Posted on Tue, Jul 8, 2014
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
June 6, 2014
Forth Sunday in Pentecost
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 – “Wisdom begins with Humility”
16 ‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another, 17 “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, 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, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’* 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; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.* 27 All 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. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
There is a story I heard when I was in college from a speaker at a large youth event.
There was a class of middle schooler’s in the Midwest and one day, while the class was out of their room, someone reported that their calculator was missing. There was one girl who left the classroom last and the teacher suspected it was she who was the culprit. The teacher went up to the girl and in a very stern voice asked her if she had stolen the calculator. She didn’t move and kept her eyes looking at the floor. The teacher, now assuming that she had stolen the calculator, ordered her to look him in the eyes and tell him if she had stolen the calculator or not. She remained silent with her eyes cast down. The teacher became agitated, and sure of himself that he had found the culprit according to her body language, told her that if she doesn’t look him in the eyes and tell him she didn’t steal the calculator he would be convinced that she stole it and she would be in real trouble. She remained silent with her eyes down. In the teachers’ eyes, she was definitely the culprit.
The fact is that she had not stolen the calculator and she was just acting like she was taught to respond when being addressed by an older person or teacher. The issue that he totally missed understood that she was Hispanic, and she was taught from a young age to never look at a “superior” person in the eyes. According to him, her actions said she was guilty. According to her, she was showing respect.
If only he would have taken the time to understand her, her culture and values, and this very traumatic event for her would have been avoided.
I trust that as she grew older she began to recognize prejudice and some peoples’ narrow point of view, but the damage had already been done. As an optimist, I wonder what it was like for this teacher the moment he learned about the body language of his Hispanic students and how he treated her that day… If he has a humble heart, he will seek forgiveness and will be set free to learn and grow. If he has a cold unyielding heart, he will continue to hurt the very ones he is tasked to teach.
I’ve spent some time talking to ANC clients, or people I meet looking for food, and some of the homeless and very desperate people near Sand Island and Keehi Lagoon. No story is the same; some are terribly tragic filled with one bad decision or circumstance after another. Some stories are filled with drug abuse, sexual abuse, rejection by families, deep feelings of being “culturally lost,” and of course many different forms of mental illness.
There are more and more elderly people coming to our food bank that “look” just like the people you would see at the bank or Foodland… but their pensions aren’t going up as fast as the cost of medicine or food, and sometimes those few bags of rice and canned goods help them make it through until the end of the month.
Many times I have meet the eager, but tired looking young person, who was guaranteed a job, moved here, and then after they arrived, the business closed down or they were unexpectedly let go… No job, no money, and they loose their apartment. It wasn’t in their plan, and now many were just looking for a place to get cleaned up to keep looking for a job. Mac and volunteers would welcome them, no questions asked, and we would do the best we could to protect their dignity and give them some nourishment. Their journeys are difficult with the constant pressure of feeling shame, fear, hunger, and being considered almost “subhuman” by the rest of society, just because they don’t have an address above place to sleep. I find many stories of humility born of hardship, determination rather than feeling resigned to a life of poverty, filth and rejection.
Is it easy to talk to people that are hurting? Not really, but we all are expected to at least show some sort of compassion and at minimum even empathy. The timing is important; There must be humility and trust for someone to tell their story, and humility and a countenance that expresses humility and respect to the person sharing their story.
I know there are many even in our faith community can relate to this feeling prejudged and rejected as we have experienced it in our lives. But have we taken the time to wonder if we are the very the ones doing the judging or stereotyping? I am sure we have all had moments we aren’t too proud about… the scripture reminds us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
But I am not looking to see someone beam with the “Glory of God.” I would like just like us to grow into the simple sharing of the light of knowing we are forgiven. Through hardship or the simple realization that through the power of the Cross of Jesus, we are forgiven allows us to enter a totally new world of freedom, hope, and new life BORN OUT OF THE HUMBLE REALIZATION OF WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US THROUGH CHRIST. I am calling us all to really examine our heart, soul and mind and realize that we have been broken. Do you really read the words of our confession seriously? They are written there, and we say them out loud together, because the act of speaking the words orally, in and of itself, reminds us of who we really are as a broken, wounded or blind, people… and that we need to hear that we are loved, forgiven, restored. In the same way, Jesus doesn't let us just hang there in our guilt, the words of Absolution and Forgiveness are meant to free us from the burden of guilt and give us wings to fly as People of God, or as Angels as we like to say here at Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church.
Jesus is not calling us to forget our wounds, fears or doubts, but to give them to Jesus and allow Jesus to make us new people, slow to judge and patient enough to wonder what life is like for the person we may be speaking with. Acceptance of our need for Absolution allows Jesus to fill those cracks and holes; And then, using our experiences of forgiveness and renewal as an opportunity to allow us to grow in faith and wisdom.
In Japan, if a treasured piece of pottery gets broken, they may repair the pottery with gold or some kind of substance that accentuates the damaged part but clearly shows the treasured piece of pottery has been lovingly repaired.
We aren’t called to be priests, flashy pastors or overly marketed TV evangelists; Jesus is only calling us to be receptive to the gift of forgiveness and renewal. Once we know we have been forgiven, freed and healed in Christ, and then we truly become the People of God, the Body of Christ. The shackles of guilt are gone, and literally we may feel so new that even rhythm-less wonders like me, will feel the absolute need to dance, sing, serve and make the Body of Christ move and respond to all those people looking for hope, food, or just acceptance.
The burden of hate, judgment, and ignorance is brutally heavy, but burden of forgiveness can make you fly. What brings us together is a corporate understanding of our brokenness, and what gives us power, grace and the wisdom to people who can bless our broken world is the power of forgiveness given to us through the Cross of Christ. Amen.
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