, just as Christ, although/because he was God, put aside his divine glory to humble himself on the cross for the good of all of creation. This is an entry point to a discussion of unity and what the unity of the Church looks like.
Matthew 21:23 - 32
23When [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
28“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31Which 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. 32For 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.”
In Matthew 21, Jesus asks a key question: was the baptism from John a baptism from divine authority or human authority? To answer the question is to answer the question regarding the source of Jesus’ own authority. To answer the question also points to our answer regarding the question of Jesus’ identity: is Jesus truly the Son of the Most High or is Jesus a fraud? C. S. Lewis is quoted as saying that Jesus is either the Son of God, a liar, or a lunatic. To be clear, C. S. Lewis believed that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and made the statement to push us to not uphold Jesus as merely a teacher of good morals.