16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[b] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
In thinking about this passage, I had quite a few thoughts in mind.
As I read about John the Baptist coming with a hard message and abstaining from all sorts of things, I thought of my growing up in a very conservative Southern Baptist Church. Abstinence from anything remotely fun…there were so many things that we were encouraged to stay away from, that if we partook, our lives would be ruined or our eternal souls in jeopardy it seemed.
Yet, there was also lots of good things. That church had a great history, over 200 years of it. It was a part of me, and still is.
When I was in high school and struggling with where to go, I met some wonderful folks in a Christian ministry that seemed to have fun with being Christians, maybe a bit too much fun at times. I began to see that grace was a real thing and I knew that I simply was drawn into a more full way of life with them.
Both of that church and this other ministry laid the foundation that led me into deeper places of being.
I remember one incident in my Baptist church growing up. Our church’s pastor’s wife wanted to procure a new flagpole. Now, I have nothing against flagpoles or most flags for that matter. But, I remembered thinking as a 17 year old that we already had enough flagpoles and why should we put one that tall in our front yard? I had just come back from our church’s mission trip and had seen kids in a VBS that could probably use that money more than a taller flagpole. And, besides, we were a church, and this church had told me my entire life that nothing in this world was more important than God and God’s love for all humanity, that our allegiance to God superseded our allegiance to anything or anyone else, and we had an obligation to take care of those on the margins…so in my mind, it was pretty straightforward, give the money to those who needed it more in some way and make due with the flagpole that we had.
Well, being Baptist, we had monthly “business” meetings where every member had a voice and a vote. Since I was a member, I stood up and voiced my opinion. I was voted down, the pastor’s wife got her flagpole.
And, I got something else, my pastor, her husband, licensed me to be a preacher in the Southern Baptist Church at age 17.
With the folks from the Christian ministry that I met in high school, I simply loved being around as they truly listened to me. I was somewhat of an awkward kid, I had a great friends, some confidence, and generally a leader in my school. But, I didn’t feel like folks really knew me and I did not know how to have deeper conversations. These adults became friends and encouraged me have grace and to express myself.
So much so that I started this ministry at my school my senior year. It was called Campus Life, very similar to Young Life. Nowadays, I don’t know if I’d mesh with some of their theological beliefs, but their practices of going where kids are, building friendships, and listening well, being immersed in a culture, rubbed off on me. I saw so many of my friends come to our weekly club that would never go to a church. It changed the direction of my life and led me towards being community minded, someone who values authentic relationships, hard and deep conversations, and wanting to make a difference. It gave me a vision and a calling for going into ministry.
Both of these experiences growing up modeled different aspects of John’s call to me and Jesus’ call to me. It took time, lots of time, and at times when I doubted that call into a deeper life.
God’s voice was calling out to me (and still is): when are you going to start living, really living, when are you going to follow me? I’ve come dancing and drinking in Jesus, John’s come with a message of repentance, mourning and wailing, what’s it going to take?
Well, it took, and it’s still taking.
I’m still learning, especially from my son these days. It’s interesting that this passage talks about wisdom coming from children or little ones. Although my son is taller than me, his life continues to teach me. Actually, in many ways, discipling me. He has great questions, doesn’t believe in labelling himself or others, calls me to stand by my convictions, and he does as well…right or wrong, he leads with purpose.
I share these stories because we are all in the same boat in this life towards discipleship, of being Jesus followers. Listen well to the voice of God, but also realize that it takes time, patience, and grace to become all that God intends.
I know that we live in hard times, it’s hard for us to navigate Covid-19 as a country and and as culture, we aren’t doing so well, we know as we look at the numbers. We also see the renewed call to repentance on systematic racism that is evident in every institution, including the church, and community, not just with the police…it’s all around us.
We are being called, in this moment, to look to Jesus, to embrace the hardness of this moment, to mourn, to wail if we have to, but to also sing and dance because God is moving with us and calling us to love all of those, especially those on the margins or have been oppressed, who’s lives have not mattered as much as some.
Verses 20-24 of this passage that is not in the lectionary talks about places where Jesus went, shared life, but folks didn’t listen.
Jesus goes on to say that his yoke is easy. What does that mean? It means that in Jesus’ time, taking the learnings from some rabbi’s, from the system that they lived in, could be enslaving, heavy, burdensome. But, Jesus’s yoke is light, and will give us life.
This passage about answering the call to discipleship, to growth, and to being the people that God intends us to be…may we live into this call, this moment, and trust that the journey may be long and hard, but so worth it!
And, that we are called to be in communion with one another. It’s good that we have this sacrament, may it be a testimony today to how we should always live our lives every day, welcoming folks, showing hospitality, listening, and coming together in union with one another.