the one about the yoke..
July 10, 2017, 8:57 AM

Sermon from July 9, 2017

Text: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
          Romans 7:15-25a
          Zechariah 9:9-12

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

So, I’m going to ask for honest answers here – who here has ever scoffed at those words? Lord, I love you – I mean it – but, I think we need to understand what we both think are ‘easy’ and ‘light’ because I’m not sure you and I are on the same page here.

So much of what we do is burdensome to us at times. We’re weighed down. Moving from one place to another at a frenetic pace. Sure, its summer, but it seems like things shifted gears.

Deaths. Grievances. News of the world. All that coupled with wanting to move in directions that others don’t. Whether it be in the community here, or Newberry itself, in your family, in our country.

Many times, it seems like the yoke that has been placed around us is the furthest from what anyone would call ‘easy.’ The burdens that we haul seem monumental at times.

No matter where we go and move and live out our lives of faith, someone is always going to take objection, it seems like we might have to move mountains (and potentially physically undertake that venture) in order for things to be done.

We have a sense – much like we talked about last week – if we don’t struggle in it, then we’re not really doing anything worthwhile. Nothing good ever came from something easy.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Here’s the thing about a yoke at this time and even our time today. They didn’t just hastily carve any ol’ piece of wood and throw it on an oxen’s shoulders. No. They measured. They scaled. They intricately adjusted the yoke and all the ropes attaching it to the wagon or plow. There was thought and intent placed into the device to yield work in the field. It isn’t just any yoke – it’s that animal’s yoke. Specifically designed for one. That yoke is easy. With that ‘easy’ yoke, the burden is indeed light.

Here’s the deal. A yoke has been placed upon our shoulders – or at least its been tried. Yet, like Paul writes we continue to do the things that we know we shouldn’t, but we just can’t help it at times. We begrudgingly and stubbornly pull upon the loads in our life because we feel that we have to.

We’ve got to do it this way because we’ve always done it that way. We have to stay in this box because we’ve always been here. We have to use these words because that’s what was taught to us.

This weekend we hosted a funeral here at Redeemer. As a church, that isn’t uncommon. Funerals happen. Yet, this one was a little different. It wasn’t a member of the church. It involves a family whose faith tradition in the Body of Christ is much different from our own.

When first approached with the prospect of being the place to gather for this service – I balked.

If you have it here, it has to be done sort of this way. I have to be involved – I’m the pastor so it makes sense.

Yet, the more I stubbornly placed that yoke upon me, the heavier and heavier the burden seemed. I started questioning; if I can’t feel comfortable with this – are we the place for this family to gather and mourn?

I took a step back. I talked with some friends and trusted colleagues, I spoke with those in leadership here at Redeemer. In many ways, more subtle than direct – the question brought up the most was, “Whose yoke are you wearing?”

This is a family that needed to grieve. Needed to mourn. Needed to gather. Let them. Don’t get bogged down with the traditions we’ve created. Have faith. Trust.

So, I did. So, we did.

When at first it was – ‘you can come here, if…’ it quickly became ‘you can come here, so that…’

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

My role – Redeemer’s role – wasn’t to welcome and insist on our own way, but to welcome and to be with. Come, use our space. Mourn. Gather. Worship.

That burden was light – and it wasn’t just because I didn’t have to have the ‘burden’ of leading a funeral service.

But, the burden was light because I was able to wear the yoke that God and our Lord have placed on all our shoulders, the one crafted for each of us so that we might live into the life of faith and hold and care for the person before us.

What might our lives as a whole look like if we could put down the yokes that we struggle to place on our shoulders and instead wear the yoke that has been crafted for each of us?

What if we acknowledged as St. Paul does in his letter to the Romans that we at times are our own worst enemies when it comes to living the life of faith? Where though we know what God has created us for and where we know what God might be calling us to be in that moment – caring, loving, gracious, and forgiving – yet, we insist on our own way. The way we know to be wrong. The way we know to be of sin.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Jesus calls us to wear the yoke that he offers, in the words of Zechariah, that sounds and looks a lot like ‘prisoners of hope.’

Wear the yoke, the mantle placed on your shoulders. That mantle that boxes us in hope for one another and hope for the world.

That’s a life whose burdens are light. A life lived in hope in such a way that you cannot escape from those loving, releasing, and charitable words. Rejoice in that life.

Rejoice not in the life that we force ourselves into. The life where we have to do things a certain way, but rejoice in the life that God has created us for.

That life of hope and faith.

There is one final thing specific to what it means to wear a yoke. A yoke – for the most part – doesn’t involve just one animal. Two or more animals are yoked together. That yoke is crafted not only to be worn by a specific animal, but a pair. And the one who we are yoked to is not only one another, but Christ himself.

We are yoked with God not to struggle alone, but to work in life, faith, and ministry together. Each of us is yoked to one another and to the one who has crafted that mantle that lays not only upon our shoulders, but faithfully placed upon the crafter’s shoulders as well.

That’s amazing. That’s relief. That’s what it means to be a prisoner of hope.

Knowing that we aren’t in this alone. We are in this together – not only with one another as we plow and harvest the field of faith before us, but we are yoked to the one who has sent us out into the world. We are all in this together.

It won’t always be easy – Jesus has been telling us that and even alludes to it today as he describes both himself and John the Baptist as being ones who proclaim God to the world. Though, they do it in completely different ways. And still people would rag on them and attempt to drag them down into the fields.

Yet, the yoke they wear is the one that God had placed upon their shoulders – the one that was light for them. God places the yoke – our yoke – so that we might and are able to live into and live out the life of faith that we are called towards. Then God places that yoke upon God’s own shoulders. The burden is ‘light’ because we don’t pull it alone.

Wear the yoke that God offers to each of us. It just might not be the one that you’re forcing yourself to bear.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Amen.

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