【2011년 10월 30일(주일)】VKC 종교개혁주일(신현철 목사)
【제목】하나님의 마음을 아는 교회
I have a bit of a strange question. Have you ever had to stifle laughter at a funeral? I’ve had to do it once at my mother-in-law’s service. In Korea, people come and give a little bit of money to pay their condolences then either pray or show respect in front of the picture of the deceased and lastly, show their sympathy toward the family by bowing and the family thanks them by bowing as well.
A lot of people had come on the first day and since the second and third son-in-laws were all pastors, a lot of people from church came to pray and most of the relatives had already come. When this person walked in on the second day, things had quieted down a little. He went through all the motions and when he came to bow, no one stepped up to introduce this man. Usually, when the visitor is an unfamiliar face, a member who knows the person introduces him to the rest of the family. However, people just stood there without introducing him. An awkward moment had passed then the guy asks, “Isn’t this so and so’s funeral?” He then stood up; apologized and repeated “I must have come to the wrong room…” He quickly left and then came back a few moments later asking, whether he could get his condolence pay back and then quickly left again. Everyone tried hard to stifle their laughter and from then on, the first thing I do when I go to a funeral is to check the name of the deceased.
It’s hard when something funny happens at a moment when we are supposed to be sad and vice-versa. However, we see people in these types of situations in today’s scripture – people who are apathetic, indifferent, and unresponsive in a world where we are supposed to be responsive, receptive and alert.
Today is the commemoration day for protestant reformation. Why did this movement even occur? Because churches were apathetic… Because they weren’t paying attention to or being responsive to what God had wanted.
Actually, to be exact, people weren’t indifferent; they were just focussed on something else. The members of the church were intent on gaining materialistic profits and keeping their powers instead of on God. Thus, the reformation had occurred. However, this isn’t something that only pertains to that period in time, and we must always reflect on whether we, ourselves, need some form of reformation. We need to think, “am I paying attention to God and looking toward the same vision as him?” or “am I being indifferent, and unresponsive?”
Today’s scripture is recorded in both Matthews and Luke. When you look at this in Luke, chapter 7 verses 31 to 35 it says, ‘”To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other.” “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.” For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, you say, “He had a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by all children.’”
When you compare the verses to Matthews, everything about the two seem similar except, in Matthews chapter 11 verse 16 it’s stated that, “They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to others.” Yet in Luke chapter 7 verse 32 it says, “They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other.” One says ‘others,’ and the other says, “each other.’ When you look at in Greek it is ετέροις (to the other children) and αλλήλοις (to one another).
This is important since in Matthews, the children playing in the marketplace is asking those who aren’t there with them to come and play. But that the children are not answering. They aren’t interested in playing marriage or funeral and thus are being unresponsive. However, things are a little different in Luke. There were two groups of children, one playing marriage, the other playing funeral and they are telling each other to join their groups. Yet they aren’t responding to one another, engrossed in their own made-up worlds.
The two descriptions are pretty different. The difference between the two words, ετέροις (to the other children) and αλλήλοις (to one another), conveys different messages. However, most of the scholars tend to follow the scripture in Matthews and I plan to do the same.
I have just pointed out similarities and a difference between Matthews and Luke, but the two also have another similarity; the fact that John the Baptist has been mentioned – “for John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon’” (verse 18).
This line in related to verse 17 where it says, “we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.” The children at the marketplace asked others to play funeral but the other children didn’t show any kind of a response. This is to symbolize people being impassive to John the Baptist’s messages. What did John preach? To repent their sins that it is almost time of God’s nation and that people need to repent and be baptized.
The sharpness and directness of John the Baptist is well-portrayed in chapter 3 verse 7, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” and in chapter 14 verse 5, “Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet.”
At the time, those who found John’s sermons difficult to accept said that he had evil spirits in him. John lived in the desert wearing, “clothes…made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” As a result a lot of thought that he didn’t eat or drink and labeled his actions as being strange and used it to deem him ‘unnormal.’
In contrast, verse 19 says, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.’’” This is because despite the fact that “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance.” When Jesus came to the world, he opened the festive of Heaven: the wedding at Cana, Feeding the five thousand, Feeding the four thousand…
The extent to which Jesus had enjoyed festive, although exaggerated had earned him a label as ‘a glutton and a drunkard’ among those who were against him. They argued that they couldn’t possibly be responsive to the words of Jesus who was always thinking about what to eat and what to drink.
Doesn’t this make you understand the perspective of those who were being indifferent? John the Baptist’s sermons were too direct, sharp and dry and thus made people feel overwhelmed. In contrast, Jesus’ sermons lacked ‘class’ and he was always with tax collectors, and other sinners drunk. Thus, they couldn’t pay attention to his sermons either.
Some people even go as far to interpret this scripture to say that people are and have become apathetic because of the lack of abilities of the pastors…
It says, “We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” They didn’t respond. The essence of this problem was that there was no sympathy for the situation they were in. There was no connection. What if this sermon was given in a funeral? Could you tell a mourning person to be quiet? The one that asks such a question would be the one that seems crazy. What if it was a wedding? Is it wrong for the father of the bride to dance? Or to eat from the banquet?
In the market there were people with opposing thoughts. There were those who were celebrating in a wedding and those who thought they were being too rowdy. There were also people who were mourning in a funeral and others who weren’t. There was a disconnection and no unity among people. Hence, there was no response and no reaction.
Last week’s Old Testament bible study class looked at Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis chapter 21. In this chapter Isaac is born to Abraham who had been wanting a child for so long. It is a joyous occasion. But, when the whole family was celebrating, Ishmael was sad because for him this event was a disaster. In the end, Abraham banishes Hagar and Ishmael. When the mother and son are wandering the desert and runs out of food and water, Hagar cries from the pain of seeing her child suffer. At that moment God speaks to her saying that He has heard the child’s cry and that he will “make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers.”
Perhaps we think that Ishmael who is not the promised child should be forgotten and vanished. But, God did not do that. Instead, God brought angels to comfort them and even promised that Ishmael will start a great nation.
Whenever I read these verses I am reminded that I am not the only one in God’s heart and that in His heart there may be Ishmael and Hagar. The people that I abandoned and turned from may be in God’s heart. The people the church has ignored may be in God’s heart.
In other words, if we do not know where God’s heart lies we cannot hurt when He hurts and we cannot celebrate when He is celebrating – because we would not understand why He is crying or smiling.
In verse 7 Jesus asks, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.” The people answer that they came to see a prophet. But, why were they not crying with him when they heard the message? Why were they not happy to hear the words? No matter how strongly Jesus was proclaiming the message, the people were not responsive.
In Lee Jung-Myung’s novel “The Painter of Wind” there is a segment where Shin Yu-Bok is asked ‘What is a painting?’ She answers, ‘From longing comes pictures and pictures create longing.’ In the same way, perhaps when we look at the painting that is our lives, we can see what we are longing for.
What is a church? It is a place where we look at the world through God’s heart and God’s eyes. It’s where people who have their hearts where God’s heart is come to.
Brothers and sisters, today we remember Luther’s reformation. Why did the protestant reformation take place? The most essential reason was because God’s heart had left the medieval church. The church no longer had their heart where God’s heart was. There was no longing for God in the picture the old church was painting. What I deeply hope is that we can become a church that sets its heart where God’s heart is. Not to be the church God’s heart left and the one that has to be reformed, but the church where God’s tears, His attention and His wishes are alive.(translated by Mika Choi, Jiye Chun)
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