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"From the Pulpit" - July 9, 2023

"From the Pulpit" - reflections on the weekly texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church, Vero Beach, FL

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

[Jesus spoke to the crowd saying:] 16“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.’

BREAK 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.”

BREAK 25At 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.

BREAK 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.”

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ. Hope everyone is well, and surviving this heat. Whoa!

I inserted breaks in the gospel text above for this Sunday for a reason. If you read this text, as most of us do, quickly, this makes little to no sense. "We played the flute for you and you didn't dance, we wailed and you did not mourn." And then,"For John came neither drinking or eating..." Say what!? And then, "look, a glutton and a drunkard", Jesus is saying about what he's heard about himself.

I often lament that is it any wonder why we have such trouble making sense out of Scripture? Is it any wonder why people may try to read the bible, but just give up after sayings like this? These writings came from 2 millennia ago, from a completely different culture and language (Greek was the original language of the New Testament.) And in our natural tendency to read over words quickly, we get frustrated when we read the bible with our Western sensibilities and eyes. What the heck is this writer trying to say?

I liken these little BREAKS above as speedbumps. Speedbumps that invite us to slow down, to read the text more carefully, to "hear" what the writer is trying to say. Sometimes easier said than done. But, if you look at the four little sections above, in the first section, Jesus is speaking to a crowd. In it, he's lamenting that the folks of his generation can't or won't see what's right in front of them - the Messiah, and John's announcement of the Messiah. He sees them as distracted, self involved, interested only in their own little world. Sound familiar to today? Of course. We can see his frustration and anger, a sign of his humanity.

In the 2nd part, Jesus laments that folks then viewed John the Baptist as a weirdo, remembering that his wardrobe and diet (wild honey and locusts) were very strange, and therefore, was someone whose word couldn't be trusted. He was just too far "out there" to be believed when he pointed to the coming of Jesus. And then, Jesus laments the fact that he himself had been labeled by some in his community as a glutton (liked to eat), and a drunkard. Because he enjoyed a glass of wine ro two at a wedding, people quickly saw him as someone who loved his liquor or wine

And then, in the third part, what does Jesus do? He turns to the Father in heaven, and prays. Prays. Prays, not for himself out of pity, but for those who mock him. Those who gossip about him, likening them to "little children". Despite his frustration and anger at these people, he prays for them. He loves them. Jesus always did this - pray for those who would harm him, betray him, even set out to kill him. Maybe we should try some of this.

And then, in the final part, we hear this tender invitation to those for whom he prays. "Come to me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Wow. He invites those who would mock or hate him to come to him, where he will give them rest. And in his Jewish sensibilities, "rest" for Jesus would have meant something like "stop". Like "do nothing". Like "take a Sabbath rest". Just as God the Father did after creation. God rested. This is the type of "rest" that Jesus invites his enemies and his critics into. This is the type of rest that he invites you and I into today even.

Our world has become so fast paced, so in the moment, so toxic (you can think of your own descriptive here), that we've forgotten how to slow down. How to "do nothing". Doing nothing in our world today is a sign of a slacker. A lazy, unproductive person. Doing "nothing" is so countercultural for us today. I think of people going on summer vacations this summer, trying to fill every 24 hour day with as much stuff as they can, until they are completely exhausted. To take a vacation to "do nothing" sounds so unproductive, doesn't it? And yet, that's the kind of rest that Jesus invites his people, and us, into.

So if you follow the movement of the four sections of the text for Sunday, they go from 1.) Jesus being frustrated by what he sees around him - ungrateful, self absorbed folks, to 2.) Jesus further lamenting that people are so busy and distracted by stuff (today's equivalent of social media, and more), that they fail to see the Messiah in their very midst, to 3.) Jesus praying to the Father in heaven for them, to 4.) this tender and selfless invitation to these same people to come to him, to lay down their burdens, where he will give them rest. Rest. Shelter from the storm. Shade from the exhaustive heat of the day. A place of respite, like the branches in the tree where birds find protection from predators, and safety.

Fancy theologians have something they call "the divine transfer". It's where we are invited to the cross of Christ, to bring with us all our "junk". All our baggage, all our burdens, all the stuff that weighs us down. And at the foot of the cross, as we "lay our burdens down", Jesus in return, gives us blessing, life, forgiveness, grace upon grace, love, and more. Thus this Divine Transfer. We give Jesus our "stuff", and he gives us only blessing - no judgment. Pretty amazing. And this is the gospel message, in a nutshell, folks. Remember that phrase, the Divine Transfer.

Thanks be to God,

Pastor Greg

"A Mighty Fortress is Our God"

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