July 5, 2020

“Generating a Solution”

By Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy

Song of Solomon 2.8-13

Matthew 11.16-19, 25-30

July 5, 2020

I wonder if, when you were growing up, you ever heard stories from an elder in your family who had to walk to school uphill both ways in the snow? Perhaps you heard about the trials of living without televisions. I know I not only heard these growing up, but have told them myself: remembering a time when I had to use a dictionary to look up a word, and Google didn’t have all the answers. Maybe you have similar tales – those you heard growing up, and those now you tell your grandchildren. Perhaps there is always a grain of truth to these stories – no, we didn’t walk uphill in the snow both ways, unless you lived in Alaska and passed two hills, but the truth there is that maybe there wasn’t the same access to a car. Often these stories are told as a means of trying to help someone appreciate what they have, but sometimes our embellishments and overstatements don’t serve us well – they merely draw the separation line between generations farther.

These are just silly examples of how generations have misheard each other. It is a story as old as time – one generation tells hyped up stories, and the other rolls their eyes. The older generations complain the younger generations are not listening, and the younger generations complain the older generations aren’t listening. We see this in every decade, in every time. It is a societal pattern.

In our Gospel reading for today Jesus addresses an entire generation. He was speaking in a specific time and could be assumed he spoke to just one generation, but really this could be applied to nearly any – even generations of our time. Jesus is addressing dissatisfaction and misunderstanding. In our time there is plenty of dissatisfaction and misunderstanding among generations.

Jesus begins by asking how he should compare the generation – and how we love to do this! Except, he isn’t trying to compare one generation against another, he’s trying to find an apt metaphor to explain his frustration with their behavior. The generation is not satisfied with anything put in front of them, and this is not about being an older generation or a younger generation – it is about being human. Jesus tells the crowd that when a flute was played with joy, no one stood up to dance. When a funeral song was played and there was wailing, no one in the generation mourned. The ultimate point is made when Jesus compares himself to John the Baptist. These two figures brought good news to the generation, in different ways, with different personalities and habits and ways of interacting with society – and the generation rejected both.

Jesus isn’t pointing to a specific individual or group. He doesn’t pick on Pharisees or Sadducees or anyone else – this is a societal fail.[1] No one is exempt from this, because everyone has denied the message coming from John and Jesus.

What does this look like today? We might think we can point to one generation or another in regards to the problems of the world – how easy that would be! – but the truth is we all have participated in the sins of the world. Racial justice issues are forefront in our country today. To blame the current scenario on previous generations, or the younger generations, would be a mistake. As a society we need to look at how we have contributed to systemic racism and make change, rather than pointing fingers at one another. The same can be said about economic justice and environmental justice.

When we think of ways the pandemic has been handled, it is easy to look at one or two or more leaders and shame them. Yet, as a society, maybe we need to look at the ways we have pushed political separation farther and farther under the rug, refusing to have conversations about civil discourse and how we communicate with those who disagree with us – and with whom we disagree. If we stop blaming one or two people, we can begin to think collectively, bringing together different perspectives and gifts and ask for God’s wisdom. To love one’s neighbor means the people that we encounter daily that push our buttons.

So, Jesus calls the society out about this, and he could complain and condemn them, but his next move is to give thanks. Jesus shows gratitude in a time of perhaps frustration and misunderstanding. Perhaps Jesus knew humans respond better to honey than vinegar.

It is so easy to be consumed by the news these days. I wish I could say “just turn it off/put down the paper” but we have to stay aware of the happenings in the world because God calls us to be in the world. Yet, we also have to take breathing space. We need to lift up the good happening in the world – because there is good happening. People are reaching out to people, showing God’s love through phone calls and cards and window visits and more.

As we go out and recognize the sins of society, and ask for forgiveness, we also seek better ways, and try to find ways that we can share God’s love, especially in small ways. What is one way you can share God’s love this week? Be more than kind, wrestle with the ways we can communicate and show God’s love with those who seem to be at odds. Amen.

 

[1] William Goettler, “Matthew 11,” in Feasting on the Word: Year A, Vol. 3. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 212.