Yes, today's gospel is addressed to leaders like our president and congresspersons. There Jesus addresses those in power and tells the local rulers of his day ("the chief priests and elders") a parable about lip service and the required change of direction. (Remember, in Jesus' context there was no sharp distinction between religious and civil government.)
"A man had two sons," the Great Teacher tells these government officials. "He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' He said in reply, 'I will not, ' but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, 'Yes, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two," Jesus asks, "did his father's will?"
The chief priests and elders answer,"The first."
Jesus said to them,"Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you."
I'm sure you see that Jesus' parable is about governmental lip service and deception. The parable calls them to radical change in policy. Jesus implies that the leaders of his day were like the first son. They said the right things, but their actions belied their words. As a result, their deeds excluded them from the New Order (God's Kingdom) which was always the focus of Jesus' revolutionary discourse.
And that brings us back to our own leaders and the differences between what they say and do. Think of the events of recent weeks -- even last week. During that time our leaders have:
* Paid lip service to the necessity of observing national boundaries in the case of Russia and Ukraine, but then have claimed that national boundaries are irrelevant in their own "war on terrorism."
* Paid lip service to international law -- again in the case of Russia and Ukraine, but then ignored that law by going to war with ISIS without the required U.N. resolution.
* Paid lip service to civilization and decency in decrying ISIS' brutal beheadings (by knife) of innocent civilians, but then beheaded literally untold others via drones and direct bombings. (Yes, drones and bombs inevitably blow heads off bodies.)
* Paid lip service to the human rights of civilians brutalized by ISIS, while ignoring the million and a half civilians their own armed forces have just as brutally killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
* Paid lip service to nuclear non-proliferation in their demands upon Iran, but then have pledged billions to modernize their own overwhelming nuclear arsenal.
* Paid lip service to environmental protection (following last Sunday's "People's Climate March"), but the very next day implicitly embraced the possibility of "nuclear winter" through that same weapons modernization program.
Of course, there are many more examples of our leaders' saying one thing and doing the opposite. In fact, their lies come so thick and fast that confusion and weariness results on the part of listeners. Our leaders' honeyed words accompanied by unspeakably cruel acts paralyze us from taking action against or even recognizing in our own country a world force that is far more destructive than ISIS, Khorasan, or al-Qaeda. In the words of Noam Chomsky, the latter represent "retail terrorism," while the U.S. "network of death" (with bases all over the world) embodies "wholesale terrorism" that is far more evil and destructive.
I believe that danger of confusion and consequent inaction is why Jesus shocked his opponents by saying simply, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you."
That would be as scandalous to Jesus' audience as if he said to President Obama and John McCain, "Amen, I say to you, ISIS, Khorasan and al-Qaeda will enter God's kingdom before you."
What does that mean for us who are attempting to follow the Way of Jesus and are trying to be part of his Kingdom revolution? It means that we must realize that:
* Perpetual war contravenes the teachings of Jesus who taught us to love our enemies.
* Our "leaders" (just like the priests and elders of Jesus' day) are liars to the core.
* The United States is (in the words of Dr. King) the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world."
* That the retail terror and brutality of ISIS pales in comparison with the wholesale terror the United States inflicts on the world's poor.
* That we must work and pray every day for the defeat of the United States in its endless, genocidal wars.
Believe me: that defeat is coming. Better yet, believe Ezekiel. It's the law of karma.