Sunday 9 July
Year A: 5th Sunday after Trinity (Proper 9)
Liturgical colour: Green
- Genesis 24:34-38
- Psalm 45:10-17
- Romans 7:15-25a
- Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Matthew’s gospel is widely thought to have been written between 80 and 90 CE. It includes Jewish qualities, like poetic parallelism, scribal argument, emphasis on the law and practice, and scriptural quotations. It also has distinctive Christian elements including accounts of Mary, Mother of Jesus, church discipline, a special role for Peter and strongly developed views of Jesus as Messiah. Matthew’s gospel reflects the tensions at the time of writing as the new Christian church (or rather churches) worked out their relationship with the Jewish faith and practice that Jesus had been born into, and what they believed had changed as the result of His life, ministry, death and resurrection. There was much to debate and sadly the arguments were not conducted without violence.
This week’s gospel passage (Matt 11:16-19, 25-30) opens with disagreement. Jesus describes his disciples as behaving like children in a chaotic marketplace; where some are wailing, some are playing and others have rejected both and are sitting on the side-lines sulking. Everyone has fallen out. Prior to this passage Jesus had been talking about John the Baptist who was in jail. He had been saying he was a great prophet, but some had criticised him for being an ascetic. However, some are now also criticising Jesus’ joyful approach to eating and drinking. Jesus is clearly not happy with the disciples’ knee-jerk responses. Yet saying they are being like children is not a criticism of children per se. Rather it is comment on the lack of maturity on the matter. In fact, further on in the passage he thanks his Father that the kingdom is hidden from the wise and intelligent but revealed to infants. There is a difference between being childish, wanting our own way and not considering others, and being childlike, open to others and new ways of thinking about God.
At a push, might we perhaps even read the gospel as being about liturgical preferences? John was acting as if at a funeral and Jesus as if at a wedding. It is true that we can’t please everyone all of the time, but sometimes in ministry it can feel like we can’t please anyone! It is comforting to know that Jesus had the same experience. It is also helpful to remember that whilst he discouraged childish and self-interested arguments, he encouraged a childlike openness to all things of God. Perhaps this is an attitude we can bear in mind when negotiating different views and desires in our churches?
Finally, this passage gives us all a timely reminder. Later in the passage (Matt 11:16-19, 25-30) Jesus speaks those wonderful words of comfort, “Come to me all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” It is easy to get swept up with the business of church life, especially at times when people seem to be demanding different things. It is good to know that whenever we remember, we can turn in prayer to the love of God and rest in the divine presence as God’s children.