Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Prospect
The Rev’d Robert Warren
Matthew 11:16-30

I generalize when I get angry. From the depths of my armchair I fume about“...all politicians, bishops, vestry members, teenagers, parking attendants, church organists or telemarketers”.

“Get off my lawn, you lot”, I say.

Then I calm down: I think better of what I’ve just said. The individuality of people reasserts itself. Indeed, they’re all different - men, women, boys and girls. I was only cross with that one over there. It passed.

Jesus gets angry in this Sunday’s Gospel reading. He names a series of villages on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee as the focus of his wrath - Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum - which remain nailed-in-place and apathetic in the face of Jesus’ preaching and which refuse to repent . He talks negatively about “this generation” as if that were a meaningful phrase and an accurate way of describing what must have been a varied community.

Before we discount it, though, we might ask..... Is there such a thing as a village mentality? Do members of communities oftentimes exhibit behaviour, in concert with their fellow villagers, which is
unheroic, punitive, unimaginative, cold, uncharitable and suspicious. Yes - we’ve all seen it. Do generations exhibit similar attitudes? Do they forget the sacrifices of their parents and grandparents? Or take for granted the fertility of their fields and the civic peace of the land they’ve been born into? Do they tend to share, in common with those of their own age and experience, a series of obsessions, fears and attitudes? Well, yes, this is true on both counts. Of course they do! We think as a group and are influenced by each other. We look to the left and right to discern whether our actions are approved by our fellows before we move forward. Most of us, anyway.

In the passage, Jesus’ passionate anger passes. He turns his eyes toward heaven and thanks his Father for those who have, in fact, listened and allowed themselves to be gathered in to Jesus’ following. In every generation, you see, somebody turns from the crowd and walks away. The Gospel is preached in the village and somebody makes a decision. Yes, we see that hand! We hear that nonconforming voice which breaks ranks and seizes the uncommon opportunity. Nicodemus sneaks away to speak to Jesus in a quiet corner. The Ethiopian Eunuch asks to be baptized. St Francis is converted. One of you begins to listen to his better angel. From within the village, and out of any generation, a faithful community is cobbled together, voice by voice, determined to break the spell and walk in grace.