by Bob Wickizer

Secret Shopper
Bob Wickizer
Matthew 21:33-46

I would like to start our reflection on the Gospel by going backwards. The parable of the vineyard owner and the tenant farmers is another critique of leadership of the Jerusalem temple paired with the authority of Jesus. In the gospel we heard last week and today, the scribes, Pharisees and temple leadership do not come out well. Today I would like to start with the idea that Jesus returns to the modern world. He encounters the leadership of the wider church at both extremes: the scholarly, intellectual leadership on one hand and the evangelical, full-of-the-spirit leadership on the other. What would he find today?

Jesus poses as a student and finds himself in Cambridge Massachusetts, Princeton New Jersey, Berkeley California and Bonn Germany. In every setting he wants to know what the professors are teaching in modern seminaries. He wants to know about their faith and how they transmit a lively faith to their students. He wants to know if not just the Word of God but the Spirit of God is being handed down to the next generation. He is a little excited about this project. How do the best seminaries in the world measure up today he wonders.

In every case he finds the scholarship to be top notch. Not easily impressed, student Jesus is amazed at what these scholars have been able to deduce from very careful analysis of the text, the ancient languages, the archaeology and cultural knowledge. In a couple of seminaries, Jesus couldn't resist planting hints with the professors about where they might find some archaeological evidence to solve some very old and vexing questions. These hints led to major expeditions and new discoveries.

Even with all of his secret shopper research, his initial excitement was tempered by what he learned towards the end of each visit. In seminary after seminary he found a distressing malaise. It didn't matter whether the scholars were Jewish working on the Hebrew Bible or Christian wo ...

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