Pentecost 5 5th July 2020

Gen 24: 34-38, 42-49, 58-67

Psalm 45: 10-17

Romans 7: 14-25

Matthew 11: 15-19, 25-30

How often do we make rods for our own backs? How often do we over-complicate things for ourselves by not actively listening to and appreciating what another is saying? At times we have our own agendas, and do not hear what the other is expressing. On other occasions we might find ourselves trying to find meanings not intended, or by getting into argument or debate without a clear and solid basis. As a result, we find relationships can be damaged by what is referred to as dualistic thinking – that is, there are two sides to this matter, the right wrong and the wrong one, and claiming that mine is definitely the right one.

While Jesus’ ministry was grounded in demonstrating and proclaiming God’s love, it is certain that he intended that his message was received in that spirit of love. Because his style often seemed anathema to the powers around him, it might not have appeared attractive to many of them. His style meant a loss, a giving up, of power. Unfortunately through the ages since, there have been times where methods of so-called “Christian evangelism” have at times not followed Jesus’ example but have reverted to practices contrary to what I believe God would approve and would damage people.

Our passage from Matthew’s Gospel today begins with Jesus’ request to his audience, “Let anyone with ears listen!” Jesus had just responded to the query from John in prison as to whether he was the “one to come”, with a report of what his ministry had been about, and later a reference to Malachi’s prophecy about his coming. He let the people know he was aware of the violence the “kingdom of heaven” was suffering. So, while he was talking, he tried to help them understand the differing responses of people

Jesus goes on to speak in the form of a parable, when he compares two groups of “children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another”, to people who act in similar ways, and their responses to the messages John and he have been giving the people. The first group reject John, Jesus and their disciples for their positive call to people; the second for the seriousness and ascetic lifestyle of both. This he further explains when he speaks of the company they keep.

Further in today’s passage, Jesus adds impact to his earlier comments by demonstrating an essential aspect of positive relationships, that of giving thanks. His relationships with the unseen God, his Father, is strengthened by those simple words, “I thank you, Father.” Not just a throw-away line, but a sincere and powerful witness. And, in a quiet way, a call to us to be thankful for all the many blessings we receive. His following comments, “you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants”, call for an attitude of childlike humility in hearing the message he has, and not an attitude of knowing it all.

One person who knew it all, or thought he knew it all, was a very faithful Jew named Saul. We know how he was in the forefront of the persecution of those who were following “the Way”, and had no qualms about his decisions or actions. To him there was only one way. And so his realisation of the truth of God’s law of love as opposed to the necessity of following the laws he had accepted came about on the road to Damascus in a dramatic and unexpected fashion. His incapacity of physical blindness which came upon him led Saul to realise the inner blindness he had been living with which was preventing him knowing God, and not just knowing about God. He had previously thought that he knew it all. His encounter with the unseen risen Christ certainly gave him a new awareness, which he, now as Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ, expressed in the following passage from his letter to the people of Rome:

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

And those thanks would have been most sincere!!!!

There have seemed to be some tough teachings of Jesus in previous weeks, and these may have been a little challenging. However last week’s Gospel passage gives us a deal of courage with its message on welcoming and being welcomed. Today’s passage concludes with further encouragement from Jesus with an invitation to follow:

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

These words are not a collection of sentimental wishes, but an invitation which portrays the magnificent God-love available to all who wish to be in that close relationship with God and, through exchange of love, with others.

and serve the Lord: in the name of Christ. Amen.