Dance or Weep?: 1 Corinthians 13 & Luke 7:31-35
Is it just me, or is that gospel reading a bit odd. What on earth is going on?
Jesus is teaching and some of John's disciples come and see him to find out if he is the one that John had been waiting for and pointing to. Jesus points out all the signs of the kingdom, people bring healed and released from captivity and says, “look what's going on, these things show that I am bringing the Kingdom that John announced was coming”
After the disciples go back to John, Jesus starts talking to the crowd about John and his message. The bit we just read was his summary of this discussion.
He quotes a children's rhyme. Now, the great thing is, nobody now really knows exactly what this rhyme meant.
One possibility is that one group of children would mime an action and another group had to guess what they were doing and respond appropriately. If the second group got the response wrong then the first group would call out this rhyme to tell them they were wrong.
So Jesus is saying, you people are not good at working out the right response to the signs of the times.
John came as one who had a disciplined lifestyle, a way of living in keeping with mourning and repentance because he was mourning over the state that the people of God had got into, and was calling you to repentance. But you did not mourn and repent. Rather than face up to your own sinfulness and rebellion, you accused John of having a demon.
Jesus continues, saying, I come as one who is celebrating the coming of the Kingdom of God, and you don't get that either. Rather than join in the party, you object to others who have recognised their own shortcomings and have accepted the invitation of the Lord of the dance to the feast.
What about our generation? What does this say to us, today. I think that there might be three things.
Firstly, we have to be aware of the time that we are living in. We have to respond to the call to repentance and to the invitation to the feast, both for ourselves and as a worshipping community. Where God is showing us short comings we must turn from them, and where we have cause to celebrate we should do so.
Secondly, we have to be wise about the underlying reasons for different responses to our message. At times we are to call people to repentance. This will rarely be a popular call, and we have to be wise that it does not become a judgemental one, but the a negative reaction is not a reason for not being faithful to the good news of rescue that we have been given. At times we invite to the feast and celebrate the Kingdom coming. This can be unpopular as well, especially among people for whom religion should be solemn with proper ways of doing things.
Thirdly, we should be very careful about the judgements we make about our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we see other Christians mourning or celebrating, when we think it is the time for something else, or we think that the way that they mourn or celebrate is inappropriate then I think that we should remember this passage and take pause. In that pause we might want to ask God to show us how love is being expressed by those people, in that place.
Because, as Paul reminds us, underpinning all the signs of God's kingdom breaking through is that sign that will always remain: love. Whether we are in a time of celebrating or mourning, we love. Whether we are calling others to repentance or inviting to the feast, we do so with love. Whatever the reaction of those around us to the message God has given us, we love them.
As we go out from here, let us do so determined to be the sign of God's Kingdom reign of love to those around us in our families, our workplaces, and our communities.
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