“Changing Our Minds”
Pentecost 16, September 28, 2014
Changing Our Minds
Text: Matthew 21:28–32
How often do you change your mind? You go to a restaurant thinking you want seafood and you end up with a steak. You turn on the TV to watch a specific show or game and then you start playing the “How Many Channels Can I Look at in One Minute” game and you end up on another channel. Someone asks you your favorite colour and you say, “Blue. No, yellow!” Here is why I am asking.
In today’s Gospel reading, the father asked something very simple of his son. He asked him to go and work in his vineyard. It was like any other chore. Please clean your room, take out the garbage, put the dishes in the sink. Fathers ask their children to do things all the time. But when the father asked the son to go and work in the vineyard, the son said no. He didn’t want to do any chores. I want to say for the record that that is something I never got away with. I never tried. Later, though, the son felt bad. His father really wasn’t asking too much. So he changed his mind and did his chores in the vineyard.
The father had another son. He also asked this son to go and work in the vineyard. The son said, “Sure, Dad, I’ll go right now.” The father smiled, patted the son on the head, and went away grateful that at least one of his boys listened to him. Dads, we know that feeling, right? Unfortunately, this son also changed his mind. He thought about working in the vineyard all day—the dirt, the hot sun—and he said, “Forget it! I don’t want to do that!” Two sons. One said no, but then changed his mind. The other said yes, but then he changed his mind.
Every day we make decisions. And every day we change our minds—sometimes for the better, sometimes not. I have been back on my diet and exercise regiment since Ash Wednesday. Had some success. But some days I eat more than my allotted calories (family dinner, birthday, whatever) and I will say to myself the next day, “Behave today. 1600 calories.” And then someone will bring goodies to church, or one of you will invite me out to lunch, or I will drive by the Uptown Grocery. You ever been in there? Ever looked at the bakery they have in there? Some people say there is no Satan, no devil. I can assure you he is very real. He is a baker at the Uptown Grocery Bakery. Anyway, there are those days I make up my mind to behave with how much I eat. And then…I change my mind.
Every day, we make countless decisions about how faithful we’re going to be to God, and how will we act towards others. As Christians, what choices are we going to make? Sometimes we say yes, sometimes we say no. And sometimes we change our minds—sometimes for the better, sometimes not.
We know what it was like for that first son. He said no. He knew what his father wanted, and he willingly went against his father. He may even have enjoyed saying no. It may have given him a sense of independence. But later on he thought about his answer. This was his father. As much as he didn’t want to do the work or didn’t want to obey his father, the son remembered all his father had done for him, and he changed his mind.
As Christians, we know what that’s like. Our Father in heaven has asked all of us to go and live Christian lives in this world. He’s asked you to be holy in an unholy world. He’s asked you to be a reflection of His Son to everyone you meet every day. And we say, “Yes, Father, I’ll do as you ask. Sure, I’ll let your Son be reflected in what I say and do for all people I see.” But then, five minutes after walking out of this church, husbands and wives are bickering as usual, siblings teasing each other, and so on. Our renewed zeal to be faithful Christians blows away the second the outside air touches us. Maybe it disappears before you go out that door. We say, “Sure, God, I’ll do what you ask. I’ll be faithful to you.” But God really knows disappointment when it comes to us keeping our promises.
Jesus knows what it’s like for us to struggle with what God the Father asks. God the Father spoke to His Son and said, “Son, I love you. But I have a very hard chore for you to do. I need you to go to work today, to go to earth. I need you to take on flesh and blood. I need you to live with sinful people. I need you to heal, preach, and teach. And then I need you to be beaten by whips, crowned by thorns, and, Son—I’m so sorry to ask this of you—but I need you to die in their place. Will you do this for me?” Even though this job was terrible, Jesus looked at His Father and said, “Yes, Father, I will do it.” What was asked of Him was hard, no doubt about it, and Jesus wrestled with it. But He never changed His mind. He stuck with what God asked Him to do because Jesus knows us. He knows we change our minds. He knows we’ll never be able to do perfectly what our heavenly Father asks.
God knows we’re going to change our minds. Sometimes we’ll be like the first son who said no but then did the right thing. Sometimes we’ll be like the second son who said yes but then did the wrong thing. Like when I put food on the table in front of my kids. Sometimes I hear, “I won’t eat that!” and they do anyway. Sometimes I hear “I love that!” and it is left on the plate. At times we will find ourselves standing in a bakery. At times we will find ourselves looking too long at men or women who are not our husbands or wives. At time we will find ourselves putting the wrong numbers on tax forms. At times we will find ourselves knowing what’s right in God’s eyes and knowing we’re doing the exact opposite. It will happen. It will happen. It will happen.
It is true that we often change our minds—sometimes for the better, sometimes not. But we are not alone in this fight. We’ve been baptized into Jesus. We see through His eyes the determination to do the Father’s will, even to death. Every day when we’re faced with the struggle of what to do, we’ll have Jesus there saying, “Remember me. Remember what I did for you on the cross. You don’t have to make the wrong choices anymore. I am your strength.” Every day when we’re faced with the choice to do our heavenly Father’s will, our Brother Jesus is with us, reminding us that He’s already done for us everything the Father asked.
Even though we change our minds, Jesus will hold onto us and always say yes to the Father for us. He will never change His mind. He will never change His mind about saving us. He will never change His mind about forgiving us. And He will never, ever change His mind about raising us from the dead. Jesus says, “Yes, Father, I have done what you asked, and I will continue to do your will. I will never change my mind.” How good for us to know that. How good for us, who change our minds at the drop of a hat, to know that there is one who won’t change His mind. Jesus will never change His mind about us.