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Speaking to the Soul: Just Can’t Win

Speaking to the Soul: Just Can’t Win

Week of Proper 2, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 119:1-24 (morning) // 12, 13, 14 (evening)

Proverbs 6:1-9

1 John 5:1-12

Matthew 11:16-24

Jesus just can’t win. In today’s gospel, he vents his frustration with the people he has come to serve and save, but who are never satisfied with their spiritual leaders. For example, when John the Baptist came “neither eating nor drinking,” the people were exercised by his rigorous discipline and claimed, “He has a demon.” When Jesus, on the other hand, “came eating and drinking,” the people labeled him “a glutton and a drunkard,” and they sneered that he was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Neither the discipline of John nor the indulgence of Jesus could make them happy.

In the course of our ministries today, people may criticize us no matter what we do. Whether we err on the side of rigor or grace, sometimes we just can’t win. But at least Jesus has been there before.

Jesus’ frustration really heats up in the rest of this gospel passage, when he claims that foreign cities like Tyre and Sidon, and notorious cities like Sodom, would have welcomed Jesus’ ministry and responded to his power with repentance and conversion. Jesus then pronounces an intolerable judgment on the cities where he was most active around the Sea of Galilee: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! . . . And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.”

If we find ourselves sharing Jesus’ frustration and fury at the people we are called to serve, perhaps we can avoid some of his condemnatory speeches and instead bring our feelings to Jesus in prayer. We know that Jesus has been there before, and that he is right there with us. Our family members, students, clients, constituents, and neighbors may be much more critical than welcoming and responsive to us. But our call is not to make others happy or to “win,” but to persist in the way of life and the works that we hope will serve others well.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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