Sermon July 9, 2017

 

Rom. 7: 15-25a “I do not do the good that I would do.”

Matt. 11: 16-19, 20-25 Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.”

 

“The Yokes on You” or “It’s not about Eggs”

 

How many of you had a wonderful long 4th weekend, or even one day of celebrating, as the 4th was in the middle of the week, but the next day, rather than feeling energized, you were even more exhausted?

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

A German tourist was asked, “What do you notice most about people in the United States?”  He answered, “The fact that you are a tired people- you are all so tired.”

Are you in that category?  I know that I’ve appreciated naps more and more.  Especially if I have a night meeting.  Boom!  Give me a 20 min. nap and I’m good to go.  But sometimes I just want to sit.  I think I’m not alone.  We work at our vacations and come back more tired or anxious than before we left.

We look forward to weekends or days off and then we ride motorcycles, or camp, or fish, or golf, or garden.  We come back exhausted.  I read a quote recently, “a more affluent society has never existed.  A healthier people has never lived.  And a more tired race has probably never breathed.”

We work to give our families the best, but come home after work exhausted, and often, for many, the day is just beginning!   Isn’t it funny,  we take medications to put us to sleep and caffeine or energy drinks to keep us awake.    We are tired.

I think it’s true even for retired folks.  I’m always hearing about how they are busier now than when they were working!  And young people, some of you may get a bit of a summer break, but usually you’re scheduled morning to night and then some!

Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

In today’s gospel, Jesus was preaching to a tired people.   It seems he was speaking specifically to some of the Jewish leaders and Pharisees who lived under the law of so many rules and regulations of religion.  They wanted everyone to strictly follow those laws.

Jesus invites us to come to him with our exhaustion and our weariness.  Interestingly, it’s almost a contradiction.  This is a call that gives new meaning and purpose to our lives.  Kenneth Sauer writes that this rest that Jesus promise is not the rest of inactivity.  It’s a rest that is made possible through the carrying of a new yoke.  Jesus invites us to the energizing, vital meaning that life offers.  We acknowledge that we are tired and restless and Jesus calls us to himself.

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  That one line is so powerful.  What has it meant for you in your life?  Ed Markquart asked a Bible class that question.  Here were some responses.

-When my husband died much too young, I couldn’t pray because I was numb. But my friends lifted me up in prayer, and I knew I was being lifted up and supported.

-When my husband was killed in an industrial accident, it was as heavy a burden as I ever carried. God did give me rest.  God carried my load and gave me strength to carry my load.”

-After 11 years of drinking I prayed to God for help and eventually God lifted that burden from me.

-This means that God is waiting to carry our burdens. It means that in times of trauma, friends lift us up.  Friends are the hands of God.  Wow!  I’m sure that many of you have your own stories of having burdens lifted, but for many the burdens or the loads of life seem to remain.

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We don’t talk about yokes very much anymore do we?  If I asked you to think about yokes in your life many of you would think about the kind of eggs you buy: organic, brown, cage free.  This is a different yoke.  Jesus was referring to a wooden frame used for harnessing together a pair of oxen so they could pull a plow.  There are yokes for an individual ox, but mostly they were designed for two.

Do you remember that Jesus was most likely trained as a carpenter?  I can imagine him as a boy and a young man working with his father.  Ed Marquart has us imagine Jesus working.  One of his primary jobs may have been creating yokes for farmers oxen.  Jesus would design and craft personally tailored yokes that would be a perfect fit for the shoulders of a particular team of oxen.  The yoke fit easily, like a fine pair of shoes or a dress or suit.  Because Jesus yoke was well fitting it was easy and light.  To pull a plow with an ill fitting yoke created unnecessary burdens for the oxen.  The Pharisees or religious leaders sometimes created unnecessary burdens for people to carry.  “You have to do this and this and this.  Or maybe it was ‘don’t do this or this or this.”  All kinds of laws to follow in order to get right with God.”  Jesus said, “Let’s change that.  Come to me.”

There is a legend that says there was a sign above the shop of Joseph and Son that read, “Our yokes fit well.”    Today we see that Jesus is no longer making yokes for animals but for people.  And Jesus’ yokes still fit well!

I sometimes think of a backpack on my shoulders.  If you get a good fitting well designed backpack it can make a world of difference on your back and shoulders.  Or, I was reminded this week of portaging canoes.  If you have yoke on your canoe, you can carry the canoe with little effort.  If it is ill fitting or not balanced correctly, you can be in for a difficult haul.  Jesus yoke fits well. In this sense it will be “light.”  And we don’t carry it alone!

I read somewhere that often times a young ox would be paired with an older more experienced ox so that they could learn to work together.   Imagine, the yoke of Christ is not just a yoke that Jesus puts on us, it is one that Jesus wears as well so that we can be harnessed together with Christ!  A yoke makes two oxen a team.  Jesus is saying to you and me this morning, “Become my teammate, and learn how to pull the load by working beside me and watching how I do it.”

There are all kinds of things that weigh us down in today.  What is it for you?

Is it something globally? Refugees, starvation, civil wars Nuclear threats?

Is it something closer to home? Heart attacks, cancer, financial issues, family disputes, old feelings of guilt?

What burden are you carrying? Take a minute.

Today we bring those burdens to Jesus and Jesus helps us carry the load.   We’ll soon come to the communion table.  It is there that we lay our burdens at the foot of the cross.  But it is also there that we are strengthened and sent forth.   God’s blessings as you leave this place reminded once again of how you are yoked with Jesus, as you leave rested, and strengthened and energized with purpose and hope.  Amen