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At St. Paul’s: “Our primary mission is to relate to, and minister to people who are living on the edge, who seek God’s will for their lives, struggling to find direction and purpose in a society that can be violent, insensitive and money-grabbing.”
Some folks say that things come in groups of three. That holds true
today: in our passage today there are 3 important lessons or themes
that Jesus gives. The first theme refers to John the Baptist and his
disciples, because apparently, some of John’s disciples were hanging
with Jesus’ disciples. And there was some discussion about prophets
and ministry. This first theme ends with the saying: “wisdom is
vindicated by her deeds.” The 2nd
prayer where Jesus basically prays thanking God for giving ordinary
people a step up ahead of sophisticates and know-it-alls. Directly
after that Jesus launches into a 3rd
find that carrying his yoke will be easy, and the burden is light.
So we start with wisdom. Jesus, looking at His own people,
asked: "To what shall I compare these hard-headed people who
surround me?" And he saw at the moment the children playing
games in the marketplace. And he said: You are like Children
playing in the market place. Mimicking adult life; a few of you begin
to play wedding music on your pipes and cry out to others, "Let's
play 'wedding' and dance and make merry." The others shout
back, "No. We don't want to dance today." So the first group of
kids, still wanting to play, begins to play funeral music and shout
back, "Well, let's play 'funeral'." "No. We don't feel like acting sad."
Now for explanation, I want you to recall the reading from last week.
If I may refresh your memory, Jesus, in Matthew 10 says: 40 “Whoever
welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
41 Whoever welcomes a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes
a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a
theme comes to us in the form of a
teaching about how disciples will
cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you,
none of these will lose their reward.”
Jesus is directing his remarks towards his critics. Some of the critics
are in a group of John’s disciples. It seems that these disciples
from were less than obedient, mindlessly imitating others, playfully
romping about. They bounce from selfish activity to selfish activity
without a thought of what others might think or feel. Like kids
playing in the marketplace, they are aimless, self serving and have
no thought of the future. Jesus laid out the idea that the Gospel
message is a two pronged approach. Think on John. . . . he removed
himself from society. And think on Jesus. . . . Jesus did not condemn
John's approach, and John did not condemn Jesus' approach. They
supported each other.
Look at both John the Prophet, the one wants personal commitment,
and Jesus the social reformer, who wants to build up society by
creating disciples. We see a two-fold method: Remove yourself, look
at yourself, take time to really come to terms with your own strengths
and weaknesses; recharge those batteries. Fast, pray, reflect on
Scriptures, take long walks, commune with creation. And when you
come back, engage with people. Listen to them; meet them where
they live, eat, drink, socialize. Jesus taught this lesson in such a way
as to remove any judgmental spirit.
And the genius of this two pronged approach, the wisdom of whwat
Jesus presents would be proved by the results, and, that is why
we have the saying: “the proof is in the pudding;” or “actions speak
louder than words.” A saying attributed to St. Francis, I think, goes
like this: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use
words.” So Jesus and John are effective trainers of disciples and
evangelists, and Jesus slams the critics by calling them immature.
The second theme I want to hold up today is Jesus when he further
needles the naysayers, saying: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.
You’ve concealed your ways from these sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled out
your lessons clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.”
And so today we pray in the same way: We thank you God, we trust
you and we pray that you continue to guide us. We ask you to help us
stay focused; that you help us be good caretakers of our own spirits,
and that, in turn we have the strength, courage and energy to offer
our spirits to you to use for the building up of your kingdom. And we
know that your people need healing, wholeness, direction and we ask
for your grace to help us. Amen. That’s the 2nd
Now for the third part, but first, I want to tell you a story: Two
homeless men are walking along and both look down and find a $10
bill. The one immediately goes and buys some roll-up tobacco, a
40 oz. beer and some chips. He falls asleep under a tree in the park
and later, walks all night long, gets a $250 ticket from the RTA police
for sneaking onto the rapid transit and is exhausted the next day.
