The Riddle of the Children, by Christine V. Hides
“To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 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.’
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; 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!’ Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
Reflection: The undertones of generational disdain in this passage are familiar to our modern ears. Once again table manners create tension in Luke. Jesus addresses a group divided as they try to identify who John and Jesus really are. In the first proverb Jesus compares the people to children who won’t play tea party.
As anyone who has ever been invited (more like directed) to squat in a too-small chair next to a crowd of stuffed teddies and wide-eyed dolls to sip air from tiny cups can tell you, imaginary play is a developmental need for children. Like Goldilocks, those gathered around Jesus are particular about their tables. They declare John’s “too sparse!” and of Jesus’ table they say “too much food and bad company!” Can the audience’s imagination stretch to welcome the fellowship and communion of Jesus, marking a new age? The second proverb references ancient texts that say those who follow Wisdom (Sophia) become like her children.
The parable prompts us to consider our own community table customs in this age. Who do we welcome and who do we exclude? Who gets fed and who goes away hungry? What are the particular practices that identify us as children of God and followers of Jesus Christ? “This text which at first seemed so distant and unusual has turned on us and made us uneasy,” says preacher Fred Craddock.
Christ of the Table,
Create in us a child-like imagination
to welcome your presence.
Craddock, Fred, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Preaching and Teaching, Luke, p 39.