Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

St. Francis, 2016

St. Francis, 2016
Jeremiah 22:13–16
Psalm 148:7–14
Galatians 6:14–18
Matthew 11:25–30
Preached at Solemn Sung Eucharist, Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland, OH

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

Jesus says, “you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.”  It almost feels a little offensive, doesn’t it?  Like your two choices are one, to be wise and therefore not understand, or two, to be a clueless infant and receive the revelation of God.  It seems kind of unfair.  Backwards even.  Because every message you get from the world is that it is important to become wise and intelligent, and from an early age people have been telling you to stop being such a baby.

And beyond that, the natural progression is to go from being an infant to becoming wise and intelligent.  It’s sort of one of the goals of a life well-lived: to become wise and intelligent.  You can’t go backwards on this one.  So it seems like whatever Jesus means by this, it must mean something different than how we are apt to take it.

Jesus also 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?  With all due respect Jesus, people who work with their hands are carrying heavy burdens every day.  Not to mention the metaphorical yet real burdens the others are carrying.  And with the pace of life these days, we are all terribly weary.  We have come to Jesus, and many of us are not getting very much rest.  And since a yoke is what we put on oxen to plow a field, taking on the yoke of Jesus sounds like more work, no matter how easy it might be.  The burden of Jesus might just be the thing that breaks our backs.  The last thing we need is more work, even if it’s work done for Jesus.

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

So, Jesus’ disciples called him their Rabbi.  I’m sure you all have at least 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 his 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 Rabbi’s had 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 his 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—a  Rabbi’s interpretation of the Torah, his school of thought was called his yoke.  If you followed a particular Rabbi, you took his yoke upon you.

There were plenty of Rabbi’s around in Jesus’ day.  And any Jews who were serious about becoming disciples would choose a Rabbi and take his 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.  In order for that statement to have any impact on those listening, it would mean that the yoke of the other Rabbi’s 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.”

We could say that the yoke of Jesus is just two things: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Just two things, perhaps coincidentally the same number of oxen that fit into a yoke when someone plows a field.  Coincidence?  Probably.

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, in particular:  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 barriers, and who knows what else.  But if the yoke someone is trying to present to you is heavy and burdensome, then it is not the yoke of Jesus.  Because the yoke of Jesus is easy and light.  They are trying to get you to take on someone else’s yoke, and you should follow Jesus, not whatever it is they are trying to get you to believe.

To follow Jesus means to rely on him.  To trust that God has done for you what you cannot do for yourself.  You don’t need to carry the heavy burden of trying to get God to love you.  You don’t need to take on a whole bunch of rules about behavior and good conduct to prove that you love God.  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.  And taking on the yoke of Jesus changes everything, because Jesus changes everything.

And this evening, the yoke of Jesus leads us all to this Altar, where Jesus will meet us in the bread and the wine.  Trust him to meet you in the breaking of the bread, to carry your burdens, and to give you the strength you need to face tomorrow.  These are the things that are hidden from the wise and the intelligent, yet revealed to infants, like you and me.


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