He comes over and sleeps on the couch in the drop in center. The
other man saves his $10 bill, and later, when he is invited to a friend’s
house on the East side, he has bus fair and then is able to buy a
bottle of wine and some bread as a gift for them. His friends fix him
a great dinner, they laugh and enjoy each others’ company until late
at night and he spends the night on the couch. He wakes up the next
morning, with a good attitude, and the temp service finds him a job.
The third theme of this passage has to do with giving our burdens
to the Lord. There is a certain attitude of gratitude that comes when
we give up and give in to the faith journey. When accepting the call
to follow him, we take on the yoke -- Jesus uses the "yoke" as a metaphor for
discipleship, but today, most of us have never seen, let alone felt, a yoke. Still, we get
the idea, that it's something hard and heavy and burdensome, and Jesus is up-ending our
perception (as usual) by calling his yoke "easy," and his burden "light." There's an even
more helpful way for us to hear his words: David Holwerda tells us that a yoke "both
restrains and enables. It is simultaneously a burden and a possibility.
Take on the yoke of righteousness; I can tell right away when a
person has given up their life of self service and given in to God . . .
they have the feeling that permeates their thinking, they have a new
consciousness, a deep understanding that God is working in their
Jesus brings in this strange saying . . . why? Why now? Because
he is calling all the disciples, from John’s camp as well as his own,
to take on the burden, put on the yoke of a follower. And once they
have made the commitment, it all changes, life changes, life becomes
easier, fuller, the burdens easier to carry and the anxiety and stress
are relieved by community working and partnering together.
After over 20 years as a church leader, community organizer
and peace builder, I can honestly say that the group gets a
consciousness. A church community gets a personality, so to speak,
which defines that membership. It is the same for an individual. A
person is defined by the company they keep.
God is real to us ONLY because we have accepted it into our
consciousness. In a collection of daily meditations on the lectionary
scriptures called A Guide to Prayer, Rueben P. Job and Norman
Shawchuck, wrote this: God is closer to our minds every moment
than our own thoughts. God is nearer to our hearts than our own
feelings. God is more intimate with our wills than our most vigorous
decisions. If we are not aware of God, it is not because God is not
with us. It is, in part, because our consciousness is so under the
influence of other interests.
Did you ever encounter, randomly, a friend on the street who was so
pre-occupied with her cell phone, or so absorbed in thought that she
had not been conscious of you, until you almost collided? This is how
God experiences the human species. It is a persistent failure of the
un-emancipated consciousness. We can be so preoccupied by lesser
realities that we do not sense the presence of the divine Reality. And,
something dramatic usually has to happen to end that absorption in
other affairs, so that we can turn its attention to God.
Dramatic, as in: A person may encounter God in a crisis, that, as
we say, "brings one to one's senses." It takes a Death, a disaster,
a sickness, the collapse of friendship, for the tyranny or slavery or
addiction; something has to be freed so that our consciousness is
released for the greater awareness. Having a life altering experience.
Again, in the Guide to Prayer it says: “What makes life splendid is
the constant awareness of God. What transforms the spirit into God's
likeness is intimate fellowship with God. I believe we can create the
new habit of daily communing with God. no longer running from game
to game. No longer sitting on the sidelines watching the disciples.
We can begin new habits that emancipate our consciousness and
free our spirits so that we sense the divine reality which is God,
and we ask God to carry some of the burden and stress of our daily
activities, and in essence become closer and closer to the reality, the
consciousness, the fact of our being one with our God.
So let us pray for our friends who find the $10 that their
consciousness of God increases, especially the one who cannot get
the proper rest required for a good days work.
And do we need to take this same advice Jesus is giving in this
current age of information overload and super technology. Now, as
then, knowledge is plentiful, but wisdom is scarce. Wisdom will be
evident our actions. Coming to church we learn what is right and true
and noble and just. Leaving church, we enter the world to do what
is right and true and noble and just in the world. Let us pray for the
consciousness of God, for the continued strength and courage to live
up to the standards Jesus sets for us and for the Holy Spirit to be
evident in all that we say and do.