Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
September 27th, 2020
Excerpt from
A Pocketful of Sundays
Elizabeth-Anne Stewart

The bottom line, as the parable presents it, is that when God calls us to action, ultimately we must "respond," whether slowly or reluctantly. Jesus points out that public sinners ("tax collectors and prostitutes") get the message while the religious authorities to whom he is speaking don't. To "work in the vineyard" is another way of saying "accepting God's reign by turning from sin." The first son (outcasts and sinners?) "turns" by doing what he initially refuses to do; the second son (the religious authorities?) claims that he will "turn" but never follows through. In the course of this "bare bones" story, Jesus censures the very people who are trying to trip him up and subvert his authority. In effect, he accuses them of hypocrisy -- for preaching righteousness while not following their own teachings. The message for each of us is that it is not enough to be Christians in name only; we need to prove our identity by our actions.

Theosophical Society
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The Well Spirituality Center, LaGrange Park, IL
October 24, 2020
9:30 am-2:00 pm
*re-scheduled as a virtual presentation


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  1. Why is it easier to read this story of the two sons as a story about obedience v. disobedience rather than as a commentary on living an authentically spiritual life?
  2. Who are the Keepers of God's Kingdom that you know?
  3. How do YOU build up the Kingdom of God?
Greetings, Readers!

Today I received a letter of complaint from a parent, threatening to report me to my "superiors," for brainwashing his son whose name remained anonymous. The issue, it seems, is that the father doesn't want to pay for an education that includes research on Covid-19, Climate Change or Systemic Racism. According to this parent, an English class should focus on "English" and not on politics. I have yet to pen my reply, but I will point out that the three topics I have assigned for exploration are not in themselves political (though they have been politicized); rather, they belong in the field of Social Justice, which is integral to the mission of the university.

The politicization of social realities from wearing a mask to believing in climate change is doing the world a disservice. Most medical experts agree that the failure to wear a mask or observe social distancing has resulted in tens of thousands of casualties: This is scientific fact, not a political statement. Most civil rights activists would agree that the failure to hold police accountable in the deaths of Breonna Taylor and other African Americans demonstrates that not all citizens are equal under the law: This social commentary is supported by statistical data. And most scientists would agree that the world is in the throes of ecological catastrophe: This claim is based on global scientific research involving shifting climate patterns, rising temperatures and pollution.

"Brain-washing" has no place in higher education. Ignorance regarding social justice issues and the survival of humanity don't belong there, either!

Many Blessings!

PS Try my spiritual self-assessment tool! After you take the Quiz, you will automatically receive a computer-generated diagram and explanatory comments regarding your strengths and "growing edges." I hope you find the Quiz useful!


Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: "What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He said to the first, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' This son replied, 'I will not, '
but afterwards changed his mind and went to the vineyard. The man approached his other son and gave the same order. This son replied, 'Yes, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did his father's will?" They answered, "The first son."
Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.""
Matt 21: 28-32 

The lack of details in today's Gospel is frustrating. In the first place, we never discover why it is that the father wants his sons to work in the vineyard. Perhaps the vines need pruning, or perhaps it's harvest time. Or maybe he is tired of seeing his sons lounge around the house, doing nothing constructive. Then again, the father may be short-handed-- we will never know. It seems, however, that he orders his sons to work in the vineyard without giving them any details, either. And he expects obedience. For their part, it is clear that neither of the sons wants to work. Again, there are no details. They may have other plans, or perhaps they had a late night. Then again, they may consider vineyard work to be beneath them -- hard labor better left to field hands. In the end, the son who initially says "No!" honors his father's request while the son who initially agrees, fails to show up.

But the parable is more than about obedience. The chief priests and elders have just challenged Jesus, asking him by whose authority he heals and teaches. In this exchange, which Matthew places shortly after the The Cleansing of the Temple (Mt 21:12-17), Jesus tells his opponents that he will answer their question if they can answer his question: "Where was John's baptism from? Was it of heavenly or human origin?" (Mt 21:25). Of course, this is a trick question as both answers would put the religious leaders in a bad light -- either for failing to listen to John's teachings or for denying his prophetic mission. Their response, therefore, is simply, "We don't know."

Back to the parable. While Jesus still doesn't reveal the source of his authority, he does distinguish those who pay lip service to devotion from those who respond whole-heartedly, even if their societal status is questionable. The vineyard, of course, is the Kingdom of God. The son who claims to be obeying his father doesn't step foot inside the vineyard; like Jesus' religious adversaries, he is wrapped up in his own affairs and status, neglecting his calling; moreover, he is a hypocrite. The son who is initially disrespectful and rebellious, however, like the marginalized people who listened to John the Baptist, reconsiders his position.

What's at stake here, is the Kingdom of God, not just at the time of Jesus but in our own 21st Century context. Who are the keepers of the Kingdom? The princes of the church who may be caught up in their "careers," their privilege and their politics? Or ordinary people leading messy lives who do their best to live in a way that is authentic, loving and compassionate?
October 24th, 2020
9:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
The Well/ Zoom

Globalization and technological developments have radically affected every aspect of human life from conception to the process of dying. Ironically, a plugged-in, Bluetoothed humanity has not only disconnected from the Earth but also from the Mysterium, that realm of experience in which we encounter the Holy One.

In our current milieu – one of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in a world ravaged by pandemic, global warming, social upheaval and the failure of our guiding institutions – the old names and images for God no longer resonate, nor has religion kept pace. It is precisely in this era of mind-shifting change and institutional atrophy, however, that a new awareness of the God beyond “God” is beginning to emerge.

To learn more about this event, please visit The Well's website or else listen to my video explaining the content and structure of the day.
This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. During COVID-19, sessions are by phone or on Zoom; I am also available to facilitate "virtual" retreats for groups and individuals.
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | |

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,