We’re Fickle Aren’t We 7-6-14

This sermon is based on Matthew 11:16-19,25-30. Jesus has been talking about John the Baptist, and exhibits frustration with the fickle response of the crowds to the different ministry styles of both John and himself.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/were-fickle-arent-we-7-6-14

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here. Be sure to disregard indications to pause and odd punctuation. I have a weird writing style after all.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Sometimes my brain has this strange tendency to not really comprehend certain truths until a couple different coincidental things happen. I can hear something over and over again, and the truth of it just won’t sink it…but then something else happens along the same lines, and suddenly the mental light bulb goes off for me.

For the past couple of months I’ve been hearing ads on the radio as well as seeing them on tv for various political candidates. Various individuals rattling on and on before the final bit of information lets you know that they are running for congress or senate, or for governor, or whatever other races are going on. I hear them, and admittedly, 9 times out of ten the information goes in on ear and right out the other…I hear it…I groan…and then I go right back to whatever else was going on prior to the beginning of the add.

But then on Friday, I was sitting along the parade route here in town, celebrating the 4th of July along with what I estimated to be approximately ¾’s of the population of Pottawattamie County…and a few different people went by in the back of a truck or a car, with a sign indicating that they, too, are running for office. (pause) LIGHT BULB

Lightning might as well have struck my brain…because I had an epiphany…its an election year. (pause) Duh right? Admittedly, I’m been pretty slow on the uptake on that one…but when I stop and think about it, I wonder if maybe that’s a subconscious thing in my mind…protecting me from the aggravation that is politics…or to be more specific, politics during election season.

Admittedly, I’m probably failing in my civic duty, but for the most part I tend to block out these ads, because in the end all they tend to do is irritate me. I’m sure its not true across the board, but the vast majority of ads that I hear or see fail to tell me the slightest thing about the candidate that the ad is supposively supporting…Instead, 99% of the add is simply talking smack about their opponent…tell you…John Q Taxpayer why you shouldn’t vote for the other guy…listing their negative track record…their vices…their failures…and in short…trying to make you scared of them so that you’ll make the obvious choice, and vote for the right person.

And then, more often than I’d like to admit…within the very same block of commercials…you see the opponent doing the very same thing. Funny how that works isn’t it? Now I shouldn’t generalize…I really shouldn’t…but sometimes it really seems like the political ads are a bunch of bickering children…caught up in the normal sibling argument that every parent has heard…he did this…she did that…its not my fault.

And just as those bickering children try to make themselves look good by making the other one look bad, I’ve seen way too many political ads…and so perhaps I’m jaded…but it really seems like they’re just telling us what they think we want to hear…and no one can really make up their minds what they want. (pause)

Now…it should be noted that I’m not trying to be political today…far from it…I have no partisen agenda, so rest easy…I have no plans to sway you in the political realm today. Rather…as I think about the multitude of mudslinging that goes on this time of year, I’m reminded of the apparent issue that Jesus is facing in today’s story.

Admittedly, it starts off a little strange…Jesus has been talking about John the Baptist…who is currently sitting in prison because certain people didn’t like how he conducted himself in his ministry. In short…John irritated the wrong people and now he’s behind bars.

Jesus has been talking about him…and it seems that in the midst of the conversation, Jesus get’s a little exasperated thinking about the results of John’s ministry as well as his own. And he spouts off…to what will I compare this generation? Like children sitting in the marketplaces…children who just can’t get along…children who can’t decide what they want.
HEY…WE PLAYED A FLUTE FOR YOU…BUT DID YOU DANCE? NO. SO WE TRIED SOMETHING ELSE…WE MOURNED…BUT YOU DIDN’T CRY. (pause)

At first this seems a little strange to hear from Jesus…but he goes on. John came, neither eating nor drinking…John went through his ministry…bold…confrontational yes…yet following tradition and the law…and what did you do? You threw him in jail.

And when Jesus came? He tried different tactic…he lived life with those he encountered…you call him a glutton and a drunkard…and WHY? Because he sits down at the table to enjoy a meal with those who welcomed him…because he had a glass of wine? Because he simply celebrated the companionship of the people he was with at that time…and the crowds didn’t like it. (pause)

John and Jesus…two very different men…two very different styles of ministry…and yet the crowds reject them both…just like those jeering children in the marketplace…they can’t make up their mind what they want…and yet…as I think about this…about just how frustrating that must have been for Jesus and for John…and not only but for God himself who had sent both of them to proclaim this good news…as I think about that…the next part of the scripture lesson comes as no great shock as Jesus starts praying…and it really comes across as frustrated.

Father…I thank you…that you have hidden these things from the wise and clever…and revealed them to infants. (pause) Now admittedly, the first time I heard that…it confused me…because you’d think the wise and clever would understand it. The basic truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t that complicated after all…so the wise one should get it right away…but that’s not what happens…and we see just a little bit of why in Jesus’ next few statements…for no one knows the father except the son and the ones that the Son chooses to reveal him too.

