Playtime, Jesus, and summer festivals

IMG_0724Anyone who has spent any time at all in a school playground will know that break times are a perfect opportunity for children to let off steam, play games and without knowing it prepare themselves for later life by forging social relations and practising with friends and peers and the MDSA’s what we called ‘dinner ladies’.  Well, that’s the theory anyway.  Looking on from the outside you might think it is utter uncontrolled chaos, and you might be right!  However the way children develop through play in the school yard is incredibly complex and though it might look uncontrolled, just try and break their highly developed sense of ‘routine’.  The older we get – to a certain point – the more amenable we become the breaking these routines.

Jesus compares the folk of palestine to children calling to each other in the market place.  They didn’t like anything out of the ordinary.  They didn’t like John the Baptist – he ate strange foods and dressed in odd clothes – and wandered around the wilderness calling people to repent – not normal.
They didn’t like Jesus either because although he dressed, ate and drank as everyone else did he spent his time with ordinary folk and those the well to do despised.  Neither John nor Jesus were like them, they didn’t play the game correctly, they broke all the rules and messed up the highly developed sense of order.  However, If I had had to choose a reading at random for this Sunday, I could have done a lot worse than to choose this one for it reflects where we are in the year and it disrupts our sense of order.  The way our Christian festivals have developed over the past 2000 years is really very interesting and if you want to find out more you can read “Stations of the Sun by Ronald Hutton”.  You’ll find that ‘Christmas’  wasn’t celebrated until quite late on, and was actually banned a number of times before becoming interwoven with the midwinter festivities.  What is really interesting is the current ‘Busyness’ of festivals from perhaps October to April is a new phenomenon and a number of really important things have been lost in translation as it were.  Some of these are really worth reviving as they help us to give meaning to our Christian Year.  The first of these is reflected in the gospel reading today.  The contrast between John and Jesus.  The festival of the birth of Jesus now takes place around the shortest day.  Jesus ate and drank and made merry with the common folk.  The festival of the birth of John the Baptist now takes place on June 24th half way through the year from Christmas, around the longest day and an altogether different affair.  Now i’m not going to suggest we crack out the locusts and wild honey, or even dust off our hair shirt, but there is an element of reflection here between winter and summer festivals.  To our detriment I feel, we have lost some of the ‘lesser’ seasonal festival days and sold out to the big eating drinking and making merry festival of midwinter.  Spreading our partying out a bit allows us to celebrate all through the year not just feeling really pressured at the so called key moments.  So this month we celebrate midsummer, and the contrast of John and Jesus.  I hope some of you will have at least thought about the YMUNO festival, if not popped along this year.  It was indeed a great summer celebration. (if you missed it there is another at midwinter – funny that…)  (for all those who want to begin their christmas preparations in september, well, actually you should begin at the feast of John the baptist, as John points towards Jesus!)  Next month we’ll stray from the known path and take a forage into the unknown with Lammas or Loaf Mass or ‘the First Fruits of the Harvest’  where traditionally the first of the harvested grain was gathered and seeded bread was baked to make the beginning of the season of plenty and of harvest.  Jesus says “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” but in order to taken this on, we need to put down our own baggage.

Carried a bag full of God for ages.
Realised the bag was empty.
Put down the bag.
And travelled on lightly with God.

It is often the bag that weighs us down, not the contents!

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