Homily for Wednesday, September 20, 2017
I think the context of today’s gospel is helpful for our understanding. Without context, it sounds like an older generation criticizing the younger generation, “To what then will I compare the people of this generation?” The grade school type taunting comparisons work will in supporting the idea that Jesus is complaining about today’s youth. But I believe he is referring the older generation of people – those who are in position of leadership and power.
So, let me back up a few verses in this gospel and help you understand the context:
“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” After hearing all that Jesus has done, John the Baptist send messengers to Jesus to ask him this question. Jesus, who has just healed several people in the presence of the messenger responds simply, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.”
Jesus then talks to the crowd saying, “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” The scripture notes the people who were baptized by John hear what Jesus says and acknowledge God’s righteousness and plan for salvation, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves.
Next comes today’s gospel reading, in which Jesus asks, “To what then will I compare the people of this generation?” The examples he uses are of people who are out of touch with what is before them. They hear the flute, but they were not moved to dance, they witness the grief of others, but they do not experience empathy for them.
Jesus moves past these examples and gets to the point: John comes and is rejected, Jesus comes and is rejected. The spiritual leaders of that time are failing to listen to what God wants. “Nevertheless,” Jesus says, “wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” Here, wisdom means Jesus and her children means those who hear and follow God’s Word.
Note the reason given for rejecting John is a religious extremist. He denies himself the simple pleasures of bread and wine – so they accuse him of being possessed – a demon. Jesus is rejected because he does partake of bread and wine – so they accuse him of being a glutton and a drunkard. This suggests there is a right way and a wrong way to worship God and behave. Neither John, nor Jesus do it right.
And, this is where I get a bit uncomfortable. I am certainly like the Pharisees in that I am a part of the established church, one that values our tradition. Heaven forbid if someone suggests we make radical changes to our liturgy. Even if everyone agrees a change is good, it takes a minimum of two convention to approve a revision to our Prayer Book – that’s six years! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating we do this – I’m just making the point that I would do well not to immediately condemn the Pharisees because I might be too much like. I like to think I am among the children of wisdom, but some of the things I’ve done in my life suggest otherwise.
The proper response to this scripture, therefore, needs to be for me to open my eyes and ears, to look and listen for God’s word to come to me is ways that I may not expect or even like.
Let us pray.
Loving and gracious God, open our hearts that we might be present in the world today. Help us to hear your word and offer our love and support to those who grieve. Help us, too, to experience the joy and beauty of your creation. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.