Here is the video stream for our worship service for October 10, 2021, the 20th Sunday after Pentecost.
The bulletin can be found here. There will be more words on the screen this time around, and we hope this will make it easier to follow along. But the bulletin will have other bits of information as well as the full sermon manuscript.
You are invited to have a lit candle in your space for worship, as well has have something small to eat and drink for communion. This is meant to enhance your worship at home, but you are in no way obligated to do so. Please participate in a manner that is most comfortable for you.
May God’s blessing of grace and peace be upon you and those around you, now and always!
O God, may your Word be revealed to us this day, as it lives and is active in the world by the power of your Spirit, that our hearts be pierced with your love and our minds opened by your grace and we are brought to dwell with you in your kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
So in my random surfing of the internet, I came across this fable that I thought was very interesting and I want to share it with you. So I apologize if you’ve heard it before (oh wait, no I don’t).
The story is about this donkey who was running around yelling the “grass is blue.” This donkey was happy as heck, yelling out his truth at the top of his lungs. But then he came across a tiger and kept yelling that the grass blue. The tiger looks at the donkey like he’s crazy and is like, “no, the grass is green.” But the donkey kept insisting that it is blue. They went back and forth for a while and it started to get heated, and so the tiger said that they should take it to the lion, the king, to settle the matter.
They made it to the king, and the donkey blurts out first, “the grass is blue!” and the lion just looks at the donkey. The donkey continues, “the tiger insists that I’m wrong and he should be punished.” The wise lion looks at the tiger, who is fuming and back at the donkey. He says, “yes, the grass is indeed blue. The tiger shall be punished. You may go on your way, donkey.”
The donkey happily accepts the lion’s ruling and hops away, still yelling, “the grass is blue” while the tiger looks dumbfounded at the lion’s judgement. He asks, “why did you side with the donkey when you know that the grass is green? Why are you punishing me when I am right?”
The lion replies, “I am not punishing you because of the colour of the grass, I’m punishing you for wasting both of our time by arguing with a stupid donkey.”
Doesn’t that story just hit the nail on the head? I mean, we all know people like the donkey, don’t we? You know, those stubborn folk who push logic and common sense aside in favour of fundamental fanaticism and extremist zeal. This story is telling us, don’t waste your time arguing with them, just let them be and you’ll be much happier for it.
I chuckled when I saw this story as it felt poignant for today. Then I casually scrolled over to the comments and the top “liked” comment was something like “and now every single donkey in the world thinks that they’re a tiger”.
The commenter isn’t wrong. While I do know many stubborn and closed minded people that I would consider to be the donkey in the story, not a single one of them would agree with me and would say that they’re actually the tiger wasting their time arguing with other donkeys. So then, if the donkeys aren’t capable of admitting that they’re donkeys… does that mean… maybe we… could be donkeys?
No, that can’t be. There’s no way we’re donkeys, is there? Well, that might just be what a donkey would say…
Whatever the case, I think it’s pretty clear that Jesus would be a bonafide tiger in today’s gospel lesson. Jesus, who is just minding his own business when this random kid comes up to him and asks something that might have been asked of him a million times before, “what must I do to get into God’s good books?”
I wonder if Jesus gave another one of those awkward full body eye rolls at this question, but instead of arguing with this kid’s theology he just says to keep all the commandments. But then the donkey kid actually says something like, “oh those? Yeah I totally completed those. Nailed it.”
Now I don’t know if Jesus actually gave a full body eye roll at the first question but I am pretty sure he would have now. This kid is saying that he’s followed every commandment? We’re not just talking about the 10 that we all know and love, but all of the estimated 613 commandments that we find throughout the Old Testament? Uh, yeah sure whatever you say.
However, this donkey kid was probably feeling pretty good about himself, maybe just waiting for Jesus’ validation in crowning him the greatest who ever lived or something. But of course, it doesn’t come. The kid had completely missed the point. The point of the eternal life that he was seeking, the point of the current life that he was living, the point of this law that he has claimed to follow so religiously for most of his life. Right. Over. His head.
See, we often look at the biblical commandments as a “holiness checklist” in which we can give ourselves this divine to-do list, or a divine not-to-do list, as it were. We keep those to the best of our ability and perhaps even we tell ourselves that we have kept them all since our youth, and boom, tiger status. We think we’re right with God and we should be able to hang with the best of the best.
And I’d say that is just partially right. I mean, really, we are right with God and we can hang with the best of the best, depending on how you would define that. But it has nothing to do with the law. It has nothing to do with our discipline, our obedience, or our ability to lie to ourselves about our discipline and obedience. Instead, our being right with God is because of God’s grace, which as you know goes hand and hand with the law. But it’s just that the law, well it isn’t like a list of demands that we have to follow in order to get eternal life, despite Jesus alluding to that today. Rather, the law is more like the description of the perfect kind of human being, which apparently is NOT like the donkey kid in the story. The perfect kind of human that has no hatred in their bones, no malice on their minds, no kind of evil in their heart. The perfect kind of human is, according to those some 613 odd commandments, someone that is completely unattainable.
That doesn’t seem fair, does it? That there is this unattainable standard set up for us and we’re punished for not being able to reach it? Well, yeah, it is unfair if you put it that way, just as it was unfair that the tiger gets punished for being right about the colour of grass. But technically, the law isn’t set out there for us to attain, but it’s to remind us of just how much we fall short. It reminds us of how much we miss the mark compared to God’s holiness. It reminds that perhaps maybe we aren’t the tiger after all but we’re actually the donkey thinking that we’re the tiger.
And that is where the grace comes in, the gospel, telling us that while we fall so very darned short of the law, God forgives us, continues to love us, and saves us out of our guilt and shame. That is what the young donkey man didn’t understand, he thought he needed to act right to be right with God. The disciples didn’t get it, they argued about who among them was the greatest and defended themselves with how much they’ve given up to follow Jesus. And I wonder if we still don’t get it, us being these tiger donkeys who often act like we can just save ourselves.
Jesus tells his disciples that it is hard for those who have wealth to be able to enter the kingdom of God. And he’s not wrong. But while it’s true for those who have wealth, it is also true for those who don’t. It is also true for those who are male as well as those who are female. It is true for the young, the old, the smart, the not so smart, the donkeys, the tigers, everyone. In fact, according to that law we talked about, it is impossible for any one of us to ever get into God’s kingdom.
But the gospel tells us, that with God, all things are possible.
As we celebrate this day of Thanksgiving in this season after Pentecost, may we continue to be humbled by the law and empowered by the gospel, that we might together live in peace as tiger and donkey alike. Thanks be to God. Amen.