"A man had two sons . . .” was a common way to begin a parable, especially one comparing good and bad sons. Matthew uses it to contrast one son, who promises to work in the vineyard but never shows up, with another, who at first adamantly refuses to go to the vineyard but later repents and goes (21:28-32). Which one did the will of his father, asks Jesus? Not the one who talked a good game, but the one who actually followed through with obedient actions.
In the poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” Wendell Berry’s mad farmer warns against the love of “the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay,” a life which makes one “afraid to know your neighbors and to die.” Instead, the mad farmer exhorts us, “Every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
How do we handle clergy sexual misconduct faithfully and compassionately? The issues and challenges extend far beyond any one crisis, and indict all churches that have failed to recognize the complexity of those issues and faithfully engage them.
A person’s final words are important. When they are out of character or trivial, we remember them with some embarrassment. Elvis Presley, for example, supposedly said, “I’m going to the bathroom to read.” Well-spoken words, on the other hand, provide a fitting conclusion to a life and encouragement for those who remain.
In his wonderful memoir Open Secrets, Richard Lischer describes a personal conflict that developed between Lischer and Leonard, a lay leader in the congregation. Their conflict had the potential to erupt into a major split in the congregation. But each man remained committed to the ministry of the church.