Jesus said, "What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, `Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, `I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, `I go, sir'; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him."
Calvin in his commentaries had this to say about the parable.
"This conclusion shows what is the object of the parable, when Christ prefers to the scribes and priests those who were generally accounted infamous and held in detestation; for he unmasks those hypocrites, that they may no longer boast of being the ministers of God, or hold out a pretended zeal for godliness. Though their ambition, and pride, and cruelty, and avarice, were known to all, yet they wished to be reckoned quite different persons. And when, but a little ago, they attacked Christ, they falsely alleged that they were anxious about the order of the Church, as if they were its faithful and honest guardians. Since they attempt to practice such gross imposition on God and men, Christ rebukes their impudence by showing that they were at the greatest possible distance from what they boasted, and were so far from deserving that elevation with which they flattered themselves, that they ranked below the publicans and the harlots For as to the profession which they made of being eminent in observing the worship of God, and of being zealots of the Law, Christ tells them that it is quite as if a son were, in words, to promise obedience to his father, but afterwards to deceive him. So far as regards the publicans and the harlots, he does not excuse their vices, but compares their dissolute life to the obstinacy of a rebellious and debauched son, who at first throws off his father's authority; but shows that they are greatly preferable to the scribes and Pharisees in this respect, that they do not continue to the end in their vices, but, on the contrary, submit gently and obediently to the yoke which they had fiercely rejected. We now perceive the design of Christ. Not only does he reproach the priests and scribes with obstinately opposing God, and not repenting, though so frequently admonished, but he strips them of the honor of which they were unworthy, because their ungodliness was worse than the lasciviousness of the harlots."While most of today's sermons on this parable probably focused on our personal son-ship and how we as individuals answer God's "asks", let us not forget that the primary target of this parable was the priestly class.
Today's priestly class should take particular note of this parable.
When they lead us in saying, "We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church..." do they really?
They say "Yes," but when they return to their offices on Monday, do they turn back from their headlong rush to bless same sex relationships and same sex marriage?
They say they will join us in the vineyard, but they don't.
Wouldn't it be better if they were to heed the parable?
Yes the parable condemns us too, but it helps us all to return for forgiveness just as it challenges us to follow God's commandments more honestly and happily in the future.
The priestly class of the Episcopal church is welcome to share in that happiness.
We are a welcoming church.