Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Daily Lectionary: Matthew 13:10-17
In the name of Jesus. AMEN.
Some people just don’t get it.
They don’t seem understand. They don’t seem to care what’s going on. They seem oblivious to the people’s pain all around them.
If we started naming names of people who fit this description, the names would probably roll right of our tongues. Most likely, sad to admit, if we asked enough people, our own names would probably appear on such a list of people.
The truth is, not much has changed in the course of human history. 2,700 years ago, the Prophet Isaiah described the people in this very same way. In the words of Isaiah, the people listened, but they did not comprehend … they looked, but they did not understand … their minds were dull, their ears stopped, and their eyes shut.
700 years later, Jesus himself used Isaiah’s depiction of the people in Isaiah’s day, to describe the people of Jesus’s day to respond to the question the disciples asked:
“Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
To be candid, Jesus’s answer to the question is unsatisfying and disturbing. In his answer, Jesus divided the people into insiders and outsiders. Insiders like the disciples were given knowledge. To whom much has been given even more will be given, he said.
The crowds, however, were outsiders without knowledge, to whom little was given and even more would be taken. It was these crowds with their dull hearts that could not see or hear. It was to these people who didn’t seem to get it, that Jesus used parables.
So what is going on here?
What if, in describing the crowds, Jesus wasn’t talking about people who wanted to understand? What if Jesus instead was talking about people who knew that they already understood!
Could it be possible that Jesus was NOT talking about people who in faith, humbled themselves before the mystery of God’s presence and God’s work in our lives? But instead, was describing the people who confidently knew just how, and where, and when God would and should work?
Could it be that the people’s hearts were dull, their eyes closed and ears are plugged, precisely because they thought they could see and hear?!
Might it be possible that the people were so confident in their own perceptions, their own understandings, and their own worldview, that they actually got it all wrong?
In 1 Corinthians (1:25), Paul pointed out that “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” Paul also referenced Isaiah – the 29th Chapter where it was written: “The wisdom of their wise shall perish, and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden.”
Perhaps Jesus knew he needed to use parables in speaking with these people who were so full of themselves, because he wanted them to stop and think. He wanted to draw them deeper in the mystery of God’s work and the complexities of faith?
Perhaps he knew that the crowds then, are like people today, using easy answers like rock, piled on top of one another building taller and taller walls in which to separate people from each other and divide human community.
The truth is, this is sometimes how modern day Christians use the parables. We hear a parable and we quickly say, “Oh, the parable of the sower we heard this past Sunday, obviously means …” Or, the parable of the wheat and weeds we will hear this coming Sunday clearly means …”
In our sin, we turn the hard truths of Jesus’s teachings into easy answers we then use against each other.
Friends in Christ, the good news tonight, is that there is something else in Isaiah’s original prophecy that Jesus echoed. It is the hope and promise of healing. “Turn and be healed.”
To use Paul’s words about this turning: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
That renewing of our minds does not come about by thinking harder or more clearly, answers are not found by doubling down on our efforts to figure things out. Rather, healing, deep healing of our thoughts, our attitudes, and our perceptions, is found in our turning from self and turning towards Christ.
Healing in our lives, in our communities, and in our nation, comes from turning from simple answers and the certainty of our worldviews, and turning instead towards the mystery of Christ fully alive and present, in the Water and Word, and in the Bread and Cup.
It is in the setting aside of our own perceptions that lead us astray, and turning to the mystery of God’s word in our lives, that our eyes and ears of faith are opened and unplugged, that our hearts beat anew in the love and mercy of Christ.
More good news! In that turning away from our understandings, and to the mystery of faith, another prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled! For in the 29th Chapter of Isaiah, Isaiah describes the purpose of God breaking the wisdom of the wise and thwarting the discernment of the discerning.
It is not for the sake of punishment.
No, it is something far better … God calls us to turn to him so that God can: “Do amazing things with this people, shocking and amazing!” (Isaiah 29:14).
That is the promise of God at work in our lives through faith. Shocking and amazing things that blow our comprehension right out of the water: rebirth, reconciliation, resurrection!
Indeed may it be so! AMEN.