Matthew 11:16-21 and 25-30
My son and youngest daughter both have strong characters – this means when they play together, they sometimes have opposing ideas what game should be played. When they were both being homeschooled during lockdown they would go out onto the trampoline for “break time” (to be honest it was my break time, time for a cuppa and a listen to pop master on radio 2!!). My daughter would want do gymnastics tricks and My son liked using the net of the trampoline as a cricket ball net….there just wasn’t a compromise they could come to with such opposite views, and much arguing ensued. Each one rejecting the others game as boring!
In our gospel reading today Jesus paints a vivid picture with words, – of children playing together in the market place – but when the flute players play the others didn’t dance and when they sing a dirge the others don’t mourn. Some commentators have likened the dance to a wedding and the dirge to a funeral.
You can imagine the scene. They are in the marketplace, and the children are using it as a playground. one child says “Let’s play weddings” but when he plays he flute the others say this is boring. So the child says lets play funerals, and begins to sing a dirge and the others say this is boring too. Then the child then says “what do you want?”, whatever we play is wrong!! What is significant here is that both ‘games’ are rejected.
When we read the passage we can almost feel the exasperation of Jesus coming from the page.The funeral dirge represents John the Baptists ministry of repentance, and the wedding dance as Jesus ministry of celebration of Gods Kingdom.
But if people want to reject something it seems they will. Whether it be Johns solemn presentation of judgement and repentance, or Jesus’ celebration of Gods lavish, generous love and forgiveness.
But it seems the people of Jesus’ day wanted to stick to their religious norms , they didn’t want anything different.And both of these ministries were rejected. Jesus tells us that this is a description of how some people engage with the spiritual life: they are never happy;
Some churches today try to appeal to market forces they will give the people whatever they want, they will do anything to get bums on seats, but is this what the church needs? Gods message should never be a populist message, but always one that seeks truth, whatever the world or anybody thinks, and our ministries should reflect this too. We should always be thinking as a Church what is useful to us, and what is useful for the communities around us, at this time and in this place. What will help everyone grow further in knowing and loving God.
A great example is right that right now – we are doing church in a way that I suspect most of us never dreamed of back in January. But it is hopefully something everyone here finds useful and helpful.
Our second passage is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving which Jesus prays to God the father. The CEV version translates v 25 as “ I am grateful you hide all this from wise and educated people and showed it to ordinary people.” In Jesus day wisdom was only for scholars that had studied for many years, for the vast majority of people they assumed they couldn’t get close to understanding God and had to rely on experts like the Pharisees. But Jesus turns this idea on its head – another translation to “ordinary people” is little children- even a small child can understand the gospel message. The second section of this prayer shows how ALL of us can know God through Jesus. As Nt wright puts it
“Jesus had come to know his father the way a son does: not by studying books about him, but by living in his presence, listening for his voice, and learning from him as an apprentice does from a master, by watching and imitating. And he was now discovering that the wise and learned were getting nowhere, and that the ‘little people’—the poor, the sinners, the tax-collectors, ordinary folk—were discovering more of God, simply by following him, Jesus, than the learned specialists who declared that what he was doing didn’t fit with their complicated theories.”
Specialists of course are essential. In the Church’s case the Rector the church wardens and other ministers are important and are part of what makes our churches work . But in this prayer, Jesus emphasis that Gods wisdom is revealed to all – and Jesus is thankful for it.
All our church members have a place to share which direction are church should go, in order to minister to our communities. Our growing in God sessions on Zoom that start this Tuesday, our as part of this idea. Of us coming together and sharing what god has put on our hearts, both individually and collectively.
But we don’t want this to make us feel overwhelmed and this is where the final verses we heard today come in. Jesus addresses directly those who are weary and burdened. And I know many of us may feel like weary at the moment, but even if we don’t, we can all recognise that feeling. Jesus’ response is to tell them and us “come to me”
Church can be wearisome for some and changes fill them with fear of more work, more slog and more rota filling. But Jesus is talking about a yoke that is easy. A yoke is the wooden frame that would attach cattle to the plough. But when we look closely at this passage ,we see that Jesus asks us to take his yoke – we put on Jesus yoke on voluntarily. But when we put on the yoke of Jesus look to learn from Him-We find Jesus is gentle and humble of heart – and its here we will find rest for our souls.
So, In these changing times let us not be the ones who are never satisfied and always complaining, let us be people who know that to learn from God is to live in his presence and listen to his voice and let us be people who know we all all contribute our churches ministry. But mostly let realise we are surrounded with the love of Jesus who is humble of heart and will find rest for our souls. Amen.