When preparing for this morning with what reading to reflect on.
The reading from Romans is one of my favorites and I think on it
a lot. The one that says basically,
“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I
want, but do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not
want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I
that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I do not do the good
I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”
Basically saying – I “know the right thing to do, but often don’t
do it”. Why? – It kills me!
Maybe I’m not listening….
Thus why I chose the Gospel to reflect on.
I know this won’t come as a shock to any of you but I have a
hearing problem. Legitimate. I am deaf in my right ear and have
a 60% loss in my left ear. I wear two hearing aids and have worn
them since elementary school.
It is an issue I’ve had to deal with my entire life.
At times, I misunderstand what people are saying. At times, I
simply cannot hear what people are saying.
If I don’t turn my hearing aids up early in our service I can’t hear
Fr. Harvey’s sermons!
So, if I misunderstand you at times, I am sorry.
Anyway, my point in telling you this today is not so much about
my hearing issue as it is about misunderstanding. I think for
all of us, the reality is that at some point in time we have
been misunderstood or, we have misunderstood someone
At the beginning of today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus share a
parable about children playing in the market place, and they are
The children play a glad, happy song for their friends, but no one
dances. Then, they play a sad, mournful one, but no one mourns
or weeps. Jesus goes on to say, the children were no better
understood than John the Baptist or Jesus, himself.
Jesus is addressing the failure of society as a whole to understand
and respond to the messages that he and John had proclaimed.
Their messages had been extremely clear. However, society –
the entire generation – was unfaithful and fickle. The people had
been given every opportunity to hear, but many refused. They
had heard from both John and Jesus and they could not decide
what they wanted.
Life with Jesus or life in the world.
Now, John and Jesus could not have been more opposite in style.
John appeared on the scene as this eccentric, sober, person who
ate bugs and honey for lunch, wore scratchy clothing made from
animal hair, and often fasted. He came addressing his listeners
as a “brood of vipers,” proclaiming a message that was all about
But, the people complained. Some even labeled him as demon
Jesus, on the other hand, invaded the scene as this welcoming
character who feasted, ate, drank and partied with all sorts of
people. He came proclaiming the good news of a God of love, a
God of disturbing, startling, astonishing inclusiveness. He came
healing the sick and performing all sorts of miracles. But, many
people dismissed him.
Some even called him a glutton and a drunkard. Listening
to other voices in their culture, the whole generation, a whole
people, did not understand the song of these two very different
Listening to other voices around them, they did not know when to
dance and when to mourn.
Yes, John and Jesus were misunderstood, and their call to living a
life that truly mattered was evaded.
I have to wonder about the ways we fail to understand Jesus, the
ways we fail to understand the reasons for dancing and the
reasons for mourning.
How deeply are we lulled by the songs of our culture: songs of
individualism, success, money, power, control, pull yourself up by
your bootstraps, and a belief that strength, might and
determination solve all problems?
How often are we lulled by power hungry voices in our culture
telling us to believe that we do not need to care for the most
vulnerable in our midst because it costs money, so we cast the
least of these aside even though that might mean they go
homeless, without health care and hungry while trying to find a
How often are we lulled by narcissistic, self-focused voices in our
culture, telling us it is ok to exclude and not welcome the other,
cutting others out of the picture, whether it be globally,
nationally, within our communities, even within our very own
How often do we miss the moments in life that really matter?
And, how often do we dance when we ought to mourn for a world
whose burden is heavy?
How often do we dance when we should weep for so many people
who need rest?
Jesus gives us a different direction that is rather different from
our success oriented, power and control focused, wisdom
seeking, intellect pursuing psyche.
And, we discover that in God’s realm, all those things that attract
our attention, those things that drive our behavior and become
the attributes we consider important, are barely noticed.
In fact, they are dismissed. What is even more interesting is
that Jesus’ words indicate the blessings of God are hidden from
the wise, hidden from the intelligent and sophisticated.
Remember – God works from the bottom up. He spent time with
tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, the sick and the poor.
Instead, the infants of this world, those who are innocent and
naïve, those who are vulnerable, are the ones
who best understand the ways of God.
You see, only the vulnerable are able to identify their deep
need. And, when we are vulnerable enough to identify this need,
the need for God’s presence in life, it also means something must
die and we will be changed.
Here’s the difficult truth about life in Christ. You cannot enter into
it and expect to be unchanged
So, at a time when we as a nation have just celebrated our
strength, our might and power – can we not only give thanks for
all that is good in our lives and in our country? But, can
we also face our deep brokenness and messed-up-ness as
individuals, as families, as communities, as a nation, as a world,
and lay that before God?
In the person of Jesus, God is calling us to come unto him.
In Christ, we are called to turn again to the God who walks
with us in our struggles, knows our pain and is present to us in
our deepest despair.
We are called to turn again to the One who calls out to us
saying, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll
show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with
me – watch how I do it.
These are words that can touch the deepest part of our being.
And, when that happens, we truly begin to understand, not
misunderstand. We discover that we are truly known,
accepted, and understood by a God of love, and this God will
lead us into wholeness and life that truly matters.
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan