Posts Tagged ‘Ministry’

As You Hear It 1-27-19

In this sermon, based on Luke 4:14-21, I explore Jesus’ first public proclamation in Luke’s Gospel. We find a heavy emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit, which guides the ministry that Jesus will do. We are connected to this same ministry by that same Spirit.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/as-you-hear-it-1-27-19

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

The Grace and Peace of our Triune God is yours, now and forever. Amen

Many of you have heard me talk about my fascination with plants…and how amazing I think they are…and how different species of plants do some amazing things.

One of the things that I appreciate about plants…is the way that they tell you when they need water. If you are a gardener you’ve probably noticed this before…when plants get thirsty…they get all wilted.  Granted, some species are better at this than others…but it happens.

There is a scientific reason behind this…something called Turgor Pressure…basically, if the plant has enough water, the fluid inside each cell keeps it nice and rigid…resulting in the plant, and specifically the leaves upright and perky…but on the other hand, if the plant is lacking water…that fluid pressure inside the cells drops, and it flops over.

This happened part way through last week with one of the plants back in my office. I walked in after lunch and noticed the leaves all wilted over and realized it needed water…which I did…and since I had the thought of turgor pressure in the back of my head…I did a little experiment.

I knew I’d be sitting at my desk working for a while, so I pulled out my phone and started a time lapse video that covered roughly 30 minutes’ worth of time over the course of a 20 second video. If you’re interested let me know, because I can show it to you…and its fascinating.

As soon as I turned the camera off I watched the video and plain as day you can see the leaves starting to perk up as the water was drawn up into them.  It was so cool, at least to my plant-nerd brain, that I watched it a couple more times…but the more often I watched it, the more I started seeing other stuff happening in the video…like the clouds moving across the sky in the background…or shadows lengthening and sunlight shifting as the sun moved across the sky…something really clear during one brief portion where my knee is visible in the video.

It was really amazing to see the passage of time sped up like this…and eye opening to realize how our perception of time affects us…things that we don’t even notice are moving…and changing…and its only when we see time as we know it sped up, that we can begin to witness this movement and action.

And its right there that I start to connect into our scripture for today…because there are times when we struggle to notice or see the way that God is working in the world…and perhaps more specifically…that we fail to see the action of the Holy Spirit.

Now maybe it goes without saying…but it seems like the Holy Spirit is the toughest part of our Triune God to figure out.  We hear about it…we think about the Spirit of God in the world…but more often than not we don’t see it…its only shows up physically a couple of times in the scriptures…one of them quite recently in our gospel lessons…and yet, throughout all of this…the Spirit is there.

And I think its safe to say that of the gospels…Luke, not to mention Luke’s follow up of the book of Acts, does the best job of putting the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit’s action on display…and we’ve already seen that through the opening few chapters of Luke.  We hear about the Spirit coming upon the parents of both John the Baptist and Jesus.  We hear about how John is empowered by the Spirit even before he’s born…we hear the Spirit flowing into Elizabeth and Mary…we hear of two faithful witness led by the Spirit into the temple to witness the baby Jesus…we hear of the Spirit physically showing up at Jesus’ baptism…about how it leads him into the wilderness for 40 days…and that following that event, Jesus is still full of the Spirit as he begins his ministry around Galilee…we even hear it quoted from the Prophet Isaiah as Jesus reads in the synagogue…and that’s just the first 4 chapters.

So I think its safe to say…that whatever it is that’s going on here…the Holy Spirit…the Spirit of God…its at work, whether we take notice of it or not.

Now today’s story is an interesting one.  As we continue through Epiphany, focusing in on the ways that Jesus is revealed to the world…here we have Luke’s account of the beginning of Jesus’ intentional public ministry…as he travels around Galilee, preaching and teaching in the synagogues…and that news spreads around…and that he is praised…glorified even…by everyone. Granted we don’t get much in the way of detail here in the first couple of verses…at least until Jesus walks back into his hometown of Nazareth…and apparently continues in the same trend.

It raises the question…what’s so important about this particular situation…Did he volunteer to read and teach, or was he picked…we don’t know…is he preaching about the same passage as in the previous communities…or is Isaiah unique this time around? We don’t know…did he chose Isaiah, or was luck of the draw…again we don’t know. But what we do know is that he chose the specific passage in Isaiah…because he turned to the place where it is written…and what a passage…

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

With that Jesus rolls up the scroll, hands it back, and sits down to start teaching…might seem a little odd but that’s how they did it…and as we hear…every eye is upon him. (pause)
Let me set the stage for you here…because I’ve been to one of these small town synagogues in Galilee.  Its in a big square…with benches lining the walls as well an inner row…Jesus would have been standing in the middle as he read…and then he would have sat on one of those benches…and everyone could see him…the whole structure was maybe 25 or 30 feet across…and he could look everyone in the eye.

