An Advent Reflection for Wednesday, December 15th by Monica Tzeng
Lectionary reading for 12/15/2021: Isaiah 11:1-9; Micah 4:8-13; Luke 7:31-35
Selected passage for reflection: Luke 7:31-35
Luke 7:31-35 (New Living Translation) 31 “To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.’33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; 34 the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
Before we go into the passage itself, it is good to recognize that the Gospel of Luke presents the timeline of Jesus in his ministry from Galilee, Judea and then Jerusalem. His ministry was continuously met with misunderstanding and hostility by many, which then ended in his crucifixion. The Jesus in the Gospel of Luke is a Jesus that was open to all people and communities. Not only does Jesus uplift the voices of all races and ethnicities and those who lived in poverty, but also confronts the wealthy class in their greed and power. In the passage Luke 7:31-35, Jesus is speaking to a crowd who has placed judgement on John the Baptist. Judgments such as ”He has a demon,”(Demon possession means having inappropriate behavior), “Look, a glutton and drunkard,” and “a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” The judgements do not paint John the Baptist in a good light. Jesus admonishes the crowd that their judgement lacks wisdom. In verse 32, He states “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.” Jesus here is instructing those passing judgement to take the plank out of their eyes! Their judgements and set ways of understanding ministry are causing them to miss out on life. He ends with saying “wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” While I’m sure Jesus is advocating for the people who suffer under those more powerful, I also believe Jesus stating “all children” includes all those who end up being able to dance and weep once they trust the wisdom of God. The invitation for wisdom is extended to all, even those who don’t understand how to live with open eyes. The difference is that those wielding judgement and power must receive and hear uncomfortable truths in order to live a life of freedom and wisdom. I reflect on what it means to speak uncomfortable truths to those around me. A lot of times, we shirk from sharing the hard truth because we fear the fall-out or consequences. And there are many, especially when it comes to being in a relationship with those who hold power, leadership, or have the potential to hurt us. Jesus understood this. Speaking truth can mean telling a friend they are being unkind in their relationship with you, or telling a fellow leader that you have noticed in their ‘burn-out’ phase has started to lack intentionality and integrity in their work, or being deliberate in speaking to a wealthy congregation and challenging them in their ways of stewarding their money that has only been for themselves. Speaking truth is a form of care. I remember a couple months ago, a coworker of mine phrased it as “directedness with care“ and I have carried that phrase with me in these last couple weeks, discerning how and when to uplift truth well. Care is a “two-sides of a coin” kind of process. You care by empowering the voices of those who lack power and privilege, but also practice caring for those in power, those harder to love with accountability. I am not saying that we should not be cautious or careful in who we speak truth to, we should! However, sometimes by not speaking hard truths into places that need it is actually very unkind. If we believe in caring for others, it also means we continue to challenge those in our community with God in order for them to continue being in community with us with integrity.
So, who in your life has been hard to speak a ‘truth’ to? Or are there places in your community you find you need to speak ‘truth’ to power such as racial justice issues, disability issues, LGBTQIA+ issues? What do you fear will happen when you do speak the truth? How can God help to empower you in speaking truth? How can your own friends, loved ones empower you to carry forth a truth that must be said? Sit with the feeling of what it means to see speaking truth as a sign of care for yourself and others. Speak with God about your fears. Ask to trust the process.
God, I pray for discernment to know when and how to speak truth into the lives of those around me. (I pray for discernment to know when and how to speak truth into [Name’s] life. I want to see beyond my own fear and trust You in the process. I pray you challenge me in this direction towards a deeper sense of care and compassion. Amen.
About the Author
Monica (she/her/hers) identifies as a Taiwanese-American queer faith strategist. Formed by Christian evangelical communities, and experiences across other spiritualities, she thrives in uplifting the sacred during times of tension and chaos. She is also a spiritual director who creates space for others to name God. Monica currently lives in Chicago, Illinois, enjoys locating the best taco spots around the city and working out. (monicatzeng.com)