“Rest”

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

9 July 2017

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 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!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

 

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “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.”

 

 

Prayer.

 

This, then, is the preacher’s dilemma:

For the past few Sundays the Gospel has reported that

Jesus is preparing his disciples for his imminent absence.

Directly, and indirectly,

Jesus has promised persecution to those

Who take up their own cross and follow him.

 

 

Taking up your own cross means

You are willing to be crucified next to Jesus.

Crucified.

The misery begins much earlier:

Families will be set against families.

Some families will even try to throw you off a cliff.

Towns that don’t kill you; might turn you away.

Trials, persecution, and death await everyone who follows Jesus.

Last Sunday it was observed, discipleship is dirty work.

And here today, Jesus tells us:

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

OK Jesus, you’ve got our attention.

What gives?

 

On the surface,

Jesus intended

Our Gospel lesson for this morning for the have not’s of the world.

In the time of Jesus,

only a select few controlled wealth, wielded power, and exercised authority.

 

 

The majority of people generated wealth for the top one percent.

Wealth was created by the hard labor of the poor,

Paid in taxes to the government and tithes to the Temple,

Landing in the hands of Rome and the Temple priests and authorities.

People suffered in slavery, or virtual slavery,

With tax rates and Temple tithes so exorbitant

Most of Jesus’ intended audience lived in squalor.

 

People suffered with

Outrageously high infant mortality rates,

Malnutrition and starvation,

back breaking work from sun up to sun down every day,

contagious, infectious disease and disability.

Of those who made it to adulthood,

most never made it to their thirties or forties.

 

When Jesus earlier said, “Blessed are the poor” and

“Blessed are the persecuted”

These are the people he was talking about.

When Jesus says today, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,”

He is speaking to the majority of serfs and slaves

Who have never heard of a God,

Let alone a God who loves them,

Who redeems them,

Who saves them.

Compared to their daily existence,

Yes, Jesus’ yoke was easy and his burden was light.

 

Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of wealth

With this back hand chastisement of the powerful;

Priest, scribes, and Pharisees.

 

 

"They tie up heavy burdens (fortion), hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them" (23:4).

 

The focus of those with power

Is to remain in power;

To pass more laws,

More restrictions,

To tie people up with suffocating, burdensome, outrageous, intolerable policies and procedures, statutes, ordinances, and codes.

 

The goal of the powerful

Is to divert attention away from the big issues of the day

And lead people to believe small issues are important.

This is true in government.

This is true in organized religion.

This was true then.

This is true today.

 

Compared to government,

Politics,

Organized religion,

Where one must make moral and ethical concessions just to survive,

 

 

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” Jesus proclaims.

In a life connected with Jesus,

Grace trumps Law ten out of ten times.

Love becomes the goal of righteousness.

And resurrection defeats death.

 

On another level, Jesus’ use of yoke

Causes one to think of what an ox would wear

In order to get work done.

The metaphor may work because

Everyone in Jesus’ audience would have known about oxen, yokes, and agricultural life.

Some yokes worked better than others.

Some were cushioned, while others bit into the flesh.

 

Pulling with the same force would have been easier with some yokes than for others.

Pulling for Rome would have been painful;

The tax collector would be labeled as a traitor, a collaborator, or the enemy.

It’s hard work to pull the yoke of Rome.

Pulling for Judaism,

Organized religion of the day,

Would have been a lifestyle of laws about what you can’t do:

Diet,

Cleanliness,

Morality.

The yoke of the Temple was

Obligation,

Separation,

Damnation.

It’s hard work to pull the yoke of ancient, Conservative Judaism.

 

With Jesus, work still needs to be done,

Let there be no misunderstanding;

 

 

But the work of witness, love, forgiveness, and salvation

Is far easier than pulling for the other competing principalities of this world.

 

The same is true today.

 

 

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,

and I will give you rest. 

My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” Jesus proclaims.

 

At the core, a yoke is what binds each of us together

- new Christian, maturing Christian, old Christian alike.

It is what binds us

To one another, to Christ, and to the Father.

This is where rest is found.

There is no Body of Christ in isolation.

Personal Christianity is an oxymoron.

The notion that I can believe in God on my own

Is Pantheism.

It isn’t Christian discipleship.

 

To be the Body of Christ,

We must join together.

We must pull together.

We must be as one.

The yoke of Christ is what makes it so.

 

 

In oneness

is where rest is found.

 

When we are connected to one another and bound to Christ

We are ultimately bound to the Father.

Now, I will not allow this homily to descend into dogma or Trinitarian theology.

That being said,

Being bound to the Father,

The Creator of all there was, all there is, all there ever will be,

Is the perfection that John Wesley spoke about.

It is the pinnacle, the goal, of the Christian life.

 

Our heavenly Father

Is the Covenant maker:

“I will be your God; you will be my people.”

 

 

The Father chose us,

And when we choose to bind ourselves to the Father,

True rest can be found.

 

Our heavenly Father

Is the Law maker.

When we live according to the Law,

Not by obligation, but because of our choice, our faith,

True righteousness can be found,

And that is the place of rest.

 

Our heavenly Father

Is the loving father of Jesus;

Who loves the world so much

He gave us Jesus;

A love so profound

He allowed his son to die

To take away our sins.

The Father’s love is so eternal

Love rose Jesus from the grave,

And, so too, wins us victory over our grave

Granting us eternal life.

 

 

In our Father’s love

Is our place of rest.

 

Dearly beloved,

I invite you this this table

To taste and see the love that comes from the Father,

The love that is of the Son,

The love that will never let you go.

Come to the table

And find your rest.

Amen.