Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, July 9, 2023

YEAR A 2023 pentecost 6

Pentecost 6, 2023
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45: 11-18
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I hold these truths to be self evident: Anyone to the left of me is a godless Marxist.  And anyone to the right of me is a fascist bigot.  I hope that’s helpful.  This is one of those laws that govern the known universe . . . as long as the universe consists of me.  And it does, doesn’t it?  I mean, to each of us?  I am the center, the middle, the via media.  My views are the correct views.

Of course, none of us ever says this kind of thing aloud because it’s immediately obvious to everyone else that you think the universe revolves around you.  And though we may each secretly think that anyone with different views are Marxists and fascists, we wouldn’t admit that we truly think this way, because—as I say—it shows that we think we alone have the correct answer.  And, if we alone truly did have the right answer to everything, that would be an incredibly heavy burden to bear, would it not?  To be the standard by which every thing and everyone is judged?  To be the one who is the final arbiter of whether someone else is right or wrong.  Who would want THAT responsibility?

Well, surprisingly the answer is, all of us.  The left/right example is just one little instance of how we think in our daily lives.  Especially right now.   As Yeats said, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”  We have all scurried to the edges, while still thinking we are personally in the place that is just right.  Essentially, we all want to be Goldylocks.  We each decide what is the right amount of everything; and anything outside that right amount is . . . well, wrong.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says,
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, `He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  

See?!?  Anyone who drinks more than I do is a drunk.  And anyone who drinks less than I do is a Purtian.  Jesus has no self-discipline, and John the Baptist is a weirdo.  Jesus asks, “To what will I compare this generation?”  Which is like Jesus’ saying, “What do you people want from me?”  We played the flute and you did not dance; we wailed and you did not mourn.  Well, you know why?  Because we were too busy judging you, that’s why.  How do you expect us to dance or weep when we’re constantly sizing up whether someone mows their lawn too often, or has too many dandelions?  We’re very busy over here, Jesus!  No time for dancing or mourning.

And here’s something else.  We consider it a sign of maturity to be able to judge right from wrong.  As we grow up we learn to tell what things are helpful and good, and which things are harmful and bad.  It’s an important part of life to be able to make good decisions, to benefit ourselves and those around us.  The trouble is, we use those skills of discernment to judge people as well.  It’s like an unfortunate consequence of the gift of discernment is that we apply it to everyone else . . . more than we apply it to ourselves.  

Sure, growing up means judging right from wrong for ourselves; but what a drag life becomes when we spend all day judging what’s right and wrong about everybody else.  I mean, there are 8 billion people walking around; if we’re going to judge them all based on our own personal standards we’re going to be very busy . . . heavy laden in fact . . . weary and carrying heavy burdens.

Speaking of which, Jesus says, Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

It sounds nice, doesn’t it?  But what does it even mean?  We have come to Jesus, but we are not getting very much rest, quite frankly.  Taking Jesus' yoke upon us sounds like more work, no matter how easy it is; and taking Jesus’ burden might just be the thing that breaks our backs.  The last thing we need is more work, even if it’s for you, Jesus.

But let’s back up a minute and ask the obvious questions that pop up from these statements.  Burdened by what?  And, whose burden is not light?  And, come to think of it, what exactly is a yoke?  Good questions.  Glad you asked them.

So, I’ve told you this before, but it bears repeating.  Jesus’ disciples called him their Rabbi.  I’m sure you all have some idea of what a Rabbi is.  Essentially, a Jewish teacher, right?   And you know that the Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament; and you know that the Torah is the most sacred thing on earth for the Jewish people.  A Rabbi in Jesus’ time would interpret the Torah for their disciples.  Usually this interpretation meant adding things on, or carefully explaining to their disciples exactly what God meant by a particular rule or law.

Different Rabbis have different interpretations of the finer points of the Torah, sort of  like what we would call a “school of thought.”  You might prefer the teachings of one Rabbi over another, and so you would approach that Rabbi and ask to become their disciple.  And if the Rabbi said yes, you would then be expected to adhere to the Rabbi’s interpretation of the Torah.  And—here’s the important thing—as Rob Bell explains it, a  Rabbi’s interpretation of the Torah, their school of thought was called their yoke.  If you followed a particular Rabbi, you took their yoke upon you.

There were plenty of Rabbi’s around in Jesus’ day.  And any Jew who was serious about becoming a disciple would choose a Rabbi and take their yoke upon themselves.  Jesus says, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."  The implication is, the easy yoke of Jesus is different from the alternatives, right?  In order for that statement to have any impact on those listening, it would mean that the yoke of the other Rabbis is difficult, and their burden is heavy. "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

I am not going to go on and on about all the implications of this, but I do want to be sure to tell you one thing:  over the course of your life, many people will come to you claiming to be disciples of Jesus, but also trying to burden you with a heavy yoke.  A yoke with all sorts of preconditions, and legalisms, and laws, and rules, and on and on.  If the yoke someone is trying to present to you is heavy and burdensome, then it is not the yoke of Jesus.  They are trying to get you to take on a different yoke, and you don’t need those heavy burdens in your life.

To follow Jesus means to rely on him.  To trust that God has done for you what you cannot do for yourself.  Jesus offers us a break from having to judge the world because—as we say in the Creed each week—he is the judge of the living and the dead.  You don’t need to carry the heavy burden of judging whether your neighbor is better or worse than you are.  You don’t need to take on a whole bunch of rules about behavior and good conduct.  You do not need another yoke; you only need the yoke of Jesus: learn from him.  You will find rest for your soul, because his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

I encourage you to focus your trust in Jesus to meet you in your troubles whatever they are, to carry your burdens however heavy they may be, and to give you the strength you need to face tomorrow, whatever that day might bring.  Because when you put your trust in Jesus, you will find rest for your soul.


No comments:

Post a Comment