URC Daily Devotion 20th May 2024

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Monday 20th May 2024
Matthew 11: 1-6 and 16-19
Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.  When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’  Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.  And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’…. ‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.”  For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”;  the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’

In Matthew 11: 1-6, John’s disciples check whether Jesus is the one they’ve been anticipating – and he doesn’t teach them doctrine, or tell them how to organise religion, but instead, draws their attention to what’s happening: people on the margins of society are given a new beginning and even the poor are encountering good news. When the world pushes people to the side, God invites them to the centre. In fact, ‘the last shall be the first and the first shall be last’ is seen to be Jesus’ doctrine – a reordering of the world. It’s a kind of ‘anarchy’, turning the world on its head – and this becomes the basis of how to organise religion: committing to a restructuring of the world.

But it seems too absurd to imagine that the world we know can be turned upside-down! And certainly, religion falls short of this vision. We lose sight of this very different horizon and struggle to work for it. We even put our energy into preserving the status quo. After all, we’re colonised by systems and habits much stronger than us, and the wilderness of a new world is not as seductive as the security of the Egypt we inhabit.

But in verses 16-19, Jesus compares things to children: some playing tunes while others refuse to join in. Churches may think that it’s others who don’t join with us – but I wonder: are we attentive to the tunes of lament and joy in the world around us or are we staying safe? Jesus dared to be seen as impure, by being in amongst people’s lives. So to build communities of the gospel is not only to aim for ‘a new world’, but to demonstrate it in risky solidarity with the struggles and dreams of others; learning and growing together.

God of the new horizon,
may the story of children
teach us to play well with one another –
to join in people’s tunes of lament
and rise with their songs of joy,
as we hunger together for abundant life for all.
Humble us if we assume we are the goal;
forgive us if we belittle others’ struggles and gifts;
help us to breach our boundaries
and be in the margins
with you.

Today’s writer

The Revd Dr Graham Adams is a minister of the Congregational Federation and tutor at Northern College in Manchester.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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