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Father Joseph Clayton Neiman  
an Episcopal priest   
   In Paw Paw, MI   



Proper 24-A                                 Ex 33:12-23; 1 Thess 1:1-10; Mt 22:15-22

St Martin’s, Kalamazoo                                               Fr. Joseph Neiman


Theme: “My presence will go with you….(Ex 33:14)


The many world crises continue. The political ads have become more vitriolic. Fear of Ebola continues to increase. The growing darkness and cold weather seem to match our mood as we wait hopefully for some good news for our lives. And yet the trees are glowing with radiant colors, and our families and friends still love us. So, as Julian of Norwich would say, “All will be well.”


But all is not well. In a new book, Losing Our Way, An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America, author Bob Herbert writes: “The [recent] Great Recession and its dismal aftermath showed unmistakably that a great change had come over the country. The years that had been unkind to the middle class were positively brutal to the working class and the poor. The United States was no longer a place of widely-shared prosperity and limitless optimism. It was a country that has lost its way. By 2012 the net worth of American families had fallen back to the levels of the early-1990s. Poverty was expanding and the middle class had entered a protracted period of decline. Signs of distress were everywhere. There were not nearly enough jobs for all who wanted and needed to work. Middle-aged professionals were being forced into early, unwanted retirement. Low-wage, contingent work – without benefits and with no retirement security – was becoming increasingly the norm. Even young graduates with impressive credentials from world-class colleges and universities were finding it difficult to put together a decent standard of living. For millions of Americans, there was no work at all.”[1]


In addition to a troubled America, Pope Francis has suggested in a talk at the World War I cemetery in Italy that we have perhaps entered World War III with isolated terrorist attacks and small battles with more technological weapons aimed at the minds and hearts of people as well as the economy. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said in a speech during the debate in Parliament about joining the coalition action against the group which calls itself ISEL that weapons of war will not win the battle alone. There has to be a larger vision which inspires people to new resolve and new behavior. And for both Pope Francis and Justin Welby, that vision is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So let’s look at today’s Gospel parable and see what Good News the good Lord may wish to give to us this morning to strengthen our hope and our joy in living.


First we need again to set this Gospel narrative in the context of this whole section of Matthew’s Gospel. As Mother Mary told us a couple weeks ago, chapter 21 began with Jesus’ symbolic triumphal entrance into Jerusalem fulfilling, as Matthew describes it, the prophecy of Zechariah. Now Zechariah lived some 500 years before Jesus in the days following the fall of Jerusalem to the Persians. It was a dark day for the Jews since so many of their leaders had been taken into captivity in prison camps near ancient Babylon, what is today modern day Baghdad.