Sept. 22 — Gospel Reading and Sermon

Gospel Reading: 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.”

The Gospel of our Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Sermon: Friends

by Pastor John Maroni
As pastor of our congregation, one of the things I pray for is that the people will find true friendships that last forever. . Sometimes it happens without effort. Other times, there are barriers that prevent two people from being friends – barriers like having a bad first impression.
How can we, as a church body, encourage and support the friendships that exist among us? The answer begins with learning about the history of Us.
Many of you in attendance today, you have determined that Faith Lutheran in Eaton is your HOME CHURCH – your PREFERRED CHURCH. For some of you, that has been your commitment since this congregation was planted in 1964/65. . . Over the past 55 years, more members came along and you too determined that Faith in Eaton will be home church.
Our gospel and message last week, reminded us that “Whether a person is a charter member, or a person just showed up to work in the vineyard last week – God immediately makes all of us equals – equal recipients of God’s grace and mercy. Equal in our responsibilities to work together as Christ’s body.
Our congregation has a history of ups and downs. In other words, human beings have worshiped here since the beginning. Over the years, there has been and there will be, moments of conflict as good people try their best to do good things together, although they have different understandings of how to do those good things.
The tradition developed here, that council meetings end with praying the Lord’s prayer. Whose father do we pray to? OUR FATHER …. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven… Is that not what we want most for our congregation, to be shown what to do in order that our efforts on earth will reflect our father’s will in heaven.
There was a neighborhood boy showing me his new bicycle… it’s a trick bike, want to see me ride a wheely.. and the wheely was really pathetically short and of course it would be with no practice until today . . . IF we take a humble approach to our selves as the CHURCH – 
This is how we look to God when we try to carry out the duties of God’s Son . . trying to bring the presence of Jesus Christ to our world, and we can’t ride the trick for more than a second … And our father is watching, And God our Father says, “My will has been done!” We might ask, what did we do right? The answer is, You made a friend while doing it – I pray that our church will be a house for friends to visit and serve god together..
In today’s parable of the father’s two sons…it’s hard to tell which son is disappointing his dad and which one is pleasing dad? Depending on the commentator, you could spin this parable to show that either son was good, or you could show that both sons were bad, or that only one brother was good to his father.
The two brothers in the parable remind me of the two sides of humanity – sainthood and sinner-hood. We are all saints and sinners at the same time. There are parts of us, that we don’t like all that much – and every person has redeeming qualities, every person has value.
The confirmation class studied the Lutheran theme that declares, We are Saints and Sinners at the same time. The lesson plan recommended a passage from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, it is a familiar passage to me, and I often refer to it in my personal feelings about myself:
Romans 7:15:20

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do, is what I do. 
Getting to know people – making long-term/life-long friendships – involves learning about a persons Quirks, and letting your guard down in order to allow others to learn about your quirks. We all have things about ourselves that we would change.
Arguments and disputes among friends are unavoidable – Even among best friends – perhaps especially among best friends – What will you do when your friend disagrees with you, or does something that hurts your feelings – should you pack up and leave the friendship? What if the apology you deserve never comes? These hard questions I do not have an easy answer for, Friendships can be challenging, but they will prove worthwhile if you stay with it for the long haul.
the Confirmation class read Psalm 51 at the close of our lesson about Saints and Sinners.. Learning how to ask God for forgiveness is good practice as long as you take seriously the absolution of your sins, that God truly forgives and erases your offenses.. The way God overlooks our faults because he can see our redeeming qualities – we can share this kind of grace with our friends…. Yes I know x, y, and z annoying things about my friend, but when it comes to qualities, my friends has a, b, c, d, e, f!
Psalm 51 reminds us that sometimes, it is me, and not my friend, who needs an attitude adjustment.. When we feel our attitude sinking into the mud, we pray this pray, “God give me a new and right spirit.” Help me have a better attitude and I will be a better friend.
I hope that you will always be working on your friendships in your life, 
And for us who decide this congregation will be our home church for the foreseeable future, we can pray together:

In Jesus name, May the Lord Jesus Christ be in the middle of our achievements and our arguments. May our friendships with one another bring joy to our father in heaven.