RCL Year A, Proper 21
Psalm 25:1-8, Ezekiel 18:1-4 and 25-32,  Saint Matthew 21:23-32

We find the Prophet Ezekiel and our Lord and Savior in substantial agreement in today’s Lessons. Ezekiel says, “Turn, then, and live.”[1] And Jesus says, “the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of” the chief priests and the elders “because” they “believed”[2] John the Baptist and repented.

Ezekiel’s way and Jesus’ way are quite simple: people who do bad things find their relationship with God restored completely when they repent. The sins of the parents do not visit the third and fourth generations as had been thought previously.[3] We are not punished for the wrong-doing of others. We are punished only for what we ourselves have done or have left undone.

Jesus makes the point in his parable about two sons. One son says “No” but does “Yes” and the second son does the opposite—he says “Yes” but does “No.”

The parable that Jesus tells clearly prefers the son who says “No” but does “Yes.” Remember the question Jesus asks the chief priests and the elders: “Which of the two did the will of his father?” Clearly and simply, the son who does “Yes” does the will of his father. Everything we think, feel, dream, and imagine boils down to this: doing the will of God.

If you take this principle to heart—that goodness and virtue are to be found in what we do rather than in what we say—life can become quite simple to live. For we are free at every moment in our lives to do a thing that God would have us do. And in doing that thing, whatever it is, we stride into the kingdom of God, into the company of those who have done “Yes.” God’s ways are not unfair, as the house of Israel said to Ezekiel. God is fairness, and he takes to his heart those who do his will. As we said a moment ago, “Gracious and upright is the Lord; * therefore he teaches sinners in his way.”[4]

[1] Ezekiel 18:32.

[2] Saint Matthew 21:31-32.

[3] Exodus 20:5.

[4] Psalm 25:7.