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Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
October 28, 2012
Central Passage
Matthew 11:12-15
Description

 

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
 
Our Lord often begins His parables by saying, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of heaven,” or “The kingdom of heaven is like…”  But here He gives a different parable. Here He says, “To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
     ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
     ‘We sang a dirge for you, and you did not mourn.’”
 
We know what He’s talking about. We don’t call it the marketplace anymore. We call it Wal-Mart or the mall or JC Penny, where our kids always find games to play. Hide from dad and mom in the clothing racks; play hide-and-seek among the displays. Children always find a game to play. They sit in the marketplace to play while the adults are in the marketplace to do business. Children aren’t about business; they’re about fun and games. That’s why it’s so sad when we see and hear of children who have to grow up too soon; who don’t get to enjoy their childhood.
 
Peter Pan isn’t just a fairytale, it’s a truth wrapped in a myth. There is something magical about childhood that allows little guys who are barely potty trained battle unseen dragons and monsters and the powers of evil and overcome them with a stick he calls a sword! That allows little girls to ride magical ponies and live in larger-than-life castles and be princess and fair maidens. There is something in us that yearns for the return of myths and legends. We call it the return to innocence, but in truth it is the return of mystery.
 
And in each of us there is a rebellion that goes on every time some tells us that it’s time to go to work. It’s not that we’re lazy, far from it. Our calendars prove beyond doubt that we’re not lazy. It’s that our work has no mystery. Which is why we tell our sons and daughters to find a job they love, because then it will hold some mystery, some enchantment. But mostly our work has no mystery left. So we fantasize about being millionaires who get to ride in their helicopters to far away, exotic destinations; who drive their rare cars and live in their modern-day castles. And we are even sometimes able to fool ourselves that if we work hard enough and long enough and are smart enough, we can have some of the magic and mystery back. Some people call it retirement, others call it winning the lottery, but we all look forward to it. That’s because we like the children in our Lord’s parable. We want to call out to our playmates and sing and dance in the marketplace where others toil and work. We want to hear again those words that open doors to worlds unknown and adventures untried; those words of wonder and mystery: “Let’s pretend.”
 
That’s why we feel guilty when we snap at our little ones who are playing hide-and-seek among the clothing racks of JC Penny. We feel regret when we tell them to stop climbing on bleachers or running down halls or when we deny them playtime because of something we have to do. We tell them and ourselves that it’s for their safety and our sanity, but we can’t stop the feeling that we’re robbing them of their childhood. We are laden with guilt as our little one begin to ask us to play less and less as they grow up and out, never having built a tree house or ridden a pony or danced enough in the rain because dad  and mom didn’t want to clean up the mess.
 
But we can’t be little forever. Peter Pan has to grow up. His never-never land is as imaginary as his eternal boyhood. Life chases him down with more vigor and persistence than Captain Hook ever had. And one day Peter finds himself a man with grownup things to do and a wife and children and on his lips the word that spells death to the magic of “Let’s pretend.”
 
Responsibility.
 
And suddenly our Lord is a killjoy. He tells us what to do and what to say and where to go and where we can’t got; to put away childish things. But want to sit in the marketplace and play with our playmates and dance and sing and mourn and play games. But an irony of ironies, our Lord is not a killjoy. In fact, He is the return of mystery. He is the myths and legends come to life; come back to life. He is the eternal man who places wonder back into real life in a way the eternal boy called “Pan” could never do. For while Peter Pan may be exciting and full of wonder, he is not real and his kingdom called never-never land is make-believe. But the Son of Mary is very real and has cheated death and live forever, and His kingdom is full of wonder and mystery and is very real. And He makes the dreary weariness of daily living the excitement of worlds unknown and adventures untried.
 
Our Lord is not rebuking children for playing. The point is that the children in the parable are unaware of their surroundings. And being unaware of where they are, they demand that their playmates to do silly things and they become offended when they do not. We played the flute for you and you did not dance. We played a dirge and you did not mourn. You’re no fun.
 
So says mankind to the Man who has made us according to His kind, after His image, in His own likeness. With all your rules and regulations, with all your “thou shalt’s” and “thou shalt not’s,” you’re no fun. We sang some songs for you and you tell us they are doctrinally unsound. We mourn and weep and you say that we are to have hope and comfort. That’s what the generation of men does. It makes up its rules for the kingdom of heaven like children make up rules for their games. It looks into the heavens and tries to open a more magical door than the Door who is God in the flesh; instead of using the keys of life and death to bind and loose, it tries to lock and lock the door of heaven with the keys of getting along and good stewardship. The imagination of men is as fallen as the righteousness of men; as far as the innocence of men. And in this twisted imagination mankind cries out to his creator, “Let’s pretend.”
 
Let’s pretend that no one goes to hell. Let’s pretend that what we preach doesn’t matter as long as we’re sincere. Let’s pretend that if something makes us feel good then it is good. Let’s pretend that your laws are only good guidelines and not eternal decrees. Let’s pretend that faith is built on my opinions and according to my liking and not on abstract, objective truths. Let’s pretend that even if I don’t acknowledge you and fear you and listen to your Son that you still accept me for who I am and what I say about myself. Let’s pretend I’m the creator and you’re the creature and what I say goes because frankly, dear God, you’re boring and no fun.
 
And when the preachers insist on the fables of the Bible and demand conformity to the ways of the Lord, when the prophets and teachers end our fun and remind us that we are in the marketplace. We say to them, “You have a demon,” and, “You’re a drunkard and sinner yourself.” How dare you tell me what I must and mustn’t do. But they are unaware of their surroundings. They do not consider where they are. And wisdom is justified by her deeds.
 
While this generation is complaining about the rules of our Lord, that they are too strict or too free, our Lord is valiantly going forth into the fray of battle wielding the sword of the Spirit and slaying the dragon and the beast, crying out to all who have ears to hear: Follow me! I will show you the way of life! I will take you to the mountain heights of immortality and to the valleys of enchantment filled with the good food of my body and blood. I will show you a pool of living water that is more magical than the fabled fountain of youth; I will wash you with real water that clothes you with eternal life. I will open your eyes to the wonder of my kingdom so that what you see is not life lived in futility but life lived in God. I will take you to my castle called my Body wherein I live and reign over my kingdom and bring peace to my land and my people. The world sees the marketplace, and we see the kingdom of God.
 
Your wives and children are not the humdrum things of life; they are co-heirs of an eternal kingdom set for you and yours. Your jobs and calendars aren’t the stuff of life, but the people you meet and the friends with whom you eat, they too are in this tale of mystery and wonder. For what you see is a shadow of things to come, but the substance belongs to me. What you hear in your ear is the story of life and death and life again! And unlike Hercules and Hector of Troy and Batman and Superman, this story is true!
 
And this story is lived out in your day-to-day life. A story of a fisherman who turned the world on its head by preaching the Man who walked out of the grave. A tale of men and women laughing at the lions who devoured them; standing before kings who would burn them; singing of glory and immortality like legends of old, yet were merely farmers and shoemakers and bakers. The story of valiant victories like a lowly monk nailing theses to a chapel door and challenging the world’s powers to a duel to the death.
 
You, O Christian, are no child playing in the marketplace. You are the deeds of wisdom who is your life and your light. You are the heroes who save the day by your prayers and by your intercessions. You are the reformers and the men and women of valor who are not afraid to speak the truth and to stand firm in the wisdom of the Man of heaven. You are the sons of God and the salt of the earth. Yours is the kingdom of heaven.
 
In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +