‘We played the flute for you but you did not dance.’
Dolly Parton invited those who heard her at Glastonbury to dance last Sunday and so they did for she was front page news in most of the newspapers last Monday.
This morning however Jesus speaks of a different kind of dance, a dance he invites those who hear his word to share in. They refuse, dismissing his dancing, eating and drinking as the symptoms of a glutton and a drunkard.
I suppose this reminds us how easy it is for us to chunter at another’s celebration. Think of that party next door that goes on for too long, all of us, quite understandably sometimes can be party poopers.
Sin though is what Paul in our first reading is identifying as the party pooper in our lives. That which can hinder our dancing, shield our ears from the tune Christ is playing for us, at least for a time.
But how might we describe sin, that word to describe that which we’re all acquainted with. In simple terms sin is about choice, when we by our words and actions turn away from the source of life and love.
And contrary to what we might sometimes think when we read some of his other writing, Paul was well acquainted with sin.
So his words for us this morning can be reassuring, we all know something of what he writes ‘I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I can will what is right but I cannot do it.’
Any of that sound familiar?
Sin is part of our lives, there’s no use denying it, nor is there any use in suggesting that if we just tried that bit harder we’d be sorted. It’s more complicated than that.
To live with our sin, we need in some way to understand it and thereby know ourselves our weaknesses and mixed motives more. To do that we need to explore more how we might define sin.
And here I wouldn’t want to talk too much about specifics “don’t do this or that type of thing” but about experience.
Sin has many guises, different for each of us just read CS Lewis’ ‘Screwtape Letters’ for an entertaining insight. However; despite that difference our desire to sin is united in being something which lies deep within, part of our DNA as it were.
Historically the church described it as being a consequence of the fall of Adam and Eve. Whereby we’re all marked in some way by their first ‘original’ sin hence the need for infant baptism.
But what of now, how might we describe what sin does to us?
Well to use a musical analogy I’d describe sin as the desire to play the wrong tune. And the tune ultimately feels wrong, it’s something about playing “The right notes in the wrong order” as the great theologian Erie Morecambe once put it.
And coming to terms with our sin usually makes us feel pretty uncomfortable, out of sync, not quite right, ‘wretched’ even, as St.Paul wrote.
Thankfully though sin is real, it isn’t the only thing. For in our lives we also have moments of harmony and melody when we sing a different and more beautiful tune.
And those moments often occur paradoxically when both we make the right choices, (I wouldn’t want to diminish the importance of choosing life over death and separation) and also when having fallen, we acknowledge our wretchedness, seek forgiveness and are restored to life and harmony.
When in our brokenness and weariness, carrying our heavy burdens we come to Christ who as our Gospel reminded us is ‘gentle and humble of heart’ and in whom ‘we find rest for our souls.’
Jesus does play the flute for each one us invites to hear and live in his harmony and melody, beautiful that it is.
And remarkably given the inevitability of our sin, he keeps on inviting us, even when we fall again and again, making the same mistakes, he still invites us to ‘learn from him’ something of a different song.
So where are we up to?
- Sin is real and brings discord and separation and is something which despite our best efforts we’re all caught up in – Think the right notes in the wrong order.
- That through that sin, we can learn more about ourselves and how we are restored to life through Christ’s forgiveness. We can sing a different song.
So then what to do about sin? Do nothing, accept that we’re all sinners, not worry about it too much and carry on.
Well that’s the temptation it was around in Paul’s time and continues today. Yet despite the inevitability of sin, I’d want to say again and again that the jumbled notes of sin aren’t the only song to sing.
If you take home one from this sermon may it be the image of Christ playing the flute and inviting us to hear a different song.
For though we’re mindful of our sin, we know too of those moments of harmony and beauty and of how enticing they are, surely we want more of them?
So even though we make a mess of it from time to time, even though we know we shall likely fall again, we know too that there is also a greater melody being played out that one day will drown out the other.
We must never forget that, never silence that harmony of Christ that invites us to dance. For his harmony is one like that chorus we can’t shake, that we sing all day. His is the song we long to sing.
This image is so important to me, for too often we see this faith we share as a kind of moral self-improvement programme, a list of dos and don’ts.
The programme is in some way represented in our Gospel today in those who tell Jesus he is a glutton and a drunk. The rules are the only thing for them.
Yet faith in Christ means so much more than rules. Glimpsing and hearing the harmony of God and what that might mean for us is central understanding that.
So we should live knowing that though rules have their place, unless we have heard a different tune life will always be diminished by our failed efforts to lead what we think is the good life.
We’ll be glum and weighed down, always feeling guilty about what we’ve failed to do. Whereas Jesus invites us to smile, laugh and be radiant because even though we sin, we’ve heard a different tune, a tune which invites and keeps inviting us, to sing a different song.