Proper #9…Series A
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (July 9th, 2017)
Text: Matthew 11: 16-19; 25-30
Title: Not an Escape…EQUIPMENT!!
The final verse of our Gospel reading for this 5th Sunday after the great Feast of Pentecost has been described by many Biblical scholars as Jesus’ Great Invitation. In verse 28 of chapter 11 of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says:
Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens…all you who are fatigued and burned out…all you who are exhausted and overwhelmed and I will give you rest…take My Yoke upon you and learn from Me…for my YOKE is EASY and my BURDEN is very, very light !
Doesn’t it appear a bit strange to you (it certainly does to me) that Jesus would offer those who he has invited to come to him (the weary and the overwhelmed…the fatigued and the exhausted) a YOKE? It seems like what these folks really needed was a soft mattress or a long vacation…Not a YOKE!
But Jesus realizes that the most helpful gift…the most useful gift he can offer his worn-out disciples is a new way to carry and to manage the burdens which are an inevitable part of life in the real world. You see, Jesus knew that living the life of a disciple does not mean that we are immuned…somehow protected from the burdens…the heartache and pain…the trials and tribulations which are part of the fabric of our human existence. No, Jesus does not offer his weary and over-whelmed disciples an ESCAPE…instead, he graciously and generously offers all who come to Him a YOKE!
But what, exactly is this Easy Yoke that Jesus invites His weary and exhausted disciples down thru the centuries to carry? I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week, and I have come to see and believe that the YOKE of JESUS is nothing less than the Risen and Living Jesus connected to his beloved Disciples by and thru the Word of the Gospel of Grace. The Yoke of Jesus is living obedient, faithful lives in harmony with (and not in contradiction to) this Living Word! The Yoke of Jesus…i’s best summarized in the Baptismal Covenant… that sacred Covenant that we reaffirm each time a new soul is welcomed into the fellowship of Christ’s Holy Church thru the sacrament of Baptism. My friends, the YOKE of Jesus is nothing less than the Risen Christ embodied and incarnate in the Word of the Holy Gospel…certainly NOT an Escape…but EQUIPMENT…equipment which empowers you… and makes it possible for you to carry the burdens we are all called upon to carry from time to time.
TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU…FOR MY YOKE IS EASY AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT!
A couple of years ago I had to fly to Omaha, Nebraska for a meeting with the Executive Committee of the Reformed Church in America. The meeting was over at
noon and my flight back to Philadelphia did not depart until 6:30pm, so I had time to kill, and I decided to spend a few hours visiting Boy’s Town on the outskirts of Omaha. Boy’s Town is an amazing place…founded in 1917 by Father Edward J. Flanagan, It has been around for more than 100 years, and it’s mission has never changed…to provide compassionate care, treatment, and education for at-risk children. In 1943 Boys Town adopted as its image and logo a sculpture of a boy carrying a younger boy on his back. During my visit, I had an opportunity to see that sculpture and learned the story behind it. In 1918 Howard Loomis was abandon by his mother at Boy’s Town. Howard had polio and wore heavy leg braces which made walking…especially walking up and down stairs very difficult (and extremely painful).Soon several of the older boys at Boy’s Town were taking turns carrying Howard up and down the stairs. One day Fr. Flannagan asked Reuben Granger (one of the older boys) if carrying Howard was difficult. Reuben smiled and said, “He ain’t heavy, Fr. He’s my brother”
TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU…FOR MY YOKE IS EASY AND MY BURDEN IS VERY, VERY LIGHT…
My friends, we must never forget that it is the Yoke of Jesus Christ…the risen and living Jesus embodied in…incarnate in the Word of the Gospel which, when it is heard and believed and lived (especially when it is lived) that sets us free not only bear our own burdens…it sets us free to bear one another’s burdens, and, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in the sixth chapter of his epistle to the Galatians, when we bear one another’s burdens we fulfill the Law of Christ…and when we fulfill the Law of Christ, we experience Abundant Life…the ABUNDANT LIFE that Jesus came to give us…
Thanks be to God!