Now keep in mind…this was Nazareth…this was his hometown…a tiny backwater community of maybe a couple hundred people…everyone knew everyone…and I can only imagine what was going through their minds as they listened to Jesus…these people who remembered him as a baby and young boy…individuals who were in the caravan when he was 12 and got left in Jerusalem.  People who knew Mary and Joseph…childhood friends of his family. Some who could probably say “dude I changed your diaper 30 years ago” which is a weird thought…but its true.

This is the setting where Jesus talks about the Spirit of the Lord being upon him…and anointing him…empowering him to bring good news of a great reversal…something that sounds an awful lot like what we call the kingdom of heaven.

And initially…everyone seems to like what they hear…as Jesus wraps up the reading and kicks off his teaching by announcing “Today the scripture is fulfilled as you hear it.”  If you’re familiar with the story…his sermon actually stirs up issues and everyone here in his hometown gets cranky to the point of trying to throw him off a cliff…but we’ll save that for next week…and today…we stop with this announcement…this reveal…this epiphany even…that the scriptures have been fulfilled as we hear it. (pause)

Here’s the thing…here in Luke’s gospel…this is the first action of Jesus’ ministry…the other gospels place it a little later…but Luke puts it here…and while these aren’t the first words that Jesus speaks in Luke…they are the first words of his ministry…might as well be his inaugural address…because they line out a pretty solid overview of what his ministry is going to look like.

Good news to the poor…sight to the blind…release to the captives…and even a hint at something they would call the Year of Jubilee…that’s the year of the Lord’s favor that he mentions…and you want to talk about a great reversal…the Jubilee was epitome.

Every 50 years, debts were forgiven.  Land that had been sold or acquired were transferred back to the family of origin. Slaves were freed…which is great news if you’re on the receiving end…but maybe not such great news for those on the other side of it…what if you’re the lender…or the new land owner…or the owner of the slave? Then this news…this reversal…it is going to cost you something isn’t it?

And I can’t help but think that’s important for us to hear…because sometimes the gospel sounds like good news…because we’re the ones who have been oppressed or shoved to the margins…but sometimes we’re also the ones who have benefitted from it…and maybe that good news begins to reveal the cost to us….but you know what, we need to hear that too.

Make no mistake…we are connected to this event as well…it wasn’t a simple proclamation that Jesus made once in his hometown, only to be abandoned and forgotten when he walked away that day…we are connected through the power of the same Holy Spirit which was so active in the background of the gospel…the same spirit which anointed and empowered Jesus in his baptism has done the same for us in ours.

The Spirit is still at work here in the world, even if our perception fails to notice it…and this same spirit connects us all together into the one body of Christ on earth…one body with many members as we hear in 1 Corinthians…we are all gifted and empowered in different ways…both as individuals as well as different congregations and churches and even denominations.  None of us are wired to ministry in the same way…but we are all part of that greater ministry of the church. (pause)

Jesus made this proclamation at the beginning of his ministry…being very clear that in his presence, empowered the Spirit…the scripture is fulfilled…and I believe that today…in our hearing…the same thing is going on…it may go beyond our ability to comprehend…but somehow someway…right now as we hear this…it is being fulfilled and WE are a part of that.

I can’t help but think that with the emphasis on TODAY…we find a sense of urgency…or at least we should…an urgency to follow the guidance…the power…the whisper of the Holy Spirit to us. Now maybe that leads us into the wilderness…or maybe it leads us into Galilee…but it would seem safe to say that the Spirit is leading us join in the same mission of bringing about the great reversal of the Kingdom of Heaven, just as Jesus did through his ministry…through his life…and through his death and resurrection.

Now this is fitting for us to hear today…knowing that in a few minutes many of us will join together in the work of the Annual meeting…as we consider the year that has been and the year that will be…as we consider our budget and how we support the operation of this place…as well as the ministry that we do out there in the community and the world.

