The 3rd Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 9A (July 3, 2011)

LessonsZechariah 9:9-12 Psalm 145:8-14 (8) Romans 7:15-25a St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Semicontinuous Series Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 Psalm 45:10-17 (7) or Song of Solomon 2:8-13

Prayer of the Day You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised. You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

11:16 “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.”

11:25 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.”

St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

WWJHUC

Not long ago WWJD bracelets were all the rage. “What would Jesus do?” was the question at hand. It was a call to ethical faithfulness. These bracelets had their critics, but the intent was honest: in every situation, the bearer of the bracelet was encouraged to imagine what Jesus would do, and then to emulate that as faithfully as possible.

Now I am imagining another bracelet: one that bears the letters WWJHUC: “What would Jesus have us carry?” In this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus assures his followers that true rest can be found in him. To those who carry heavy burdens, it is in him that they find rest for their souls, “for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Yet in just a couple of chapters, we will hear Jesus declare that all of his followers must be willing to carry a cross for him (the weighty instrument of horrific torture preferred by the Roman government): “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” [St. Matthew 16:24-25]

So what is it? Do followers of Jesus find that the life of Christian faithfulness is one of rest, shouldering an easy and light burden? Or do they find that the Christian walk is fraught with danger, pain and difficulty; akin to carrying the heavy cross beam of a Roman cross?

The answer is not one or the other, of course. (You knew that was coming, didn’t you?) The answer is not even that some of us receive rest, while others of us are called to give our lives in service of the Gospel. Perhaps Jesus is, here, carrying out the classic form of ministry that God’s prophets engaged: “comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable.”

There are times when we are bone weary from our faithfulness. Times when we can hardly take another step. Times when we wonder if what God has called us to is just too much. In those times, our souls cry out for rest, and they find their answer in the easy yoke and light burden of Christ. We enter into his presence, are healed and strengthened, and find that we then have resources needed to carry on for another day.

There are also times when life is relatively easy. Times when we are tempted to rock back on our heels and relax for a while. In those times, God speaks to us, challenging us to break out of our complacency, and to follow his way of life-giving love and compassion.

What would Jesus have us carry? He would have us carry what it is that we need. In times of difficulty, when we are beaten down, Christ is there with us, and for us, and providing what we need. In times when we are holding back, and not involved in advancing God’s word and work in this world, Christ is there with us, and for us, providing what we need.

Comfort and affliction. A light burden and a sacrificial cross. A Lord who loves us, who has died for us, and who both calls us to faithfulness and provides for us what we need. Thanks be to God for that!

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Who came to Jesus seeking comfort and rest in the first century?
  2. Who came to him, needing to be stirred up and sent out?
  3. What other stories do we remember about when Jesus comforted or afflicted people?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I been in need of comfort? of a challenge?
  2. In what ways has Christ come to me?
  3. How might I touch others, on behalf of Christ, afflicting or comforting them?