December 16, 2023

Read Matthew 21:28-32.

I have a friend who likes to show love through random $5 Venmo payments to her friends. The words “For Starbucks,” “Buy yourself some flowers,” or “You need ice cream!” often accompany them. She sends them for friends taking a difficult exam, navigating the first day of a new job, mourning a loss, or just because. Even from thousands of miles away, small surprise Venmo gifts make her love tangible.

In Matthew’s parable of the two brothers, Jesus draws out the theme that actions speak louder than words. God sees the goodness of those who have a bad reputation, and those who are looked down upon or easily dismissed. God sees the root of our actions and love rather than surface-level labels. It’s not enough that the one brother says he will help in the vineyard, the meaning comes from the one who steps up and does the work.

When someone sends a Venmo surprise, shares a song they found encouraging, or puts a card in the mail to say hello, those little actions remind me of my value and root me in God’s love. This week, you may be busy and overwhelmed by finals, end-of- semester deadlines, and holiday plans to come. In the midst of it all, may you be grounded in both words and actions that remind you that you are loved. Share the love with a friend, or do something kind for yourself. No matter how we are labeled, and no matter how small, our actions matter.


God of overflowing grace, remind us of your presence in small actions, and help us to make your love visible to our neighbors. Amen.

Rev. Hannah Lundberg Transitional Pastor, UKirk@UMich, First Presbyterian Church (Ann Arbor, MI)