Good morning. You know, when everything is said and done, there’s really only two moments in life that count: the present moment and the final moment. They’re the only two moments that really count at all. That’s almost exactly what Ezekiel is telling us this morning. When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But there’s good news. Again, Ezekiel says: But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.
Thankfully we can turn our lives around, whether our sins are great or small. We can all turn our lives around. Some people may find that unfair. How can a person ignore God by living a life of sinfulness like the prostitutes and tax collectors we heard about in today’s Gospel and all those other people that we judge as bad, horrible people—how can all of those people who do those horrible bad things be saved at the last moment as they beg God’s mercy, while those who do good things all the time (like us good people) are able to lose everything by committing one serious sin at the very end?
It was enough to make the Pharisees’ blood boil. They accused Jesus of heresy, of blaspheming God. But Jesus tries to teach them and has been trying to teach them all along, and is trying to teach us, that we can never really know what’s in another person’s heart. We can’t judge other people’s hearts. We can only know our own heart. And that’s what we need to pay attention to. What is going on in our hearts?
That’s the point of the parable this morning. What counts is not all the good works that we do or all the prayers we pray. Those are good. But what counts is that every moment, in our hearts, we trust God will forgive us our faults. We trust in God’s mercy. We trust that God will save us because we know that we can’t save ourselves no matter how many prayers we pray or how many good works we do. It is God who saves us, and what counts is what’s in our heart.
And herein again lies good news and bad news. Many folks might say the moral of the parable this morning is to enjoy life now and repent later. “I’ll stop doing all the things I know I shouldn’t be doing at all, all the bad things I know I do, but I’m not going to stop now. I’ll stop later. I’ll start getting serious about praying more, about being more kind and loving, about taking my faith in the Lord Jesus seriously, later. I’ll do all that when I’m older. God won’t judge me harshly because I mess up when I’m young or from time to time.”
But that way of thinking is dangerous. Remember the saying, “As you live, so you die.” Remember that we don’t know the day or the hour when we will be called to God. But that moment will come. It will come for every single one of us. And what will count is not our good intentions—what I really wanted to do, God, but never got around to—what will count is what’s in our hearts. Not “I was going to do this but I ran out of time.”
Jesus got the Pharasees’ and the scribes’ attention in the Gospel account this morning. The real question for us is whether he got our attention. Are we like the son in the parable who has a change of heart and makes all those necessary changes needed to live a good and upright and holy life? So each of us must ask this morning: what are the questions that need to take place in my life? Are we willing, tomorrow morning and every morning after that, to promise to live our profession of faith? Are we willing to promise to God and to ourselves that “I will do the best I can today to live my belief that the Lord Jesus is the Son of God, raised from the dead.” And are we willing to make another promise tomorrow morning, every day after that? Are we willing to promise that we will live in such a way that people will recognize that we are believers and followers of the Lord Jesus, by the way we treat each other, the way we talk about each other, by the good we do for one another? Are we willing to see each day as a graced day, as an opportunity to live our faith with joy and integrity?
Dear friends, we gather around the table of the Lord this morning to celebrate Eucharist, which will strengthen us to be who God has created us to be. It will strengthen our hearts to do what we know we must do. So as we celebrate Eucharist this morning, let us pray for each other and for ourselves, that we may be strengthened by this holy meal, that our hearts will be pure and strong to live what we profess. Amen.
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