Scott Mims, Virginia Beach, VA

Warm-up Question

  • Take a few moments to check in with one another.  What have been some of the “highs” and “lows” of the past week?
  • What is one thing you used to think or believe as a small child that you find funny now?

Another Alarm Bell

Recently, a massive section of Greenland’s ice cap broke off in the northeastern Arctic.  This section of ice, measuring 42 square miles, is a dramatic example of the accelerated melting of Arctic ice that scientists say is evidence of rapid climate change.  As one observer put it, “This is yet another alarm bell being rung by the climate crisis in a rapidly heating Arctic.”

In fact, the effects of global warming are so severe that they are reshaping the climate of the region. As one study in August concluded, Greenland alone lost a record amount of ice during a record-breaking 2019, resulting in a melt massive enough to have covered the whole of California in 4 feet of water.

Elsewhere, a rapidly warming climate is also being linked to conditions that make for more intense wildfire seasons in the American West, and more active hurricane seasons in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions.

For more:

see also:,a%20new%20study%20has%20found.

Discussion Questions

  • Despite an ever-growing body of evidence that our planet is warming rapidly, why do you think some people have a hard time accepting that climate change is real?
  • Who has the most to gain from people and nations working together to address climate change?  Who might have the most to lose from the actions and policies that could be called for?
  • Are you optimistic about the future of our world and our ability to successfully tackle the complex issues around climate change?  Why or why not?

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Philippians 2:1-13

Matthew 21:23-32

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

As we head into the last weeks of the church year, our gospel readings jump to Jesus’ final days before his crucifixion.  Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and “cleansing” of the Temple (Matthew 21:1-16)  set the stage for his confrontation with the chief priests and elders.

“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”  That is the question put to Jesus by Jewish leaders who are obviously upset at what they perceive as an attack against both the Temple and their own authority. Yet, their question is not an honest one.  That is, they are not really seeking knowledge and understanding, but are looking to trap Jesus.  Indeed, they are well aware of what his actions imply – that he is the Messiah, God’s anointed one.  They hope, in answering this question, Jesus will give them something they can use against him.

Jesus  is wise to their ploy.  And while his counter-question hangs them on the horns of a dilemma, it is more than simply a clever way out.  This question concerning John the Baptist is a clue to the answer Jesus would have given, had his questioners been open to the truth.  If they truly understood what John was about (see Matthew 3:11-17), they would know where Jesus gets the authority to say what he is saying and do what he was doing. 

In sharing a parable about a man with two sons, Jesus goes on to underscore the fact that they have chosen to ignore John’s message and, therefore, Jesus himself .  After all, what does it say that even people whose daily lives seem to be  a big “No!” to God believe John’s message of repentance and renewal, when the religious leaders do not?  What does it say that even tax collectors and prostitutes “get it,” when those who should most welcome the Messiah refuse to see God at work?

This is not simply a story from long ago.  Jesus continues to challenge us to open our eyes to what God is doing in the world, calling us to view our lives through our “faith lenses”.  How we answer the chief priests and elder’s question as it pertains to Jesus is critical.  What does it mean for the church that Jesus is Lord?  And, more personally, what does his authority as God’s Messiah mean to each of us?

Discussion Questions

  • What do you know about John the Baptist?  Read Matthew 3:1 – 17 together.  Who was John, and what was he about?  
  • Think about what you know about Jesus.  What are some of the other pieces of evidence that point to who he is and to the authority that he has?  
  • Why do you think the religious leaders and authorities had a hard time accepting Jesus?  What did they have to lose?
  • What does the word “authority” mean to you?  In what ways does Jesus have authority in our lives?  

Activity Suggestions

One Small Change:  How do we connect our faith to the needs and challenges of our world?  Where do you see God at work, and what do you think he may be calling us to care about and do?  Explore some possible actions, activities or service projects that your group might do related to your conversation.  Choose one thing and go for it!

Closing Prayer

Gracious God, in your love you have given us gifts of abundance – ourselves, our time, our abilities and possessions.  Help us to say “Yes!” to your call to share these gifts in the work of your “vineyard,” that we may be signs of your gracious love.  Give us wisdom and reverence for our planet, and help us to work for a future in which generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty.  We pray this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.