Arms Folded: Refusing to Participate

Participation in a Prayer Gathering, Grace Point Fort Wayne, 2009.


Luke 7:31-32

“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.’


John the Baptist had come calling the people to repentance and Jesus had come to bring them new life. Instead of becoming active participants in God’s kingdom work there were those who refused to become a part of what God was doing. Mostly, they were the religious officials who thought that they didn’t need to respond to the messages that they were hearing. What were they like? They were people on the sidelines, arms folded, and refusing to participate. 

The flutes were played and people began to celebrate but they would not dance. Looking stiff with a frown on their faces, they looked on with a steely glaze. The joy of the Lord remained far from them, as did the message of repentance. Unable to mourn over their own sins, they could not see the encouragement of God’s people to join in the revival. The people prayed and wailed, but arms remained folded, resistance setting in, and there would be no weeping. 


Here we are, in the midst of advent where God is breaking into our world, calling us to repentance and joy in new life. The advent didn’t end in the first century, but continues to this day, an invitation to participation. Some may be folding their arms and looking upon the church in disdain and frustration. Yes, there have been hurts and wounds, but those have been by people, not by Jesus. Jesus plays the flute and invites you into a holy dance where you can be set free. Standing on the sidelines and refusing to participate only hurts ourselves. The call to repentance remains and God weeps with us in our pain and suffering. Holding it all in, we continue to suffer on the sidelines, physical and emotional pain attacking our bodies. The invitation is to let go, repent of the ways in which we have been living and allow God to work. 

For those who are followers of Christ, we must look for ways in which we ourselves participate in the advent. We are to become the flute players, sending forth the beautiful notes of invitation. How can anyone join the holy dance if they’ve not been invited. We may be critical of those who stand on the sidelines, but if we provide no invitation, who is going to join in? I’m not too sure that the most outgoing of individuals would simply invite themselves into a party. The relationship of holy love found  in the Triune God is the beautiful invitation which we are to share. This is an invitation to participation in the Triune God, which is simply amazing. It’s the greatest gift possible, and yet, far too many of us are holding onto it, not willing to share it with others — possibly because of the fear of rejection. 

Then there’s the invitation to repentance. That doesn’t sound too vogue these days, and yet, without the invitation to wailing and mourning, we will be unwilling to put to death those things which keep us under their control. Why would we want others to suffer in the grip of that which will suffocate and bring death? As the light dawns, the cure for for the ills of this world begins to shine brighter and brighter. We are to carry that light to those who are in need of healing, weeping and wailing for the who continue to suffer. Followers of Christ are to bear the burden in prayer for those who remain on the sidelines. Our hearts are to be broken for the things that break the heart of God, interceding with tears for those who refuse to participate. 

Advent is an invitation to participation. It’s cold on the perimeter and we tire of just looking on. Come close. Join the dance, and be willing to weep. Jesus is coming. 


Lord, move me closer to your light today, and give me boldness to pass it on. Amen. 


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