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Yokes & Burdens

Matthew 11:16-18, 25-30


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Hymn # 8 Eternal Father, Strong to Save

Prayer of Invocation

O gracious and holy God, give us diligence to seek you, wisdom to perceive you, and patience to wait for you. Grant us, O God, a mind to meditate on you, eyes to behold you, ears to listen for your Word, a heart to love you, and a life to proclaim you, through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Call to Confession

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

Prayer of Confession

Almighty God, we confess how hard it is to be your people. You have called us to be the church, to continue the mission of Jesus Christ to our lonely and confused world. Yet we acknowledge we are more apathetic than active, isolated than involved, callous than compassionate, obstinate than obedient, legalistic than loving. Gracious Lord, have mercy upon us and forgive our sins.

Remove the obstacles preventing us from being your representatives to a broken world. Awaken our hearts to the promised gift of your indwelling Spirit. This we pray in Jesus’ powerful name. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah said: “I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.” Know that we are forgiven.

Passing of the Peace

Minute for Mission: Sandra Whitehill

Prayer for Illumination

Lord God, let the words of your servant’s mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and Redeemer. Through Christ. Amen.

Matthew 11:16-18, 25-30

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’; 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!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

25 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; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 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.

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.”

Sermon: Yokes and Burdens

Good morning. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been pushing on all of you pretty hard. We’ve had some difficult messages: stewardship, racial reconciliation, privilege, and other uncomfortable conversations. This morning, I want to point out all the hopeful signs I see in our congregation. I believe you’ve all been doing a lot of great work taking care of one another during this pandemic. I think you’ve been busy being the church in a really strange time.

Speaking of strange, the first part of our reading from the Gospel of Matthew is a little strange, too. To put it another way, Jesus doesn’t exactly make sense. Why is he going on about crowds and marketplaces, flutes and dancing?

Jesus is speaking to a crowd of people, and crowds are very important in the gospels. Any time that Jesus is speaking to a crowd, he is speaking to everyone, including us. In this case, Jesus is rebuking the people for not receiving him or for receiving the message of repentance that was offered by John the Baptist. Specifically, the crowd is that generation of people who have heard John’s message; they have also heard Jesus and seen His miracles, yet they have not come to believe.

And why not? Because neither John the Baptist nor Jesus the Christ fit the image that the people expected. This is what Jesus means when he says:

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 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!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

Jesus is calling out the people of that generation for not receiving the message, because they didn’t like the messengers. John the Baptist was too crazy, too radical, so the people could dismiss John’s message. In the same way, they could dismiss Jesus because he hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors, lepers and all of the undesirable people of Judean society. Jesus couldn’t possibly have been pure enough to be the Messiah; they didn’t have to listen to him.

Jesus could be dismissed in the same way that we dismiss stories from news outlets that we don’t like, or people whose politics we disagree with. And this is a real problem for us if we are to live into Jesus’ call to be disciples, and then to go out and make disciples of others. Our pews aren’t overflowing with new disciples.

Making new disciples seems like an overwhelming task.

It seems overwhelming in a society where the institutional church has lost its cultural status.

It seems overwhelming in a community where youth sports and activities are more important than worship on a Sunday morning.

It seems overwhelming when we realize how many people have stopped coming to worship, whatever their reasons may be.

It seems overwhelming when we can’t worship together in the same space, in the way that we always have.

And it truly seems overwhelming when we name all of these challenges. We grow weary. We’re exhausted by the very idea of all the work that we’re called to do. The problem is that we are focused on the task, rather than our identity in Christ. As Christians, we are called to be disciples and to make disciples. As disciples, we are called to participate in Christ’s work of reconciliation. This work comes to us only through our relationship, and that’s important. Jesus tells us:

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.”

Those heavy burdens may be poor health or poverty. The burdens can be our own personal politics or ideology—anything that separates us or cuts us off from one another. Jesus can lift these burdens from us, but we must be willing and able to learn from him, and then teach what we’ve learned to others.[1]

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II echoes this call. Dr. Nelson is the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. In a sermon entitled “When Our Backs Are Against the Wall,” Nelson challenged the congregation by asking an uncomfortable question:

Who have you told about Jesus Christ lately? Our faith ought not to be personal but used to help others along the way. We must remind everyone that every day we have, every joy, every pain, every sorrow, every struggle belongs to the Lord.[2]

This is part of the teaching that we are called to do. To do this, we have to engage with people who look different from us, who come from different backgrounds, and who hold different beliefs. We have to listen to their stories, their joys and pains, and we have to accept the truth of their experiences, even if the truths they offer are uncomfortable. We must be willing to see the image of God in everyone we meet.

The rest that Jesus offers is not a break from doing the work of discipleship. Rather, Jesus offers us peace as we do the work.[3] Beloved, I am proud of you. I am proud of the ways you have adapted to these weird times. At the beginning of the shelter-in-place order, the Elders and the Deacons came together to take on the task of keeping everyone connected.

Also, a new prayer group has been established, to make sure that we are lifting up all of this congregation’s concerns. These are wonderful and positive ways to keep us connected to one another and to share the love of Christ with all.

These two efforts were initiated by the leaders of this congregation. While I was part of the process, I didn’t direct the process. Both of these efforts were driven by individual members of this congregation, leaders who stepped up and responded to Christ’s call. This is the Church, responding to the movement of the Holy Spirit. This shows me that you really get it! The fruit of all your efforts, I hope, will be a more tightly-knit congregation.

Soon, we’re going to gather for a couple of in-person worship services. At the same time, we’ve been released from our shelter-at-home orders—sort of—and we all want to take a vacation. It’s going to be a challenge to maintain the work that we’ve already done. At the same time, we are called to rise to the challenge of telling more people about Jesus Christ.

This feels like a monumental task, an overwhelming burden. But when we work together, as the Church, the yoke is easy and the burden is light. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Hymn # 182 I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say


Prayer of Thanksgiving

We give our thanks through our talents, our time, and our treasure.

Thanks be to God; whose love creates us!

Thanks be to God; whose mercy redeems us!

Thanks be to God; whose grace leads us into the future! Amen.

Prayers of the People

As always, we offer a prayer of thanksgiving—and prayers for health and safety—for all of the helpers out there who are on the front lines of this pandemic. We give thanks for all they do and we pray that God continue to watch over them in this time.

Finally, as cities and states emerge from this time of quarantine, we ask for the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit for all our leaders, as they make difficult decisions about how and when to reopen businesses, schools, and houses of worship. And we pray for wisdom and grace for all of us as we navigate the return to parts of our old routines.

The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn # 354 Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory


Beloved, as you go forth into the world, remember that we are called to cast off the chains that keep us from being in relationship with all of God’s beloved children. So, go forth and be instruments of God’s peace and love and reconciliation. Do not return evil for evil to any person, but know that we are all loved by God, and that we are called to reflect that love to everyone we meet. Go forth and be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, let all God’s children say, Amen!

[1] O. Wesley Allen, Jr. Matthew: Fortress Biblical Preaching Commentaries. Minneapolis: Fortress Press (2013), p. 128. [2] Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, quoted in: Jerry Van Marter, “Stated Clerk tells Big Tent the church is primed for another Reformation,” retrieved from: [3] O. Wesley Allen, p. 128.

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