Some of you know this; but many of you may not. Until I started my formal pursuit of ordained ministry approximately 20 years ago, I had the privilege of serving as a close adviser to lay and ordained ministers and national leaders of nearly a dozen religious denominations in the continental United States. The association almost always arose out of our common pursuit of good health, flourishing or at least surviving in well-established religious communities, while jesting and jogging.
The circumstances that we face today remind me of those times because the Parable of the Two Sons in Matthew 21:28-32 often attracted considerable attention in our conversations, notwithstanding my determination never to appear to be a would-be political oracle and never to disrespect governmental office holders’ or seekers’ honest political pursuit or policy fulfillment.
I have long been convinced that my privileged access for lay or ordained pastoring needs a comfortable, purer context, devoid of concern about my possible political leanings. As a pastor, I have almost never been inclined to promote or demote any particular politician, party or honestly debatable policy or position.
On the other hand, I wonder whether Jesus isn’t giving us a parable that is a bellwether of considerable consequence for 2020, useful in any political contest. The father of two sons in this parable asked the first, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” That first son answered, “I will not,” but later repented, changed his mind, went, and did precisely what was asked. In contrast, the father then asked the second son, who answered with alacrity, “I go, sir,” but he did not go. Jesus then makes it clear that the son who did what was asked (the son who repented and delivered, even if only after delay and redemption, “is going into the Kingdom of God” ahead of the son who promptly but delivered nothing.
I am not presuming to apply this parable for you, but I do hope that you will apply it for yourselves ... soon and often.
— The Rev. Dr. Wesley S. Williams Jr., J.D., LL.D., D. Min., K.St.J, is Washington National Cathedral Priest Scholar and Chaplain, and he previously served churches in the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands.