It’s a tough set of readings today, isn’t it? First, Isaiah talks about the destruction of the vineyard because God’s people are acting so badly. Then, the Psalm, a psalm of lament, talks about the destruction of that vineyard and begs God to restore right relationship between the people and their Lord. Then we have an epistle that seems to start out as good news: a celebration of the faithful actions of many of God’s people, even the unlikely ones, like Rahab and Jephthah (look him up!)…but no sooner do we hear all about those people’s faithfulness, we get slammed with the statement “Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised…” Of course, Paul finishes that sentence by saying that they did not receive what was promised “ since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.” An odd little turn of phrase, that, and I’ll come back to that. Then we’re into the Gospel, and Jesus seems to be going into a dark place. That’s no surprise: these past few weeks he has been slowly heading to Jerusalem, and he knows what is waiting for him there. Arrest. Ignominy. Torture. Death on the cross. So if he sounds depressed, we can certainly understand. But what if this isn’t depression? What if this is simply teaching? Simply saying what needs to be said? On the face of it, what he’s saying sounds like the world is collapsing. He’s bringing fire. He’s saying families will be divided against each other. He’s saying that his mission is not about peace, but about change. And then suddenly, he shifts gears and starts talking about the weather: if you see clouds in the west, it’s going to rain. If you feel a hot wind from the south, it’s going to be miserably hot. And then the kicker: if you can understand what’s happening with the weather, how can you not understand that the winds of change are blowing through as he speaks, and how can you not figure out what that means? Winds of change are never easy and are rarely pleasant. The lessons of history are clear: change, for whatever reason, for good or for ill, is something humans struggle with. And everyone’s got an opinion, and everyone wants to fight about it. The only blessing in this news is that it reminds me that the world we are so horrified by these days, on a regular basis, is very much the same as it was in Jesus’ day. Someone comes in with a new message, and some of us say “well. It’s about time!” and others of us say “To the ramparts! Our civilization is being destroyed!” On FaceBook and Twitter and even TikTok, we see mud being thrown, wild and unfounded claims being made, and rational people acting in a way that their mothers would find horrifying. It’s awful, this arm-wrestling, isn’t it? And yet we too may sometimes fall under its spell. I recall a time when I was senior warden at a church – yes, I was once a layperson – and a small group of folks got aggravated by the rector’s conflict with an assistant. Suddenly, this rector was treated as if he were the devil incarnate, even though his decision to accept her resignation was the right one, and within his authority. And the language ranged from “everyone knows the finances of this parish are in a shambles!” (they weren’t) to “he failed to deal with a staffer who was acting inappropriately fifteen years ago” (the priest did what the Bishop told him was the way to address it at that time.) And folks on both sides of this mess demonized those who were on the other side. And it took a long time to bring honesty and integrity and Christian conversation into the situation, but by God’s grace, it eventually happened. In another place, members of the board of a condo association got twisted around the axle because some folks wanted one kind of sign out front and the other folks wanted another. You would have thought it was a negotiation over peace in the Middle East, in the midst of shelling across the demarcation zone between the occupied territories and Jerusalem itself. In both cases, change caused tension and conflict. The same was true in Jesus’ time. Certainly the religious and secular leadership in Judea in Jesus’ time didn’t like what they were hearing from this upstart rabbi teaching with his disciples up and down the country. And no doubt there were ordinary people who were divided on Jesus’ ministry, even though they had always hoped for a Messiah to come from God to save them from their oppression under the Romans. Some thought he was just stirring up trouble. Some thought he was exactly the change agent they had been praying for. And some, even some of his own disciples, misunderstood him, thinking he was about secular change rather than reestablishment of right relationship with God. For them all in that battle, it may have felt like they were standing on a cliff’s edge, terrified to make a wrong step but required to keep moving forward, no matter what the cost. And cliff’s edges are truly frightening. Ask Doug about our honeymoon and our hike along the Cinque Terre in Liguria in Italy. We were to hike along the ridgeline above the coast, headed toward Portofino. I chickened out for most of the hike and took the train from section to section. I was glad I did, because some parts of the trail had eroded, and the drop was quite steep, and Doug spoke of those who traversed those parts with their eyes closed, hugging the side of the hill with their fingertips, just a step-by-step novena to get to the next safe stretch. Cliff’s edges are frightening. Christ brings us to the cliff’s edge of change, whether we want it or not. Christ brings us to the cliff’s edge of change, whether it’s exactly what we want or not. And here’s the beautiful and painful part of that reality: it’s that little sentence in the Letter to the Hebrews: “Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.” Remember how the epistle reminds us that all these avatars of faithfulness suffered mightily for their faith. They didn’t get what they thought they wanted: they got what God deemed best for them. When we are in the midst of the turmoil of change, when the old ways no longer work and the new ways are unclear, we might be reminded of the endless cycle of change in the story of God and God’s people, the struggle to do right, the errors made in that struggle, the pain, but ultimately the power of God to help us negotiate our walk along that cliff’s edge. Step by step, to the goal that is set before us: a world that is truly what God created it to be, with justice and dignity and care for all. Amen.It’s a tough set of readings today, isn’t it? First, Isaiah talks about the destruction of the vineyard because God’s people are acting so badly. Then, the Psalm, a psalm of lament, talks about the destruction of that vineyard and begs God to restore right relationship between the people and their Lord. Then we have an epistle that seems to start out as good news: a celebration of the faithful actions of many of God’s people, even the unlikely ones, like Rahab and Jephthah (look him up!)…but no sooner do we hear all about those people’s faithfulness, we get slammed with the statement “Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised…” Of course, Paul finishes that sentence by saying that they did not receive what was promised “ since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.” An odd little turn of phrase, that, and I’ll come back to that. Then we’re into the Gospel, and Jesus seems to be going into a dark place. That’s no surprise: these past few weeks he has been slowly heading to Jerusalem, and he knows what is waiting for him there. Arrest. Ignominy. Torture. Death on the cross. So if he sounds depressed, we can certainly understand. But what if this isn’t depression? What if this is simply teaching? Simply saying what needs to be said? On the face of it, what he’s saying sounds like the world is collapsing. He’s bringing fire. He’s saying families will be divided against each other. He’s saying that his mission is not about peace, but about change. And then suddenly, he shifts gears and starts talking about the weather: if you see clouds in the west, it’s going to rain. If you feel a hot wind from the south, it’s going to be miserably hot. And then the kicker: if you can understand what’s happening with the weather, how can you not understand that the winds of change are blowing through as he speaks, and how can you not figure out what that means? Winds of change are never easy and are rarely pleasant. The lessons of history are clear: change, for whatever reason, for good or for ill, is something humans struggle with. And everyone’s got an opinion, and everyone wants to fight about it. The only blessing in this news is that it reminds me that the world we are so horrified by these days, on a regular basis, is very much the same as it was in Jesus’ day. Someone comes in with a new message, and some of us say “well. It’s about time!” and others of us say “To the ramparts! Our civilization is being destroyed!” On FaceBook and Twitter and even TikTok, we see mud being thrown, wild and unfounded claims being made, and rational people acting in a way that their mothers would find horrifying. It’s awful, this arm-wrestling, isn’t it? And yet we too may sometimes fall under its spell. I recall a time when I was senior warden at a church – yes, I was once a layperson – and a small group of folks got aggravated by the rector’s conflict with an assistant. Suddenly, this rector was treated as if he were the devil incarnate, even though his decision to accept her resignation was the right one, and within his authority. And the language ranged from “everyone knows the finances of this parish are in a shambles!” (they weren’t) to “he failed to deal with a staffer who was acting inappropriately fifteen years ago” (the priest did what the Bishop told him was the way to address it at that time.) And folks on both sides of this mess demonized those who were on the other side. And it took a long time to bring honesty and integrity and Christian conversation into the situation, but by God’s grace, it eventually happened. In another place, members of the board of a condo association got twisted around the axle because some folks wanted one kind of sign out front and the other folks wanted another. You would have thought it was a negotiation over peace in the Middle East, in the midst of shelling across the demarcation zone between the occupied territories and Jerusalem itself. In both cases, change caused tension and conflict. The same was true in Jesus’ time. Certainly the religious and secular leadership in Judea in Jesus’ time didn’t like what they were hearing from this upstart rabbi teaching with his disciples up and down the country. And no doubt there were ordinary people who were divided on Jesus’ ministry, even though they had always hoped for a Messiah to come from God to save them from their oppression under the Romans. Some thought he was just stirring up trouble. Some thought he was exactly the change agent they had been praying for. And some, even some of his own disciples, misunderstood him, thinking he was about secular change rather than reestablishment of right relationship with God. For them all in that battle, it may have felt like they were standing on a cliff’s edge, terrified to make a wrong step but required to keep moving forward, no matter what the cost. And cliff’s edges are truly frightening. Ask Doug about our honeymoon and our hike along the Cinque Terre in Liguria in Italy. We were to hike along the ridgeline above the coast, headed toward Portofino. I chickened out for most of the hike and took the train from section to section. I was glad I did, because some parts of the trail had eroded, and the drop was quite steep, and Doug spoke of those who traversed those parts with their eyes closed, hugging the side of the hill with their fingertips, just a step-by-step novena to get to the next safe stretch. Cliff’s edges are frightening. Christ brings us to the cliff’s edge of change, whether we want it or not. Christ brings us to the cliff’s edge of change, whether it’s exactly what we want or not. And here’s the beautiful and painful part of that reality: it’s that little sentence in the Letter to the Hebrews: “Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.” Remember how the epistle reminds us that all these avatars of faithfulness suffered mightily for their faith. They didn’t get what they thought they wanted: they got what God deemed best for them. When we are in the midst of the turmoil of change, when the old ways no longer work and the new ways are unclear, we might be reminded of the endless cycle of change in the story of God and God’s people, the struggle to do right, the errors made in that struggle, the pain, but ultimately the power of God to help us negotiate our walk along that cliff’s edge. Step by step, to the goal that is set before us: a world that is truly what God created it to be, with justice and dignity and care for all. Amen.