Sermon I preached on Sunday July, 9th at Messiah Lutheran Church in Auburn Washington
Matthew 11:16-17, 25-30
I don't think anyone here would call me a biblical scholar. Heck, I barely have a high school education, but for those of you that have heard me preach before, you might remember me mentioning that I like to argue with God while I am writing them. When Pastor Chuck and I got together to discuss what I would preach on and this reading came up, I was like yeah I got this one. I have done bible studies on it, and blogged about it, I have this one God.
I had this sermon written pretty much 2 weeks ago. I even had a part about baptisms in it because Pastor Chuck said there would be baptisms today. I went over it at Family Camp, practicing how I would preach it, but that entire time I had this little voice in my head telling me that is not what I was supposed to preach, this is not the message that is supposed to go out. But, I kept pushing that voice aside, I have this one God.
I argued and fought with that voice all week, right up to about 12:30 AM Thursday morning. I sat straight up in bed, wide awake, because I hit my head on the upper bunk. Then I realized we were having an earthquake, and I was like OK, I get it God, so I rewrote my sermon......
I am going to start with a question. Have you ever found yourself dissatisfied with someone that it doesn't matter what they do, you aren't going to like it? No matter what this person does, it annoys you? I think I might be that person to God. But, when you stop and look at the situation, you discover it isn't really what they are doing that annoys you, but it's who they are. Or, maybe when look closer you might find the issue is not with them at all. but with you, your own heart, your own unwillingness to love thy neighbor, or your unwillingness to change.
It sounds like Jesus is going through a time when it doesn't matter what He does, or how He tries to reach the people, they will not be satisfied. Jesus points out that John the Baptist was sent living an austere life, neither eating or drinking, and the people said he has a demon. Jesus comes eating and drinking, and He is called a glutton and a drunkard, and ridiculed for eating and drinking with the wrong kind people. Well people, what is it that will make you happy? What is it that will satisfy you?
Both Jesus and John were dismissed by many as irrelevant in their day and time. Jesus says that the people are acting like children who can't play nicely together. The one side wants one thing, and the other side wants something else, and they cannot agree, so in the end they will do nothing.
I was having a conversation with a pastor friend of mine a few weeks ago, and I asked him what it takes to get past the many distractions in the world and get people motivated and inspire them to engage in the ministry of the church, or even come to worship or bible study? He said to me that while it may seem that we have to compete with many things in this world that would take people's time and energy, our greatest challenge is to overcome their inclination to do nothing. That just blew me away, I had not thought about it that way, something so simple and it seemed so profound to me. Doing nothing is easy.
Jesus has carried out His work in word and deed so that the people may learn who He is. In previous chapters Jesus has taught the crowds with His sermon on the mount, He has healed the centurion's slave, the paralytic, 2 blind men, and many others. He has cleansed a leper, cast out demons, and yet His contemporaries prefer to sit on the sidelines, not involved in what Jesus has going on. Doing nothing rather than taking seriously Jesus' message of life and salvation, His ministry to the people or the work of His disciples. You see my friends, this Gospel Lesson is a call to discipleship, a call to take up the work of Jesus in this world that needs to hear what He has to say, a world in need of healing, love, and care.
Jesus calls to us over the other voices, desires, and pressures. Come to Me, take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. It may sound like Jesus is inviting you to rest for awhile in some of these words He says, and at the same time there is this taking up of His yoke, His cause, His purpose, Jesus' ministry.
To me, there are a few things to notice about what Jesus is saying here. First, there is this yoke of Jesus. You may have noticed that I have interpreted as Jesus' purpose or cause, His ministry. This is what He calls us to, but then He shows us an easier way through the use of that same word.
I am not sure everyone here knows what a yoke is or what it is used for, so I will explain a little. A yoke is a farm tool that is placed around the shoulders of a horse, or an ox, or even a mule, to pull equipment such as a plow, to do it's work. Sometimes a yoke would be used to hook a number of horses together to pull a covered wagon or coach to provide transportation. But, the interesting thing about this yoke, which makes it relevant for us here today, is that you can hook a number of animals together, you can yoke them together, so they would all pull together. The yoke helps them pull together in the same direction. Jesus' yoke, His mission, does that for us today. It draws us together, binds us together to carry out the mission Jesus has given to us, to spread His message of life, love, and salvation, and to carry out His message with deeds of healing, caring for, and providing for others.
Jesus also says, learn from Me. There are many ways we can learn from Jesus. We can read the gospel stories about Him and allow Him to teach us by example. We can read Paul's letters and learn from them what the church is called to be about, how the church members are to live and work together, how the church carries out it's ministry in the community and the world through it's members.
One of the commentators I was reading while writing this sermon talked about a pastor he knew that required all new members to go out on visits to visit the sick at care facilities and hospitals, to mentor and teach. Some of these members would say what are we paying a pastor for? The Pastor's answer was you are paying me in part to teach you how to be disciples. Discipleship is an important witness to our faith in Jesus.
Finally, Jesus says, you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. If you are carrying out the ministry of Jesus, how can that ever be restful and how is that yoke easy and light? First off, it doesn't say that it will be restful for your body, but for your soul, which casts that rest into a whole different light. You will experience joy, love, and the Grace of God as you carry out the ministry that He is calling you to. I know some of you have experienced this in serving others. How many times have you heard it said by those who went on a mission trip or served in the community, That I got more out of it than they did?
We all have burdens, things we carry around with us. Sometimes they are worries, sometimes job stresses or retirement stresses, or the sense of burden from the things you believe you are expected to do. If you are doing something because you feel like you have to, or it is expected, or you want something out of it, then you can sense that task as a burden. You will become weary physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But, that is not what Jesus is talking about here. He is envisioning another motivation for taking up His cause. That would be appreciation, thanksgiving, and joy for what He has already done for you. Your relationship with Jesus takes on another dimension when you think of doing what you are called to do from this perspective.
You see? Jesus calls you to be yoked with Him, to take up His cause in word and deed, He calls all Christians, not just Lutherans, or Catholics, or Baptists, but all Christians, to be yoked together, unified, all of us working together with one purpose, His purpose. It is Christ Himself who is the yoke that binds us together. It is in Christ where we find our rest.
With all that goes on in this world, you may find it difficult to imagine where or how, but it does happen, and it happens right here. It happens right here through baptisms, it happens right here when we come together again and again to hear the word of God proclaimed, to give thanks for all God has done in Christ Jesus, and it happens right here when we receive, touch, and taste the word of God shared as we gather around the sacred meal of bread and wine, grace and acceptance.
You who are weary come, you who are carrying heavy burdens come and leave them here, at the cross. Know the joy of Christ's presence in your life, and then go in peace and serve the Lord....... Amen