I have an app on my iPad that I enjoy using when I need a mental distraction. Essentially it is a “where in the world am I” app. Working with Google Earth’s street views, the app deposits you in some location anywhere in the world that has been mapped by Google. Your challenge is to move along the roadways looking for information that can help you to identify where you are. Once you think you know your location, you mark it on a map and then you are assigned points based on how close you are to identifying your actual location. It is challenging in that sometimes you are dropped on a dirt road in a desolate landscape where signs along the road are few and far between and there is little in the way of oncoming traffic.
When you do encounter clues, they are often hard to understand as they may be in another language or even a different alphabet. However, even that can help to narrow down what continent you might be on. With the help of online searches of place names, business names or phone numbers on passing trucks , or small signs indicating points of interest, it is amazing to see how quickly you can come close to finding your location. Of course, sometimes you can miss the mark by thousands of kilometres. When I am focused and really paying attention, I have sometimes been within a few hundred metres of the mark. Once or twice, when I have been lazy and relied only on my own expectations, I have missed by 10,000 km or more.
This morning’s gospel lesson has something to say about missing the mark because we have not paid attention to the signs. It also speaks of the danger of completely misunderstanding the situation when we judge according to our expectations and prejudices. Jesus’ example of children calling to each other illustrates what happens when we do our own thing and then cannot understand why people do not respond as we expect. People do not mourn because we wail; it is the other way around. If we were paying attention to the signs and responded to them, we would wail when we see people mourning.
People misjudged John and they misjudged Jesus. Had they paid attention to the signs they might have glimpsed what God was up to. God is not bound by our expectations or prejudices, and God really is up to something. If we want to know what that is then to what should we pay attention? Jesus calls us to pay attention to him. Stay alert. Watch what he does. Listen to his voice. All the signs point to Jesus and Jesus points to what God is up to. He recognizes that we are tired and weighed down because of doing things our own way; the world’s way. He invites us into a reality where we can actually live instead of feeling compelled to live up to the expectations of others. His way is a way of being where we can rest because we are content instead of resting because we are exhausted from having to prove ourselves. He is gentle and humble, and he invites us into a relationship where we can be what we were created to be and not exist simply to stroke another’s ego. His yoke, the burden of belief that he places on our shoulders, is easy, “trust in God, trust also in me.”
God promised, “My presence will go with you,” and if we pay attention to the signs, in Jesus we know exactly where we are. In coming to Jesus, we are in the presence of God. We are right on the mark.