And so I pose this question…Where is the Spirit leading us today?  I can’t answer that for you…but it is my prayer that we are listening together…and that we recognize that we are connected into something much larger than we are…and that we will be brave enough, not only to listen…but then to join in and follow…this is our mission as followers of Christ…because as Jesus tells us…The Spirit of the Lord is upon US…because he has anointed US to bring good news…

Today, this is fulfilled as YOU hear it. Amen

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Quit Working So Hard 7-17-16

In this sermon, based on Luke 10:38-42, I explore Jesus’ encounter with Mary and Martha, two sisters who represent both sides of the coin in our lives of faith.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/quit-working-so-hard-7-17-16

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

We moved from the Okoboji area up to the Twin Cities during the last couple of days of 2010…and so by the time of the Super Bowl in 2011, we’d only been living there for a month or so. For the most part, we didn’t know a whole lot of people up that way yet…with about our only built in community consisting of a couple of my wife’s cousins…and my uncle and his three kids.

As it turned out, my uncle invited us over to his house to watch the big game…and since we didn’t have any other plans, that’s what we figured on and so…on game day, late afternoon, we headed on over…now just a touch of back story…my uncle had recently been widowed, so hosting duties fell squarely on his shoulders that day…and let me tell you…he did not disappoint.

We walked in to find a spread of all sorts of different game time food including a bunch of different appetizers as well as some pretty darn good chili…not to mention the house was spotless…he had been busy.

But I still remember when we sat down, just in time for kickoff, my uncle let out a big old sigh and said “Wow…all this cooking and cleaning to get ready by myself…it’s a lot of work.” And I’m sure it was…it reminds me of the gradual change that we’ve undergone in recent years when we find ourselves preparing for guests coming over…particularly when the guests are family.

Gone are the days of making sure that the house is utterly spotless…because when we stop and think about it…all those extra people are going to get it messy…and then you promptly have to pick it all up again…and because of this, my wife and I have adopted a slightly different approach…bathroom and floors…namely we do clean the bathrooms and we run a broom across the floor…but that’s it…the major cleaning will happen after everyone else is gone.

Now I bring this up, because our gospel story features the same sort of deal…just like my uncle going all out to prepare for his role as host…with all sorts of food and a spotless house…just for us to sit and watch a football game mind you…today we hear that Jesus enters a village and is welcomed into the home of Martha…who turns into a major busy-body…all while her sister takes a load off, sitting at Jesus feet as he talks.

I can only imagine that Martha takes the same sort of approach…strapping on her apron and cooking up a storm…grabbing a broom…dusting spray, window cleaner…toilet bowl cleaner…washing the rugs, pulling out new bedding in the guest room…etc…etc…etc.

Okay, so maybe I went overboard there…but as we hear in the story…I’m not the only one…because Martha quite literally, goes overboard as well…and even though we don’t know exactly what’s she’s doing…we know she’s busy…so busy in fact that she was worried and stressed and completely absorbed in so many different things all at once, that she likely wasn’t accomplishing any of them overly well.

But you know what…I don’t really blame her…because she was in the mode of making sure absolutely everything got done that was expected…even if it was really needed. (pause) I think a lot of us have that tendency don’t we…the tendency to go overboard, trying to check everything off the list so that we can finally sit down and relax…all the while our guests…probably would rather that we just sit down and relax in the first place.

But that’s not what happens is it? (pause) Jesus has entered the house and is sitting there engaging with whoever else is there…and Martha keeps jumping from task to task…all the while getting more and more irritated because someone else is there who isn’t doing what’s expected of them…Mary…get off your keister and come help me.
But Mary ignores her…instead paying attention to the Lord…listening to his words…and Martha gets more and more irritated…and I don’t blame her…been there done that…who among us hasn’t had a time when they were doing task after task, and someone else just sits there…refusing to pitch in and do their share…doesn’t that drive you nuts when that happens? Doesn’t matter who it is…a coworker…a buddy…your kids…your spouse…they sit there, either intentionally ignoring you…or possibly just oblivious to the fact that you could use a hand.

