Lent III: Showers of Blessing

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Isaiah 45: 5-8 and Matthew 11: 25-30

This morning I invite you all to participate in the message through honest reflection.  Let your mind wander to your own situation as we explore this text together.  Jot down your thoughts.  You may want to re-visit parts of the message, which will be connected to the web page as a blog under the Lenten series.  Instead of focusing on listening, focus on responding this morning.  You see, many of us are weary and heavy-laden as shared in the Matthew text.  Or, using our water analogy – dried out, withered away.  We are shy of the life-giving water that we need to be fully and vitally alive.

Sometimes things just don’t go the way we want them too.  We can either be defensive and try to make excuses – or we can acknowledge it and try to understand it.  That’s where this section of Mathew begins.  Failure of the Galilee mission.  Jesus acts and speaks – and they just don’t get it. Not John. Not the disciples. Not the crowds.

Just before the reading we did this morning, Jesus was at work in Galilee.  It did not go well. Chapter 11 begins with John, who had baptized Jesus, from prison sending his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Hey, are you the Messiah we’ve been looking for or should we be looking for somebody else?”  Jesus’ response was to tell them to go back to John and report on what they sawThe blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.

Then Jesus praises John as a prophet, and complains to the crowd…

16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.

Jesus has sparkling water and it doesn’t taste right to them.

So Jesus denounces the towns where he had taught and done miracles because they were so fixed on what they expected from God that they coldn’t see what was happening in front of them!

2Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.[e] For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

ONLY after this, does today’s text happen.  Jesus interprets what happened to the crowd – the disciples are not around for this.

God’s truth has been hidden from the wise and learned and given to the unruly and unwise children.  You see, the learned and wise had lots of expectations – and Jesus didn’t meet them. The issues is pretentiousness – human beings presume to understand God. Our presumptions about God misinform us. But before we get too smug about knowing more than the religious experts of Jesus’ time – we don’t. We make the same mistakes.

We’re no different.  We fail on a regular basis to comprehend God’s messengers and understand God’s purposes.  We too expect God to act and work in the ways that we would – or that we want.  WHY, do you suppose?

Here’s your reflection moment:  How and why do we often misperceive the presence and purpose of God in the world around us?  Where CAN we see God at work? Where do we hear God calling us to do something?  WHAT is God calling us to do?  We have a problem – can we identify what it is?

“Listen UP!” is the next part of the passage. The statement about Jesus comes from the Q tradition – claiming Jesus as the revealer of God’s hidden truths. This is in contrast to the WISDOM tradition.  Jesus is claiming to be, not the messenger of Sophia/wisdom, but the personification of Divine Wisdom. He is claiming to be the beloved Son of God, the wisdom made flesh as LOGOS.

This gives impact to why everyone should listen to Jesus, right?  He is the Wisdom of God.  Jesus reveals God.  For all of us who think we understand God, Jesus is a challenge.

Just think about how this has been messed up through time.  We have tended to split God’s character into the God of the Old Testament and the God revealed by Jesus.  God of the Old Testament = BAD.  Jesus=Good.  Okay, it’s been a while since I had logic classes – but how does that work?  Either God’s nature is changing – which most of the time we reject.  We would claim that God is eternal.  OR We are talking about a seriously confused God – or Jesus doesn’t actually reveal God.

And the common way of reconciling this is to keep God as the bad GUY in the story.  God was ready to condemn we sinful little people to some kind of hell, which isn’t actually in the Bible – and decided to punish God’s perfect and sinless son instead. How messed up is that?

What if….God always was the loving caring, healing God we see revealed in Jesus and human being projected all that other mess on God?  Does that make more sense?  Jesus says that no one knows God except Jesus and those who see God through Jesus. We need to understand who is speaking to us in order the understand the words of invitation.  Do we get it yet?  “Listen UP!”  There’s more to come…

The Invitation to come to Jesus is an invitation to let go of the things that are tying us up in knots. This phrase is unique to the gospel of Matthew, the most Jewish context of the four gospels. Jews of Jesus’ day  — and even later in Matthew’s day — would have understood this as an invitation to struggle free of the bondage of the law.  In Ecclesiasticus 5: 25-27 WISDOM – SOPHIA says, “Come, take my yoke, and find for yourself rest.”

That is the understanding in which they would have heard Jesus’ words. The BURDEN of the law was something that they could leave behind.

Perfectionism. Drivenness. Workaholism. They are our burden. Stop and reflect a moment….What ties you up in knots?

YOKE. In the Bible, a yoke is a symbol of servanthood and obedience. What is the yoke of Christ that makes living easier?  Following Jesus,  is yoked in a life of love and forgiveness.  Christ’s YOKE enables us to look at our lives differently – and to look beyond them, beyond our immediate realities, to a sense of God’s active presence in the world.

THE REST Jesus promises is deliverance from the artificial burdens of life.  To LEARN is the path of discipleship – to follow Jesus and learn and listen.

Imagine:  You are tired. World-weary.  And you go to a special spa.  A beautiful setting – where there are pools of hot springs, spectacular vistas where you soak up the view.  Salt pools where you soak and are revitalized by the minerals.  Like soaking in the Dead Sea, where the salts are so rich that you can buy them for detoxification purposes – or the Tea Tree Lake in Australia where women go to give birth and absorb the healing waters.  Imagine standing under a waterfall with the weight and force of healing water pounding out the stress, headaches, and loneliness – showers of blessing.  And maybe floating ….soaking in those things you need most.

This is Jesus’ promise.  To be yoked with Jesus doesn’t mean that life gets easier – but it does mean something.  Remember who issues the invitation — What does it mean for you?

Who gets it?  The burdened -those seeking a different way, those who are humble -not thinking that they know it all, the world-weary- ready to leave everything behind to follow Jesus. Those who will try the sparkling water, stand under the waterfall, and look to experience the presence of a loving God in new ways. You see, sometimes that healing rain is a matter of perspective.  Do we bundle up when the showers come – or use an umbrella for balance as we swing on a lamppost or two, splash joyously in the puddles, grin under the rush of a downspout, and sing and dance in the rain – soaking up the blessings of God.

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