Take a moment to read Matthew 11:25-30. At the end of this sermon is the prayer I offered for today.
I love in the gospels when Jesus is just so Jesus. Our scripture for today is one of those times. His teachings in this passage are just so Jesus. He defies conventions and overturn norms, he confront and challenge us.
In the sayings for this morning Jesus talks about those who get it, those who are open enough and humble enough to hear his teachings, to take them in and let them transform their hearts from the inside out.
The challenge here though is to make sure we hear what he is saying, who he is actually addressing and to make sure we don’t assume right off the bat that we are the ones who get it.
I think it’s important as followers of Jesus to remember that we aren’t always right, we aren’t always the ones who know all the answers, sometimes we need to remember that the disciples in the gospels are more often the ones who make a mess out of things.
So on this Fourth of July weekend I want to talk just a little bit about why Jesus is all about losers and about his yoke.
So in our world, we love winners. I remember watching the Olympics a few years ago. I love the competition and the stories, the dedication and the perseverance, but most of all I love the medal count. Which country is winning the most medals. That’s the best part. I love winners. I mean lets be real, I love the underdog story and the David vs. Goliath story because of the moment of triumph when the underdog does it, they defeat the heavily favored opponent.
I think that’s one of the reasons that I struggle to read the gospels through the lens of Jesus. Because Jesus is constantly challenging this mindset that I have within me. He is constantly looking to the margins and on the outside, he is always looking out for the forgotten and those who have been ignored, Jesus is constantly lifting up the downtrodden and the lowly. Jesus is always shinning a spotlight on losers and outcasts.
In this text we see that Jesus is doing it again, he is just being so Jesus.
He says, ‘I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them in infants.’
This is not an anti-intellectual statement. Jesus isn’t saying that learning or education is wrong and that we should be skeptical of persons or institutions of learning, no that’s not what he is getting at. But what Jesus is saying is that we should carry a spiritual posture of humility, radical trust and an openness to instruction. In other words for us to recognize that we are still growing, still changing, God is still revealing new truths to us.
See infants are radically dependent upon their caregivers, they are in this state of pure in-take, they are constantly taking in the world, in all its beauty and pain, they are growing and changing and being transformed.
This is a spiritual posture, a spiritual practice Jesus is calling us to. This is something we can take into our day and our week. A spiritual practice of wanting to listen and grow.
And then Jesus calls out to all those of the fringes, those who know what it’s like to just be exhausted, like bone tired,
The single parent who is working three jobs to make ends meet, doing their best for their kids
The addict in detox who is finally hit bottom, trying to work the program this time, filled with shame and darkness
The person on unemployment during a pandemic, trying to look for a new job in an economy that just isn’t hiring, job prospects which are diminishing and support which is waning
Jesus calls out to all those who aren’t winning, those who feel like they just can’t get it right, all those who walk with a limp.
He draws them in close.
‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, I will give you rest.’
I will give you rest. Rest for your souls. A complete rest. A holy rest.
Then he says, ‘take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble at heart and you will find rest for your souls.’
That yoke is am image that is deeply agrarian. Maybe you all know it but I know years ago I needed to look up what a yoke is. A yoke is that big wooden cross piece which ties animals together in their work. My stole is in fact a symbol of a yoke. I am yoked to the church, yoked to Jesus.
It is an interesting image for us to reflect on especially this weekend as we celebrate 4th of July and we reflect on freedom.
The yoke is a symbol of being tied to Jesus, being bond in Jesus and yet in this passage it is in fact an image of peace and comfort and rest.
I want to end by talking a little bit about the difference between freedom as we think about it in our society and the freedom which comes from Jesus.
A Franciscan mystic named Richard Rohr once said “our deepest freedom rests not in our freedom to do what we want to do, but rather in our freedom to become who God wills us to be.” Heard this paraphrased once, I used to think freedom was getting to do what I want now I know true freedom is wanting to do what I must.
So let me give you an example of how I thought about freedom. I used to think that freedom meant endless choice, endless ability to choose exactly what I want when I want it, to customize my life.
But I’ve learned that this freedom of unlimited choice isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
I remember once I had the afternoon to myself, and I thought, I’d like to watch a new show or maybe a movie, maybe I’ll just go onto Netflix and see what they have to watch. Then I started browsing, and browsing. More options than any previous generation of human beings which has ever existed to watch whatever I wanted to watch. I just kept scrolling and scrolling. I couldn’t choose. Nothing could satisfy. I ended up browsing for way too long and then I just got upset and frustrated and gave up.
Endless choice, freedom to do exactly what I wanted and it didn’t satisfy, or give rest to my soul.
But Jesus says that if we take his yoke upon ourselves, if we commit to living a Jesus centered life and practicing a Jesus centered spirituality, if we commit to dying to ourself in order that we can live to God’s grace, we get the chance to live a life which is rich and fully and whole and wholly satisfying to our very being. If we are willing to give instead of receive, if we are willing to love instead of being loved, if we are willing to forgive instead of seeking forgiveness, if we are willing to listen instead of speak, if we are willing to get outside ourselves and see through the lens of Jesus, we will start to yearn and long for living life yoked to him, true freedom, the alignment of our heart with God’s heart.
This season, may we seek the freedom which comes from doing what we must, following the way of love, abandoning the way of the self, seeking the good of our neighbors.
God of unconditional love,
you breathed into us the breath of life and created us in your image, the image of love. Love requires freedom of agency, freedom of being, it is never coercive but it is patient and kind. We give you thanks this day for the freedom we have in your church, the freedom we have in Christ Jesus who frees us from the life of the self-turned in and empowers us to live a life of deep discipleship following him above all.
On this weekend we pray for our country and ask that you would mend and heal our country. We pray for those person for whom freedom is still but a hope and a dream, we pray for the homeless poor in our city, for all experiencing persecution, we pray for those who are out in our neighborhood working for the common good- all who offer themselves in love for building a better world.
This day we pray for persons in service to our country, who guard and protect our freedom, especially those who are in harm’s way. Protect all in need and guide our country that we might seek and live into our highest ideals and guide our country to work for a lasting peace.
We pray for all who are sick in body, in mind and in spirit. We pray for the weary and the exhausted, for the downtrodden, for those who can’t catch a break. We pray for all who have contracted COVID 19, especially praying for those in our country and our Zip code. We pray for doctors, nurses, and all workers who are providing care for the infirmed. Grant healing and wholeness by the power of your Spirit.
We pray all of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, your grace and love embodied, Jesus who called to the weary and the exhausted and offered his rest, Jesus who calls us to pray together as we say silently or softly this prayer-