Christ Church Gardiner
July 5, 2020
When I read this week’s Gospel in preparation for this sermon, I thought to myself…finally. I get to preach “rest for our souls” and Jesus comforting the weary.
Because don’t we all feel weary these days? We’re living through a pandemic. Through our nation’s reckoning with racial injustice. And a presidential election is heating up that is perhaps the most divisive in history.
Jesus says he wants to give our weary souls rest in today’s Gospel. Those are welcome words.
But also confusing ones. He calls us to take his yoke upon ourselves, a yoke he says is easy and a burden that is light. And he says being yoked to him, that we should learn from him. But what he’s been teaching prior to this speech in Matthew’s Gospel hasn’t been comforting and restful. Instead, his teachings have sounded incredibly demanding. He has instructed us to follow the law, but then to go even further than the requirements of the law in our care and compassion for others. He taught that we are to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and even love our enemies. He warned that “the way,” his way, would be dangerous and would require a willingness, even, to abandon home and family and all earthly security.
So when we think about it that way, the burden and yoke of Jesus doesn’t feel all that light, contrary to today’s Gospel.
But Gospel means “good news.” Where’s the good news in all of this? I needed a little help hearing that good news this week. So I turned to the Methodist preacher, Will Willimon.
And Willimon, writing about this Gospel, this good news, from Matthew, observed something that helped to turn me around. Helped me to see the hopefulness and optimism in this reading. He wrote that we need to remember as Christians, we proclaim not only Jesus as teacher, but Jesus as the Son of God. And then he wrote…and to say that Jesus is the Son of God means, “that Jesus is a window into the way things really are, all the way down deep. The world was really put together with loving forgiveness at its core.”
I think this hit me so profoundly because it made me realize, or maybe just remember, that when God set creation in motion, this created world that we now live in, God’s grace infused it with forgiveness and reconciliation, compassion for the poor and neglected and the outcast, and an embodying love that includes even our enemies.
Which means, even with all of the brokenness that we see around us, we don’t have to put the world together in the right way. God did that. We just have to proclaim what God has already done. We only have to help others to see what is already true.
And I know that believing in and living as if the world was put together with an embodying love, forgiveness, and compassion for others at its core may not come naturally for us. Because the world, as we know it, too often, tells us to protect what is ours, to grasp for wealth and power, and to put our needs and desires above others. And so we cling to a myth that we are independent. We celebrate individualism while forgetting that we were created to be in relationship—interconnected and dependent upon one another and the creation we were made to care for.
The yoke and burden of Jesus is light because it frees us from those lies we tell ourselves. As Will Willimon preaches, “We must take this burden, which ultimately is a blessing, upon our backs. We must bend ourselves toward this very different way of living in the world. [Because] This burden is a blessing. To have the yoke of his love around our necks keeps us moving in the right direction, moving together toward that loving place to which God is drawing us.”
We do not arrive at that loving place to which God is drawing us, however, without brokenness. In our baptism we are plunged into darkness before emerging into the light. And in the Eucharist, Christ’s body is broken before we partake in that which brings us new life.
For many of us, this morning will be the first time that we have actually participated in the Eucharist, Holy Communion, since our church doors were closed in mid-March. And even as we participate in the familiar practice of Holy Communion this morning, Covid cannot be ignored—it has changed the way we do so many things. So rather than me breaking and dispersing the bread—the body of Christ for you, you will break your own bread as I break the bread at the altar. And while that may be different than what we are used to, there’s power in sharing that symbolic movement with you. Our friend and priest, Steve Muncie, said this recently about the breaking of the bread:“the fraction breaks us all open to pass through the brokenness into true communion.”
This morning I invite you to share in the brokenness of the world that we see around us…a world that was just as broken, if not more so, during the time of Jesus. A world that broke his body. we have to allow ourselves to be broken open so that we may pass through that brokenness into new life and true communion with one another and with Christ who places the yoke of his love around our necks to keep us moving together toward that loving place to which God is drawing us. Amen.