By Dane Neufeld
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 11:27-36
27 While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” 28But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”
29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. 31The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! 32The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! 33“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar, but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. 34Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness. 35Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. 36If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”
A lot of money has been spent by researchers studying the characteristics of various generations. The Christian book industry has thrived on it for years as well. It is an interesting topic, but a seductive one too, vulnerable to self-affirming generalizations that can aggravate generational conflict. “Millenials are the me generation, unwilling to work unless it is fulfilling.” “Boomers, in their greed, have destroyed the earth and now we need to fix it.” These are just a few of the sentiments employed to dismiss other human beings because they belong to a particular generation.
Jesus, on the other hand, has some severe words for his own generation: “This is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Judging a generation, it seems, should begin with one’s own. And a generation is judged by one main criteria: its openness (or not) to God’s messengers.
The “sign of Jonah,” Jesus’ three days in the tomb before his Resurrection, would would reveal things about this generation that they did not want to know. Their jealousy, contempt and hostility toward God’s works form the contours of this generation’s character. In light of this criteria, other differences between generations can be overstated.
What unites us across generational lines is our instinctive opposition to God’s Word, but also the possibility that we might repent and be renewed through the Holy Spirit. The sign of Jonah was indictment against Jesus’ generation and every other. At the same time it was an invitation to be buried in the waters of baptism, and an invitation from God to a new life in Christ.
The Rev. Dane Neufeld currently serves as the incumbent of St. James, Calgary, after serving 7 years in Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta.
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