Matthew 11:16-30 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.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19the 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.” 20Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent 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; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All 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. 28“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I wish Natalie was here today because it’s a movie Sunday. One of the things I found out about her on the retreat is that she is potentially more of a movie geek than I am! She knows not only titles and plots, but directors, dates of the movie opening, academy awards received- in fact she has a little notebook that she keeps titled “Natalie’s Must See Movies.”
I’m not sure when she got into it, if the first time her mother asked her if she wanted to see a movie, if she knew this 'movie thing' would eventually become an obsession, but she is completely swept away with it. And when she grows up she wants to make it her life’s work- to be a movie critic.
Some things we fall into. Someone invites us to do something or experience something, or join something, and we give a halfhearted, ‘yes.’ And before we know it we are in it up to our ears… and we’ve modified schedules to be able to do it, or altered our lifestyle to make room for it, or perhaps even taken it up as a vocation.
John Pepe was one of the “bored” kids growing up- you know the kids that hang out and aren’t involved in anything (and cause trouble from time to time) And one day, a friend asked him to go to a drum corps practice with him- he gave a halfhearted yes, and ended up joining; he quickly got so swept away, that not only did drum corps take up the majority of his time, he loved it so much that he ended up doing it the rest of his life. He became a marching band director!
But things happen that way sometimes… by accident. But sometimes, we can be invited to do something, and we are asked, before we say "I'm In"- to count the cost. We are asked to think through the implications of saying “yes.”
But before we go any farther, and in Natalie’s honor, let’s watch a movie clip. The 1956 Rogers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I” contains one of the most memorable scenes in movie history- in fact, what scene do you think of when you think “King and I?” Of course… Shall We Dance… (For those of you who couldn't be with us in person, this clip is available on Youtube)
Great scene... but let’s talk about what we just saw (because sometimes all I watch during that scene is Yule Brenner with his hands on his hips and the ankle bracelets and his feet going “one, two, three and…”)
But did you ever listen to the lyrics? Here's a sample- “We've just been introduced, I do not know you well, But when the music started Something drew me to your side... Shall we dance? On a bright cloud of music shall we fly? Shall we dance? Shall we then say "Goodnight and mean "Goodbye"? Or perchance, When the last little star has left the sky, Shall we still be together With are arms around each other and shall you be my new romance? On the clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen, Shall we dance?"
Sometimes it’s all about the invitation. But what Anna is asking for is not just a simple invite to dance, is it? No- she is spelling out for him, that although it might be just a whirl around the dance floor, there is a chance that this one encounter will lead to something life changing! That the two of them may get swept away with one another… it might mean relationship… and everything that goes with it.
Now when we think of these lyrics in light of today’s text...
In this passage, Jesus is clearly frustrated. He had been inviting people to get on board with a radical new social justice movement. He’d been inviting them to listen, to pay attention, to follow, to get to know him, to get involved. He had been demonstrating again and again how to love one another- he had preached against the way the Jewish people had taken the religious laws and made them into that checklist of do’s and don’t’s (like we always talk about) and wanted them to enter into true relationship with God and with each other.
Jesus was passionate about people being engaged with one another on a deep, intimate level; one that is based on the unconditional acceptance and love of God. But the people were not buying it…
But hey, let’s not judge. What we are seeing in the message of Jesus and John the Baptist, is equivalent to us (moderns) seeing a person in New York City who is on the street preaching “Repent! The Day of the Lord is near!” And a homeless person to boot! With maybe a little band of people around him handing out tracks… you’ve all seen that, haven’t you?
I think most of us may acknowledge that there was someone speaking, but even if we stopped to hear what he was saying, we would still go on our way to work, or for coffee or to the store. City streets were not much different in downtown Jerusalem.
And quite frankly, once you heard the message- and what was Jesus’ message? Basically that ‘they were doing church (temple/worship/life) wrong… and, that the long awaited messiah you have been hoping for is here…’ you would think he was a bit of a crackpot, wouldn’t you? Or would have some level of anger toward him- (we do church wrong? humph!)
So you can understand Jesus’ frustration. And in this encounter, he calls them on it…“But 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.’(17NRSV)
Jesus is referring to children’s games of the day; where the boys and girls would play with one another in the streets. But what he is getting at is the people's inability or refusal to "play;" their reluctance to be engaged...
"For John (John the Baptist) came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man (he is talking about himself here) came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!" (18-19 NRSV)
Now we can see reasons for Jesus (or our New York City homeless person) for not being accepted. We don’t want our role models to be fanatics (like John the Baptist) or folks who carouse too much, or hang around with moral undesirables. We frown on that kind of behavior. We teach our kids to stay away from 'those' kinds of people… so it’s easy to understand why Jesus' message had so much trouble getting through.
Jesus is in essence standing on the corner, or in the restaurant, or in the church, or anywhere else people are, offering an invitation and being refused again and again.
But I want to look at why. Because for us, as moderns… and as church goers… we know the "truth" about Jesus. We profess him to be the Son of God... God! But still- as he stands next to each of us with his hand extended asking, “shall we dance?” we have a reluctance to step out on the to the floor and give it a whirl. Why?
I believe that a big part of our continuing to be a wallflower is that we don’t really believe that Jesus is asking US. And that speaks to what we talk about almost every week… we don’t feel good enough, or worthy enough or holy or acceptable enough that God could actually want us…
But there is another block to us accepting an invitation from our Lord… The invitation is there- but on some level, we know what may happen if we dare to accept that first heart to heart dance… in the words of Oscar Hammerstein… “Or perchance, When the last little star has left the sky, shall we still be together with our arms around each other and shall you be my new romance?”
It’s not so much that we don’t want to listen, but we know that getting involved (saying yes) leads us (potentially) to engagement. And once we are engaged, there is a chance that we could become passionate about something… there’s a chance that we could get “swept away”.
Part of our reluctance to accept Jesus’ invitation to join the dance stems from a fear that we may have to rethink our purpose, our daily life structure, our goals, our priorities, even who we are! And worse, we may actually get caught up tin this whole thing… helping, healing… empowering… and then what would happen to US?
What would happen to OUR time… OUR needs!
Valid point! But praise God, Jesus has made provisions for that too! Hhe understands the burdens of everyday life- he knows how heavy a load we all carry-( it’s such a beautiful part of our faith, to know that God has experienced firsthand everything we are going through because God came to earth as one of us…)
And Jesus spends his ministry on this very issue… in essence… “You don’t have to spend your life in turmoil carrying these heavy loads… let me help you…” or in the words of today’s text, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”(28-30 NRSV)
Notice Jesus isn’t telling people that in joining him they will have no burdens. But he is saying “if you join yourself to me (yoke yourself) I can make it so much easier for you to carry them- because you won’t be carrying them alone.”
I know it seems risky- to take the hand of a God who promises to care for you and love you no matter what. I know it’s scary, when you think through the implications of what might happen to you if you truly let God into your life and open the door to the power and direction and truth that comes with it.
But I promise you, no… God promises you… that if you do, you will begin to see things differently, to think differently, to act differently, to interact differently… to become passionate… doesn’t that sound great… to be passionate… to be caught up… swept away in something…
Let God in this morning... maybe for the first time… (We've just been introduced... I do not know you well...) listen to the music playing on the streets of your heart and draw close to God-(but when the music started something drew me to your side) think it through and reach for the hand of the one who invites you to change your life… (On the clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen, shall we dance, shall we dance, shall we dance?)