No wonder Martha eventually got angry enough that she snarked off at Jesus…LORD…DON’T YOU CARE THAT MY SISTER HAS LEFT ME TO DO ALL THE WORK…TELL HER TO HELP ME!!!! (pause)
Now I have to admit…Jesus reaction in this story…it catches me just a little off guard…but maybe it shouldn’t…because he’s calling it like it is…Martha…Martha…you are worried and distracted by many things…there is need for only one…Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her. (pause)

The reaction of Jesus gives me pause…mainly because of what we have just hear from him. Directly before this passage, Jesus shares the parable of the Good Samaritan…offering the lesson that as followers of Christ…we are called to be servants…to meet the needs of those that we encounter…Jesus himself tells us that he has come among us as a servant and instructed us to do likewise….so when Martha is so passionately trying to meet the needs of her guests…why is it that Jesus gives her this gentle rebuke? (pause)
All too often when we hear this passage…I fear that it’s a common reaction that we demonize Martha…that we paint her with a portrait of the tyrant older sister…the strict one who cares more about appearances and rules and expectations than she does about anything else…and at the same time, we think of Mary as having it all together…being the image of the perfect Christ follower…and when we do that…we are doing a disservice to Martha.

In truth, I think that Mary and Martha represent two sides of the same coin…how do we respond to the Lord…or perhaps a way for us to think about it today, is how do we respond to one who brings the good news…because isn’t that what Jesus must have been sharing as he sat there in Martha’s house? Isn’t that what Mary must have been listening to? (pause)
Now think back to some of the different gospel texts we’ve heard recently…the Good Samaritan and serving our neighbors that I’ve already mentioned…and the mission of the 70, when Jesus sends his followers out to proclaim the good news…and doing so at the mercy of others…utterly dependent upon the hospitality of those that they are proclaiming the good news to.

And so we realize that at times, we are called to serve…and at other times we’re called to listen to the voice of the Lord…both are needed…both are important…and I really realized this as I worked with the original language of this text…and we hear that Martha was so worried and distracted by her many tasks…but the word for that is the same word that we apply to the notion of service or ministry…Martha was distracted by her many ministries…and Jesus tells her…you are doing many things…only one is needed.

Now at first, when I thought about that…picturing Martha cooking a 5 course meal while trying to sweep and dust and wash windows all at the same time…it occurred to me that all Jesus probably needed was for her to pick up a spare cloak off the chair so he could sit down…and maybe she could make him a sandwich…and then come sit down too so they could actually share the time together….but she was so wrapped up in her many acts of service…her many ministries that she wasn’t actually accomplishing any of them…and she was ignoring the voice of the one who simply desired to spend time with her.

I wonder if we do the same…if we get so wrapped up in so many different things that we aren’t doing any of them well…and I wonder if this is the case in the church…we do a lot here at Underwood…and there are a lot of other churches that do a lot as well…and the greater church…we have so many ministries going on at any given time, I wonder if we are actually accomplishing that which is needed…which is often quite simple…Preach the gospel, share the sacraments, and announce the forgiveness of sins…that’s what the church is called to do…and in the mean time, we’re called to sit at the feet of our Lord…time well spent…time that shapes us…that helps us grow…a time that we could call Sabbath.

Now just what this looks like is different from person to person, and even from time to time…There is no rule book for Sabbath…God just tells us to keep it Holy…to realize that Sabbath is a way and a time that we encounter the Lord…perhaps its time spent in the word…or maybe its time we spend gathered in community here in worship…or maybe its time spent praying…or maybe, just maybe, its like when you’re sitting around with your buddied with no agenda…and someone says “What do you want to do?” And someone else says “I dunno…what do you want to do?” And so you just sit there drinking coffee and having a conversation about nothing…and then at some point you realize that this is some of the most relaxing wonderful time that you’ve ever spent together. (pause)

I think that’s the point that Jesus is trying to make today…when he gently calls Martha’s name twice…because maybe the first time she didn’t hear him…and he needed to call her again….Martha…calm down…you don’t have to do all that…all I need is a sandwich and place to sit down…and then we can spend time together.

Now granted…we don’t know just what happens…because the story cuts off here and Luke takes the narrative in a different direction…but I’d like to think that once Jesus finally gets Martha’s attention…that she stops…and she takes off her apron…and she puts down her broom…and she pulls up a chair beside her sister…content simply to spend time with the one who is willing to call her by name…just as he is willing to call each of us by name.

May we remember to slow down…and to stop trying to do everything…when only one thing is needed…you have been empowered by the Holy Spirit with gifts for the kingdom…and that is wonderful…and yes we are called to use them…but sometimes simply doing that one thing is enough…so that we still have time to listen the voice of the one who calls our name…and we can simply be content to ask the Lord “So what do you want to do?” and maybe in that instance, the Lord will simply reply “I dunno…what do you want to do?” (take a drink of coffee) Maybe we should just do this for awhile.   Amen.

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.