July 11, 2023

July 9, 2023, The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

July 9, 2023, The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Gospel: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Jesus chides people who find fault with both his ministry and that of John the Baptist. He thanks God that wisdom and intelligence are not needed to receive what God has to offer.


[Jesus spoke to the crowd saying:] 16“To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
17‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19the 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.”
25At 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; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All 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.
28“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Sermon for the 6th Sunday After Pentecost

In the bottomless pit that is the Internet, you can find a website called something like, “Reasons My Son Is Crying” dot com.  Parents can upload pictures in their moment of frustration for mutual consolation.  A picture of their child kicking and screaming on the floor.  And a caption.  My son is crying because he asked for the blue sippy cup, and I gave him the blue sippy cup.  My daughter is crying because she wanted a corn dog but not the corn part or the dog part.  My child is crying because I would not let him play with a bag of dog poop.  My kid is crying because he doesn’t want to go anywhere even though I’ve told him repeatedly, we’re not going anywhere.

Kids don’t know what they want sometimes, and often don’t want now what they said they wanted five minutes ago. Jesus knows kids, and he apparently knows adults too.

You’re like children, he says.   Some of you said you wanted to play funeral, and some wanted to play wedding, but you couldn’t decide so now you’re pouting and not playing anything.  Somebody will always be unhappy. The bottomless pit of the Internet is also judgmental.  Put a picture of your kid on there and you bet someone will let you know that he’s small for his age and needs to beef up or that those snacks you’re feeding him aren’t all organic, or feed your kid all organic and risk being labeled a food nazi who never has any fun or let their kids eat candy.

Unhappy people will always find something to criticize.  Always find an excuse.  John was too far out there, living his primitive and minimalistic lifestyle, on the fringe.  Preaching repentance.   There must be something wrong with him.   Jesus was too far out there, eating with the wrong people and drinking too.  Drinking! Preaching mercy and forgiveness.  There must be something wrong with him.

Unfortunately, the common denominator of this criticism lies with the person themselves.  Childish and doesn’t play well with others.   Jesus just keeps going anyways, knowing that his ministry and his mission isn’t depending on pleasing all the people all the time.

But before we get carried away judging judgmental people, Jesus says a quick prayer to the father for us to hear.  Something about those who think they are wise and the babes who truly understand what Jesus is doing…   And St. Paul reminds us that we are all susceptible to fickle and unfortunate whims and end up with self-destructive habits and a battle within us for control.

So many people believe that in order to be a good Christian you have to have it all together.  Or at least act like you got it together.   But none of us do, really, or we’re just one quick crisis away from really losing it.  From really needing Jesus in a way it’s hard to admit. Because life is really really terrible sometimes.  And we’re not very good at it.   The difference is that we are free to admit it.  We are free to call a thing what it is.  Free to say we are tired and overburdened.

Free to say that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.   I think I truly understood that more deeply after having a child.  Children are needy and will do whatever they can to fulfill those needs.  That’s what Jesus speaks about the gospel being revealed to infants – those who know how truly needy they are and cry out to God in all circumstances.  But children eventually reach that age where their behavior does not match their desires.  Their outward form is not what they intended.  They shriek and slam doors and then go oops, I didn’t mean to do that.  I mean, at least my child does that.  She’ll throw a huge fit.  And then realized, her actions had the opposite effect of what she intended.  And apologizes profusely, but is unable to stop herself the next time.

If only grown-ups could speak so freely. If only each and every time we raised our voice or acted out of frustration and made the situation worse instead of better, we could just say,”Ope.  That’s not what I wanted to do.  I’m sorry.”  But we can’t.  We don’t.   Is it our pride?  Our ignorance?  Our apathy?  I dunno.  But we carry this contradiction and guilt with us.  We carry the burden of wishing and wanting to somehow be different, act better.  Or the burden of guilt, for what we have done.

With great irony and perhaps even a touch of humor in my ears, that we hear Jesus say, 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.”  This is among the verses read at an ordination. Usually with some irony and a touch of humor the bishop lets you know you are about to have a great weight placed upon your shoulders.

The stole that a pastor wears symbolizes the yoke that Jesus calls all Christians to wear. A yoke is, of course, a wooden brace that goes around an animal, (I think usually of an ox), that braces it to another animal and then to either a plow or a cart.

The thing about these yokes is that it’s not a solo endeavor and meant to help share the burden.  We don’t just take a yoke upon us, but slide into a spot near a friend, lifting that yoke a bit from where we now stand next to them.  Attaching ourselves to what has them weighed down so that we might stand firm together.   Jesus’ yoke is light ’cause he’s doing all the heavy lifting when we’re yoked with him.  The only catch is we don’t just get to go our own way.  Cause it’s not our yoke.

Christians don’t have magic words to make burdens lighter or pain easier.   We simply stand there next to you holding up a piece of that burden until we can both trust enough to give it to Jesus.  This friend of sinners now invites us to his table – not just eating and drinking with the outcasts and tax-collectors but setting a table for them – a place to sit, rest, and be nourished.


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