And think about it…who’s Jesus going to choose to reveal God to? Those that turn away from him? Those that write him off…scoffing at him…accusing him of simply being a drunk? Or is Jesus going to reveal the truth to those who accept him…which we see in the story seems to be the ones who are likewise rejected…the simple…the lowly…the overlooked…those who have been beat down by the world and all the burdens that come with it.

So maybe…just maybe that’s why we get the strange little transition into the final portion of this scripture…something that at first glance really doesn’t seem to have all that much in common with the first two parts. Come to me…all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens…and I will give you rest.

Sounds hopeful doesn’t it? Like it might just appeal to those that are rejected and downtrodden…those carrying their own burdens…those carrying the weight of the world. When we think about that…it makes sense that they would stop and pay attention…that their ears would perk up just a bit at the teachings of this miracle man named Jesus.

But just when its all starting to make a little sense…Jesus throws out a statement that I fear has turned into something of a Christian cliché. Take my yoke upon you…for my yoke is easy and my burden light. (pause)

When’s the last time anyone saw a yoke? (pause) Anyone here under the age of 35 even know what a yoke is? Well a yoke is a wooden harness, used to hitch two oxen together by laying a big wooden beam over their necks, and connecting a wooden loop up under their throats to the main beam, so that as the two oxen move forward their front shoulder push against the beam which is in turn connected back behind them to some sort of equipment…often a plow or a heavy wagon or something of that nature.

And so, listening to that description…does that sound anything at all like something that would be easy and light? I don’t know…but it doesn’t really sound like, not when the reality sets in. (pause)
Thinking about that reminds me of something that happened last Thursday…I’d put off mowing the lawn for a couple days…and so it was nice and long and thick…I’d made a few laps around the back yard, but still had a lot left to do when all of the sudden the self-propel mechanism stopped working…and suddenly I found myself having to physically push that rather heavy mower around and around again….my first thought was “ahh…its not so bad…I can do this.” But I’ll tell you what…the physical effort that actually went into doing the work…rather than simply walking along behind it…was exhausting…I may have initially thought it would be light and easy…but I quickly discovered the exact opposite.

And so as I think about this analogy that Jesus gives us today…that his yoke is easy and his burden light…I got to admit…I scoff just a little…and I wonder if maybe just maybe you do too. Come to me…all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens. (pause)

Does that hit home with anyone out there? Anyone carrying heavy burdens…anyone got the weight of the world on your shoulder. Bills pilling up…emotions running high…tough times staring you in the face…maybe a lost job or an illness? (pause) We all carry burdens…sometimes they don’t seem so bad…but other times they threaten to drive us into the ground and nothing we do or say or think seems to make difference.

And in those times I think we hear Jesus say take my yoke upon you and it sounds like one more thing…and sometimes…sometimes in the midst of all that stuff, we hear these words from Jesus and they don’t come across as hopeful…instead they come across as a big joke…and we ask the question where are you on all this stuff?

I lost my job…and I feel that pain…I’m facing a terminal diagnosis…and I feel that fear…I lost someone I love and I’m still mourning…where are you on that one Jesus? Because this yoke of yours still feels pretty heavy. (pause)

So what do we do in those times…when the hope that Jesus offers us doesn’t really seem to be easing the pain that we’re feeling…what do we do with that? What we do when Jesus and the salvation of sin that he offers us through his death on the cross doesn’t take away the burden of life? (pause)

Well, in those times, we stop to remember just how a yoke works…and how many animals are in that yoke to begin with. Two…not one…its not one animal acting alone…a yoke takes two…sharing the load…both working hard…both straining…both having to work together to get past the task at hand…neither one of those animals is alone in their experience…and neither…are…we.

Take my yoke upon you…and I will take it upon me as well…and together we will walk through this life…we will walk through this pain…and through this burden…yes you will still experience it…life as a believer in Christ does not take the pain and stress and hurt out of life…but it does offer us the hope of knowing that we have a God that has experienced it as well. We have a God who has entered our reality…experienced the same pain…the same stress…the same hurts that we experience…and this is the same God that chooses to walk beside you while you experience yours…and I believe that when we experience the pain of life…and we mourn the reality…the first being that mourns is God himself…and whether we realize it or not…whether we want to admit it or not…whether we want it or not…he’s there…right beside us.

This is the truth of the gospel…that we have a God that loves us so much that he cannot bear to be apart from us…and since we can’t get to him…he comes to us. We can’t get up there so he comes down here…and this is the truth that is revealed to the lowly ones…this is the truth that is revealed to children…and why to children?

Well…has a child ever asked you a question? You give them the answer…and they don’t think about it…they just say “Ok.” And when a child hears the truth that God loves them and Jesus died for them, they don’t over think it…they don’t try to use their wisdom to explain it away…they just say ok…so maybe that’s why Jesus tells us to become like a child…and accept that he is there with you…in the midst of your burdens…and you are not alone. Amen.

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