In today’s gospel pericope, the Jewish religious leaders ask Jesus by what authority he exercises his ministry. What would have triggered such a devastating question from these establishment figures? Well, a quick look backwards in the Matthaean text gives us a likely answer: the event we usually call the “cleansing of the Temple.” If you remember, Jesus there trashes the business district of the Temple, where the lower classes are conned, and whips the capitalists. The religious elites of the time want to keep their personal wealth and influence, maintain the status quo, and preserve the Roman peace. So troublemaker Jesus with his anti-imperial valuesRead More →

In today’s gospel pericope, Jesus puts paid to all our notions about work and reward. He reverses a basic principle of our culture and economy. A wealthy vintner hires workmen all throughout the day, but at the end he pays exactly the same wage to all. And the story is, of course, not about the workmen but about the lavish generosity of the Owner, representing God, who loves all his children deeply and unconditionally, gives us all far more than we deserve, and does not recognize our notions of worth. He confers worth. Equality is a fundamental principle, and is necessarily a counter-cultural characteristic, ofRead More →

I was once asked what characteristic of Jesus stood foremost in my mind. I answered his intolerance of hypocrisy, his ability to cut through adiaphora to get to the heart of the matter. A good example is the Our Father, often called the Lord’s Prayer by protestants, although he prayed many prayers. Each observant Palestinian Jew at the time recited elaborate prayers every day. Jesus distilled those into the short bytes of the Our Father, which cover the basics beautifully: We ask God to help us respect his name; to bring in God’s kingdom where divine will is done on earth; to give us theRead More →