Monday, July 4, 2011

Dancing With the Morning Star

16“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19the 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.” 20Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. 21“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.24But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”
25At 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; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All 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. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”   Matthew 11: 16-30 (NRSV)
It must have been pretty easy for Jesus to feel like he was the captain of the Titanic.  Those who weren’t hurling insults his way were doubting or treating him with complacency.
His cousin, John the Baptist, was in prison, but sent emissaries to prod Jesus into doing something to prove he was Messiah.  The religious authorities didn’t much like the Baptist (he was in jail); they said he had a demon because of his asceticism.  Jesus was much different –he partied and hung-out with both the despised and the “movers and shakers”.  They called him a wine-bibber (read that party animal). 
Jesus’ friends in Bethsaida and Capernaum were complacent.  They saw miracle upon wonder and remained chilled, unmoved.  “Ho-hum…that was a good trick, Jesus; do another one.”  Jesus shook his head and told them they were like children who couldn’t make up their minds whether to play wedding or funeral, so they sat doing nothing.
Friends, Foes and Followers….they all misread Jesus.  They wanted proof and benefit in hand.  He had come to give them so much more; he had come to give them himself in relationship….and they were surprised when he didn’t act like they thought he should.
In Revelation[1] Jesus is the dayspring.  It’s an interesting combination of pictures of the root of Jesse and the rising star.  The Greeks called Venus the “morning star”.  The imagery points to the coming of Messiah and the promise of His kingdom.  Jesus came to have this dayspring, morning star rise on the relationship of God’s family.
Relationship is a dance.  I’ve never danced much, or well; I’m not very graceful.  And that’s the point – It is He who teaches us to dance. 
And when you begin to dance with the Morningstar some stuff happens…
You get surprised a lot

Surprised by My Fickleness

I get surprised by my own fickleness.  Like Jesus’ followers, friends and foes, we get a little upset when Jesus acts differently than we want.  That’s human nature!  We want things our way, and even when we’re treated better than we deserve, it’s not enough.  Few are ever satisfied.
I heard about a farmer who was so critical of everything that he drove his neighbors crazy.  If it rained he complained the crops would rot; if it was dry that was bad.  None of his farm machines measured-up.  Finally, one of his neighbors decided to shut him up for good.  He had recently bought a hunting dog, and found out the hound could actually walk on water.  He convinced his negative neighbor to go duck hunting with him. 
The next morning when the first shots rang out, the hound ran right out on the water, retrieved the duck, turned around and trotted back without so much as getting damp.  Said the proud owner of the hound, “Well…my dog walks on water; what do you think of that?”  Said the negative neighbor, “Can’t swim, can he?” 
Jesus probably couldn’t have pleased that guy either…or most of us.  But like Jesus said (v.19) wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.  This is like our saying, judge words by the actions. We can be as fickle as we will…we are not going to change Jesus.  He will always love us.  That’s surprising!

Surprised by My Faith Fault-line

And then I also get surprised by my “faith fault-line”.  It’s amazing, isn’t it?  We, like the neighbors – friends really – of Jesus, can see year after year of the miracle of God’s grace on our lives – and remain as complacent as a chair.  It is as if knowing there is an Almighty God who created an infinite universe and is willing to love us, die for us and wants us to come close so he can bless us – well, it’s just no big deal.  It IS a big deal; it’s something to get all excited about and shout and praise and tell others. 
The neighbors Jesus reproached failed to see God’s goodness and repent, or change their ways.  I am surprised at how stubborn I can be in this.  I get really settled in what I like and what I do.  Jesus wants so much more for me.  And that’s good news.  We may be Methodists, but if we’ve got a pulse, we ought to be shouting this news from the rooftops! 
So, in dancing with the dayspring, morning star, you get surprised a lot, and…
You get loved a lot
The rest provided by an easy yoke and light burden is arguably one of the most recognized metaphors in Scripture.  Who isn’t burdened?  Who hasn’t needed rest from it all?  But it is also a commonly misunderstood rest.  It isn’t a burden-free life Jesus offers – he called it his burden.  He just said it was “light”.  The rest Jesus offers is from the inner turmoil that describes life that is self-driven, as opposed to God-led.
We have this new addition at our place. Gracie Cotton was orphaned a few weeks ago.  She adopted us….sorta!  It’s a long story, but, when you’re five and your companion has gone away, it’s hard to get used to a new place, rules and even where to do your business (and which rug to avoid).  We learned that she is fickle when it comes to food, and exceedingly fearful of summer lightning storms.  And we’ve discovered she’s already made her way into our hearts.
Over the past few weeks Gracie (who is bright, alert and a quick learner) has begun to accept the comfort of my yoke.  We call it a leash, but it’s comforting for her.  With that leash I care for her, that she won’t get lost.  I lead her to the right places, and when back in our house, our home, she is released into family fellowship in all the rooms.  In short, she gets loved…a lot!
And that’s how it is in the dance with the Morning Star….in spite of my fickleness and faith fault-line, I get loved a lot. 
And that’s what our table this morning celebrates!
Lord, we pray that we’d learn to run to Your yoke…in the Name of the Father, Because of the Son, Cooperating with the Spirit…Amen!

[1] 22:16

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