An Unexpected Yoke

Kenora St. Alban’s

Proper / Ordinary / Lectionary 14 – Pentecost + 5

Year A

5 July 2020

Zechariah 9:9-12

Psalm 145:8-15

Romans 7:15-25a

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

God of heaven and earth, you reveal your wisdom to the childlike; may we learn from your Son humility of heart, so that we find refreshment and rest even as we shoulder the cross of Christ; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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When we look at the passage from Zechariah, we see the Triumphal Entry of our Lord and Saviour.

We see the answer to the disciples and apostles’ question, “So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”” (Acts 1:6)

And we can also see the passion, crucifixion, and the resurrection all heralded by Zechariah’s words.

Now the interesting part is seeing this prophesy paired with Matthew’s gospel, today, pointing out that humanity is continuously contrary, but God isn’t.

And in this way, we can see Zechariah pointing the way for us to see what Jesus is saying.

Jesus tells us: “16 “But 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.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’;” (Matt 11:16-18)

We want what we want.

We want what the advertisers tell us we cant live without.

And we often want not what we need, but rather what we desire.

We desire the coming of Christ, but we can’t seem to see the fulfillment of that realization, in the face of what our imaginations strive to flesh out.

John came to the people of God, the people of Israel, and his lifestyle as a Nazarene forbade the consumption of alcohol, or to cut his hair.

His appearance would have been equivalent to that of someone who lives without the benefit of a home with a working bath. He would have been darker tanned than the average citizen and a diet of locusts and honey isn’t the easiest to either harvest or to consume without mess and bee stings.

Yet the people saw what they wanted to see, instead of the messenger God had chosen from before his conception.

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.” (Matt 11:18)

But the fickleness of our hearts doesn’t end there. We hit the exact opposite of our impressions of John when Jesus arrives.

19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Matt 11:19a)

We just can’t decide what God’s involvement in our lives should look like, and this has been the hallmark of human divine interaction since the beginning.

When the Israelites cried out to God, to be freed from slavery, in Egypt, they didn’t see their guide to salvation in Moses.

When the exiles ended, who envisioned what life after exile would look like, and did that match what Nehemiah and Ezra delivered?

When Zechariah prophesied, “11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
    I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
    today I declare that I will restore to you double.” who envisioned John as God’s messenger, and Jesus as the fulfillment of prophesy? (Zech  9:11-12)

Yet, God sill looks out for us, opens paths for us, doesn’t let our own perceptions of things hold us back from receiving the love and grace of God.

Jesus says “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

(Matt 11:19b)

God continues to look out for us, and provide us with the teachers and guides we need, not what we expect.

And in this, then, neither Zechariah, John, or Jesus disappoint. Rather they all continue to be what God has called them, what God calls each one of us to be: leaders, examples, teachers, proclaimers, and those who point the way, still, today.

And in this, then Jesus offers himself as an example. He offers his own experiences to help us on the way.

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” (Matt 11:28-30)

And when what we see, what we do in the name of Christ fails to live up to our own expectations and the levels of excellence established by our imaginations, we still have Christ.

He’s still in our corner, no matter how many times we go looking for a better coach. He’s still there, offering to lead us, teach us, walk side by side with us, especially in times of turmoil.

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

Jesus knows what its like to be so bone weary that we don’t know what to do next, even when the next thing is to put up our feet and just enjoy a hot chocolate, or these days, a great ice cream cone.  

Jesus knows what it is that we’re experiencing, right down to our feelings of inadequacy at the tasks set before us, in this the ‘new normal.’

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. After all, God didn’t stop using Moses as their guide from slavery to freedom, from Egypt to the Promised Land, even though that took 40 years, and had enough set backs to fill two books of the bible!

God didn’t leave the people in exile, to the Babylonians or the Persians. Rather he encouraged the prophets to prepare for their return, and to make sure that all was ready, as happened with Ezra and Nehemiah, so that when the people were permitted to return home, all was as prepared as could be, when the people arrived. And here we find two more books of the bible.

So, we can return to Jesus teachings, to his lament that we really don’t know what we’re looking at, what we’re looking for, although our hearts continue to yearn for the divine.

Jesus tells us: “29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” (Matt 11:29-30)

And here we are, today.

We’re still in the midst of the stress and confusion of Covid – 19 restrictions, all intended to help us help medical officials to not just prevent the spread of the disease, but to give researchers time to find a vaccination.

And its exhausting!

The world has known about this virus since before Christmas, and at each step we’ve hoped that it would be contained and die out before it has a chance to spread. Yet spread it did, and does.

As it spread, so did rumour, innuendo, and accusations that other nations, and other health authorities didn’t do their job well enough to stop this disease.

And here we are, six months into this year, and still struggling to understand the long-term implications of a disease for which scientists and researchers struggle to find a way to vaccinate, and control, if not immediately eradicate.

But this isn’t the first time the world has experienced such conditions, and in the history of the world, it’s likely it won’t be the last.

And yet, we’re able to return, encouraged to return, time and again, to the gospels, to the prophets, to the books of the bible for strength, and for encouragement as we seek to be there for others, even if its at a distance. Even if we have to maintain physical distancing, and other restrictions.

Today, Zechariah reminds us, with hope that “his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.

11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
    I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
    today I declare that I will restore to you double.” (Zech 9:10b-12)

And Matthew tells us, once again: “wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” … “28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

(Matt 11:19b, 28-30)

Because tomorrow is a brand-new day. It’s a day filled with God’s love, God’s encouragement, God’s wisdom, and God’s hope, for each one of us, and for all of creation.

Amen. 

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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