Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
“To what shall I compare this generation?”
Well, Jesus, to be honest, I could possibly give you a little help there. I have been hanging around the world now for the better part of seven decades. I can tell you that people can’t be satisfied. The weather is either too hot or too cold. The service is either too long or not long enough. The sermons are too trite or too heady or too activist or not edgy enough. Liberals get frustrated because progress is slow or gains are lost. Conservatives are mad because the world is changing far more quickly than it should, which is ideally not at all. Human beings experiment with ways of living ranging from communism to extreme individualism, and nothing seems to work without serious glitches.
“They are like children sitting in the marketplaces,” says Jesus. “They call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you and you did not dance. We wailed and you did not mourn.’”
You found the same thing true in your day, Jesus? People just couldn’t be satisfied?
“…John [the Baptist] came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”
What do you think the problem is, Jesus?
That is an interesting question. The problem is that reality is 180° different from what folks imagine it to be.
Could you clarify that?
Human beings think that being smart, savvy, educated, intelligent, wise, is the way out of every problem, the solution to every challenging situation. And so people invest fortunes in learning how to cope with their situations and millions on how to control their environment and all that happens in it. They can get really angry when things don’t go the way they want, or when things don’t line up with the way the world “ought” to run. When bad things happen to good people, they get aggravated, because the systems that they imagine run the world betray them.
So, Jesus, are you saying that wisdom is a fiction? Is stupidity better?
I didn’t say that at all. In fact, wisdom is a great idea. The trick is to see that wisdom is not necessarily what people think it is. I keep saying that unless you become like a child, you will never enter the kingdom of God. And I have been known to say, too, that unless you are born from above (some of you translate my words as “born again”), you cannot see the kingdom of God. And, no, I am not speaking in riddles and hyperbole. I mean that true wisdom is linked to total transformation. And, by the way, the kingdom of God has already arrived. Indeed, it is within you, in your midst.
But, Jesus, I’ve always thought that the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven, is where we go when we die. What you say confuses me.
Of course it confuses you, because you are in the habit, as are most people, of thinking that heaven is all about life after death. And you don’t much help the situation by thinking that entrance into it is based on points you collect or chips you bargain for.
What, then, is the kingdom?
Glad you asked that. I have compared it to a priceless pearl that a merchant would sell everything to own. I have said it is like a field with buried treasure that, knowing about that treasure, you’d risk everything to buy the field. I’ve said it is like a grain of mustard seed, so small you can hardly see or hold it, but something that becomes so large you can hardly imagine that it’s origin was so tiny. The kingdom is like baking powder that a cook would mix in with several cups of meal or flour till the whole thing was leavened. All of this is about risk, change, adventure, mystery, growth. Get the picture?
Sort of. But I still don’t quite understand what you are driving at. Why do you consistently say that you have the truth that God has somehow revealed to you? What is that truth? Does it have anything to do with the kingdom?
Well, that is a sticking point. Lots of people dismiss me because they think my talk is the speech of a megalomaniac. They think I’m at least a braggart with an inflated sense of my own ego, or at worst I am insane. What I am about is trying to help folks understand that the truth always has to do with relationships. The relationship I have with God is exactly the relationship that you can have with God. In fact, you already have it. You just have to open your eyes and see. Claim your power, which ironically means to be totally humble. Do you know what humble means?
I think so. Why?
It means to be like humus, like good rich soil. It means to be earthy, open, receptive. I told a parable about that, too. When you are humble, you are open. You hear the Truth. And it has the effect of changing you into the person God created you to be. And when that happens, you can hardly believe how productive you can be. Fruit? Harvest? You can be hundreds of times more effective than you are when you are guarding your treasure, or allowing yourself to be distracted, or when you spend your energy trying to get rich or popular or famous.
This is beginning to make some sense, Jesus.
I hope so.
Could you please just reduce your message to one single thought?
Let me try. “Come to me, you who work like dogs and carry the awful burdens of trying to prove yourselves. Come to me, and I will give you a break. You want a mission? I’ll give you a mission. Try this. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. Let me be your teacher. I model humility and strength at the same time. You can do it too. Ironically, my path is like 100% rest compared to the way you are living your life right now. And I guarantee that following me will be a breeze, because you will be living your truest life in all its strength and glory.
Sounds good, Jesus.
Yes, it does. Now I’ve told you a lot. Tell me something, Frank.
Why do you and your people spend so much time debating whether or not this is the right road, or the only way, or whether it makes sense or whether I’m just blowing smoke? Does it ever occur to you all just to try living it to see?
© Frank Gasque Dunn, 2014