First Reading: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Ezekiel challenges those who think they cannot change because of what their parents were and did, or who think they cannot turn from their wicked ways. God insistently invites people to turn and live.
1The word of the Lord came to me: 2What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? 3As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.
25Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?
30Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

Psalm: Psalm 25:1-9

Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love. (Ps. 25:6)
1To | you, O Lord,
  I lift | up my soul.
2My God, I put my trust in you; let me not be | put to shame,
  nor let my enemies triumph | over me.
3Let none who look to you be | put to shame;
  rather let those be put to shame | who are treacherous.
4Show me your | ways, O Lord,
  and teach | me your paths. R
5Lead me in your | truth and teach me,
  for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all | the day long.
6Remember, O Lord, your compas- | sion and love,
  for they are from | everlasting.
7Remember not the sins of my youth and | my transgressions;
  remember me according to your steadfast love and for the sake of your good- | ness, O Lord.
8You are gracious and up- | right, O Lord;
  therefore you teach sinners | in your way.
9You lead the low- | ly in justice
  and teach the low- | ly your way. R
 

Second Reading: Philippians 2:1-13

As part of a call for harmony rather than self-seeking, Paul uses a very early Christian hymn that extols the selflessness of Christ in his obedient death on the cross. Christ’s selfless perspective is to be the essential perspective we share as the foundation for Christian accord.
1If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6who, though he was in the form of God,
  did not regard equality with God
  as something to be exploited,
7but emptied himself,
  taking the form of a slave,
  being born in human likeness.
 And being found in human form,
  8he humbled himself
  and became obedient to the point of death—
  even death on a cross.

9Therefore God also highly exalted him
  and gave him the name
  that is above every name,
10so that at the name of Jesus
  every knee should bend,
  in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue should confess
  that Jesus Christ is Lord,
  to the glory of God the Father.

12Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32

After driving the moneychangers out of the temple (21:12), Jesus begins teaching there. His authority is questioned by the religious leaders, who are supposed to be in charge of the temple.
23When [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
28“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31Which 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. 32For 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.”

Prayers of Intercession

The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion. The following examples may be adapted or used as appropriate.
Open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we pray for the church, the world, and all of God’s creation.
A brief silence.
 
We pray for the mission of the gospel. Unite your church in its proclamation and witness. Let the same mind be in us that is in Christ Jesus. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.

 

Creator God, you provide daily for our nourishment. Bless fields and orchards, oceans and lakes, birds and animals, insects and fish. Sustain those who harvest your life-sustaining bounty. Help us share the gifts you have freely given. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.

 

God of the nations, give all your people the mind of Christ. Guide national and international leaders to advocate for policies that look to the interests of the most vulnerable. Humble us when we question your mercy toward those who are different from us. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.

 

Self-emptying God, stir up compassion for those in need. Send your Spirit to those who are in crisis, troubled, weary, or discouraged. (We pray especially for . . .) Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.

 

We pray for our congregation and community. Guide our deliberations over difficult decisions. Strengthen our commitment to our ministries (here specific congregational ministries may be named). Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.

 

Here other intercessions may be offered.
 
Gracious God, we give thanks for the saints whose tongues confessed Jesus Christ as Lord. Keep us confident in your promises until we join them in endless praise. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.

 

Into your hands, gracious God, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting the power of Christ and the gifts of the Spirit.
Amen.