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That Could Be You

Matthew 11:16-30

The Rev. Jon Roberts

5 July


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates, 17 ‘We piped to 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, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
[20 Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chora′zin! woe to you, Beth-sa′ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Caper′na-um, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”]
25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; 26 yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. 27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

That Could Be You

Unknown artist The Chldren's Bible

We played the flute for you and you did not dance;
We wailed and you did not mourn.[1]

Once there was a young girl named Rebecca who had a falling out with an aunt of hers, who annoyed her greatly, so much that one day she snapped. Leading up to this, was a series of weddings that each attended. After the bride and groom kissed, and they made their way to the reception and first dance, her aunt would find her without fail, poking her and saying, “That will be you one day.” Nothing annoyed Rebecca more than that. Finally, she had enough and the moment happened at a funeral, when the two of them were in attendance, and when the minister pronounced, “ashes to ashes and dust to dust”, Rebecca leaned over, poked her aunt and said, “Look, that’s going to be you one day.”

With great certainty, she must have regretted saying that to her. It goes along with what St. Paul said, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”[2] We let things build and build and build up, and then we just let it out, unhindered, and not caring how it sounds or who it affects. This is also a reminder of just how hard it is to make, maintain and move on in our relationships. Weddings and funerals are simply the extreme cases of joy and sorrow in the welcoming and the saying goodbye of those we love.

Speaking of such, there was a movie called, “Four weddings and a funeral” starring Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell, we see how true love exists in two unlikely candidates who eventually came together but in the most bizarre situations. It was also redone as a popular tv series last year on Hulu. Same plot, different actors. The two main characters annoyed and poked at each other relentlessly and at after all the big weddings and finally a funeral, they came to the conclusion that their crossing paths was not a coincidence. In life and love, there are no coincidences and sometimes we act like children playing the games around joy and sorrow. This is what Jesus observed with the people of his day and why he told them, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.” This was an ancient game which children played, called “Weddings & funerals.” They saw how the adults acted at each event and so they emulated the behavior. The adults, you would thing would see themselves in this game, but they did not.

If we play our flutes and expect everyone to come out singing and dancing, would others join? If not, then it is time to cry and to mourn. The child played on the emotions to get others to join, and the more who joined, the more fun they had. Jesus did not use this saying to celebrate the behaviors he saw. He said this to rebuke them. Have you ever heard the expression, “You are acting like a child?” Perhaps the child is only acting like the adults. Did you ever wonder about that? Maybe that is why the adults do not recognize the behavior, because they are caught up in the game they play best.

There are two ways to look at this use of words today. There were two children that Jesus saw. There were the Pharisees and the Saducees. One preferred the wedding and the other the funeral. The Pharisees were the ones who told people they had to pitch in more, support the temple and give more if they were to make it into heaven. It was like a wedding gift. The Saducees did not believe in life after death and so they preferred the sorrow of death and funeral. Better do what you can now, while it lasts, in order to pass something down to your family. One played the flute but the people would not dance. One wailed, but nobody mourned. That is one way we could see how Jesus looked at those who were misbehaving and to punctuate it, he scrolls over the list of cities that were evil and corrupt because this behavior was everywhere in the leaders such as Tire and Sidon, Chorizin, and perhaps he was even considering Ninevah of the time of Jonah.

But to understand more fully, Jesus likens himself and the prophet John the Baptist. Once he turns from the childish examples of those who were supposed to be leading people to God in righteousness, he exemplifies himself as the one who plays the flute, calling everyone to dance and John as the one who called everyone to wail, but no one mourned. John preached about repentance; prepare the way of the Lord and turn from your sin. Sounds much like a funeral. Jesus preached about forgiveness and how he was the groom and the Church was the bride.

What games do people in authority play today? Do they preach a message of wedding with great optimism, or do they preach a message of funeral, with heavy skepticism? It is only right that we play the game as emotion has a strong influence but sometimes we abuse that privilege, do we not? Jesus did not come to teach us how to play a game. He taught us to grow up and to be nurtured into adulthood by his love. Love is child-like but it is not childish. It usually believes all things when it has exhausted all of the other options to turn away from God. How long will we run? How long will we refuse to be wed with our Savior?

For some it may feel too restrictive. Too many rules. Too confining. If that’s the case, keep playing your childish games but understand this. When Jesus plays the flute, we do not dance because we see others doing it. We dance with him because we are overwhelmed with joy. We will also one day die to self, so that we may live in Him. Whether you dance in love or mourn from sin, will you turn to him with your whole heart and pure affection?

To all who are heavy laden, I will refresh you.
How refreshing it is when Jesus plays the flute.
Will you dance?
It could happen.
That could be you one day.

[1] Matthew 11:16-30
[2] Romans 7:15

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