The readings on which the sermon below is based can be found at:
s047g08 Sunday 14 6/7/08
'you did not dance (or) .. mourn' Mathew 11.17
Some people are never satisfied!
One sometimes wants God to act decisively so that others will be convinced. 'Make yourself known as our Saviour and mighty deliverer' the canticle 'Saviour of the World' (APBA p414) asks. So it would be even better if God acted decisively to show how right we are and how wrong others are. Yet our gospel for today tells us that deeds of power actually do not convince people. The people of Chorizin, Bethsaida and Capernaum the last where perhaps Jesus lived all had occasion to witness his works of power many times over, yet they did not welcome his message. They would fare even worse than Sodom of old.
The people of Chorizin, Bethsaida and Capernaum were Jesus' compatriots. They are perhaps 3 miles / 5 kilometres from each other. If they had played football they would probably have been rivals. They would have known everyone. Jesus was totally at home with them, yet that very familiarity bred contempt. 'He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him' John 1.11
And this comes as an object lesson to the Church. We too are friends of Jesus, yet the possibility exists that if Jesus did do some work of power, we too might not be convinced. It might well be that others outside the community of faith, like the people of Tyre and Sidon, who actually took notice.
I am reading passages from Ezekiel for the evening office and two particular passages seem appropriate, from chapter 5: 'Therefore, as I live, says the Lord God, surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations ‹ therefore I will cut you down; my eye will not spare, and I will have no pity.' (5.11) and 'Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you are more turbulent than the nations that are all around you, and have not followed my statutes or kept my ordinances, but have acted according to the ordinances of the nations that are all around you ..' (5.7)
The first warns us that, like the people who knew Jesus, that very familiarity meant that abominations had been allowed into God's sanctuary. I suspect that familiarity with the divine to the exclusion of others is precisely the abomination allowed into God's sanctuary. How often do we sing things like: 'What a friend we have in Jesus' as if everyone who isn't a 'christian' is an enemy of Jesus?
The second tells us that the nation of peace is actually a hotbed of turbulence more than those around them. One has only to look at the state of the Anglican Communion and the war between traditionalists and liberals each claiming unique familiarity to the truth denied to others to see that we are not far different. We too are more turbulent than the nations around us.
Jesus came with good news for one and for all. The parallel is that he 'played the flute' for us and one and all can enjoy the flute being played. Jesus came, not to criticise, not to teach, not to change the world he came 'eating and drinking' that is he - came to associate with all in an ordinary and intimate way 'homely' as Lady Julian would say. Because Jesus associated with people in the ordinariness of life rather than when people were being 'religious' means that he associates with all, not just the religious. And because Jesus did this for one and for all, the people who thought *they* were so special that Jesus should associate with them alone, were scandalized.
I have been mentioning family ties, theological cliques, and patriotism in recent sermons today it is simple friendship that can exclude others.
How often have those in the Church commended rest? Most often those in authority want the lay people kept busy, for then they don't get restless and critical! Again, some people in the Church are never satisfied. Jesus, on the contrary, offers us rest, rest from the endless demands that life, and often religion, thrusts upon us.
I find it significant that after each of the feeding the multitudes, the writer notes that all 'were filled' and quantities of scraps were left over. John says that each and every person 'was satisfied'. (John 6.12) When we too do as Jesus did, feed the multitudes rather than just trying to satisfy the devout, we will find that the crowds will indeed be satisfied, albeit to the chagrin of the devout.
Those who did not dance or mourn, did not do so because they refuse to acknowledge that God would bless others. There is nothing accidental about their blindness to the signs that Jesus did. They simply wanted Jesus to satisfy their own needs to the exclusion of others, whereas Jesus offered fellowship with all.
Confronted with the good news for all, those who want God to act just for them will not dance or mourn they will deny even what they witness with their own eyes, and will not be satisfied until they act violently against the messenger of the good news, whoever it be.
But nothing will change God's acceptance of all, and this is the other half of the good news. Those who acknowledge that God blesses people other than ourselves have no need to fear or to defend God. We can be satisfied. We can dance with those who are joyful. We can mourn with those who are sad. We can be, as St Paul commends, all things to all people. (1 Cor 9.22) This very freedom is enlightenment eternal life here and now.
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