By the Rev. Darren Miner
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus compares the leaders of Judea to squabbling little children who won’t play nicely together. Some want to play the “wedding game” and dance to the piping of a flute; others want to play the “funeral game” and wail. The result of their squabbling is that they don’t play any game at all!
Jesus was making a point about the poor reception that God’s messengers had received from the political and religious authorities. John the Baptist came to call the people to fast and repent, and the elite of Judea disapproved. They didn’t like that game! Jesus came to call the people to rejoice at the wedding banquet of the Messiah. But they didn’t like that game any more than the first! As a result, the mighty and powerful ended up as mere spectators in God’s game of salvation.
The lectionary skips the next five verses, in which Jesus sternly rebukes the towns and cities that refused to respond to God’s call. And it takes up the story again with Jesus offering a rather unusual prayer of thanksgiving to God. He thanks God for hiding his true identity as the Messiah from those who consider themselves wise and worldly and for revealing it to mere babies. His point is that God does not reach out to us because we are particularly wise or intelligent, or rich or powerful, or successful or accomplished. He reaches out to us, because he is a loving Father, and because we are as needy and as vulnerable as infants.
Jesus goes on to make a radically bold claim about his relationship to God: “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” This claim points us directly to the doctrine of the Incarnation. It tells us why Jesus was born, why he proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom of God, why he was willing to die on a cross: in order to reveal the true nature of his Father in heaven. And that nature was revealed to be love.
Today’s Gospel reading ends with an appealing offer of rest for our souls. Jesus addresses the crowd and tells them that they can be released from the heavy burdens placed upon them by the Pharisees, who espoused a particularly rigorous and scrupulous interpretation of keeping the Sabbath. In its place, they are invited to yoke themselves to Jesus (in other words, to be his disciples) and to know true Sabbath rest.
Now, in this time of pandemic, it can be hard to find rest for our souls. We want to go out. We want to see friends. We want to go back to church. Instead, we are told to stay home. And we get frustrated and depressed and maybe even angry. I feel it myself! But Jesus offers us an alternative to forced idleness; he offers us true Sabbath rest. The more securely we yoke ourselves to Jesus, the closer we draw near to him, the more relief we will find from the burdens of this difficult time.
And there are so many ways to draw near to Jesus, even though the Eucharist is denied us for a time. We can draw near to him by meditating on the Gospels, a paragraph at a time. We can draw near to him by doing some small act of kindness for someone else, expecting nothing in return. We can draw near to him by chatting with him throughout the day, as we do our daily chores. (Jesus is a very good listener, you know!) Or we can draw near to him by sitting in silent contemplation from time to time and listening for him to respond. (And he will respond, if you listen long and hard.) Do these things, and you will draw near to Jesus. Do these things, and you will find rest for your souls.
© 2020 by Darren Miner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.