Sermon for the 5th Sunday After Pentecost
Updated: Jul 10
Sermon for Pentecost 5 July 5th, 2020 “Come to me all you that are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
At the heart of our readings today, especially this morning’s gospel, lies that familiar image of the yoke, of which Jesus speaks in familiar words that we hear in at least one of our services every Sunday.
A yoke is a device used to tether two things together so that a heavy weight may be carried, or a yoke can be carried on one person’s shoulders alone. A yoke used with pair of oxen allows them to pull a heavy weight together, such as a plow, a yoke used by a human might be used to spread a heavy weight across the shoulders to make it easier to carry.
The yoke that Jesus is talking about in the gospel is symbolic of the burden that he says many are carrying, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest,” that is to say, go to him if you have a yoke on your shoulder – if you are carrying a heavy weight and are weary.
And I think many of us at this time are quite weary. The last three months have been wearying – not tiring, but wearying – when we’re wearied by something we are at the point of almost throwing in the towel. A runner who is wearied is not in need of a rest, but is close to collapsing from exhaustion.
Jesus knows the burdens that we carry, the burdens that weary us day by day.
Maybe that burden is the loneliness and isolation we feel from the last three months, or perhaps it’s chronic pain in your body. Maybe what wearies you is the daily concern you have for the wellbeing of your children, maybe you’re especially worried about them or their life.
Your burden might be financial, wearied by bills and concerns about how you’ll pay them next month. Perhaps your burden is your sin – the things you do though you wish you didn’t, and the things you don’t do but wish you could.
This is the nature of what St. Paul is talking about in his letter to the Romans this morning, the second lesson. Paul is wearied by that experience we all have in our lives, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” Paul is talking about sin, that tendency we all have, just as Paul did, to do the things we shouldn’t do more than we do the things we should.
It doesn’t matter if it’s eating that extra food that we know we’re not supposed to have or saying that thing about our neighbour we know we shouldn’t say. Paul sees that in these moments it is not him who is acting, but sin, “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
And if you doubt that sin is a real part of the experience of being human all you need to do is look around the world, read the news and peer into every corner and in every human heart and you will see that we are all capable of doing wrong, all capable of falling short of living in the way Christ has called us to live – a way of life that is self-giving and self-sacrificial more than it is selfish.
Knowing he is capable of this and knowing he does the things he shouldn’t do is the burden Paul is carrying on his shoulders and bewailing in our text today, and something each and every one of us knows personally. Who of us can say we haven’t, like Paul, known the right path but have been tempted to stray from it?
Paul says it’s like there is a war within us when this happens – there is our heart and mind which knows what’s good, but it wars with the law of our body which demands something else (put simply – it’s like when we stand before the board at the ice cream parlour and wonder whether we should get the double or single scoop – our mind says one thing, our body another).
And Paul ends his thoughts on this today recognizing that he cannot save himself from himself, “who will rescue me,” he asks, “from this body of death?”
Paul’s answer of course is no big secret.
And that answer is that God’s grace is always at work in our lives behind everything we do. No burden we bear, no heavy yoke on our shoulders, ever goes unnoticed. And God offers to us, through Jesus, a chance to let that burden go or rather, to trade one burden for another.
In the Gospel Jesus invites any who carry a burden to come to him. Which means we first must do what can be very difficult and let…go.
Sometimes we cling desperately to our burdens because we are afraid of what will happen if we let go, sometimes our burden is something that we cannot seem to shake ourselves – chronic pain, an addiction, a way of thinking about others. But God, through his Grace, has given us a way to let it go.
“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.”
Finding rest in Jesus is not about shrugging off our burden and letting him do the work so that we can sit back and relax; we must also take another burden upon our shoulders – Jesus’ yoke, the burden and of following him and living according to his teaching. Of being his disciple.
When we choose to follow him and give our life to him. When we let go. He lifts the weight from our shoulders.
When we surrender our lives to him and take up his yoke and follow him, we find a less wearying way out from being ruled by sin and controlled and defined by the burdens we’ve been carrying around all our lives.
And we will find that rather than being heavy, that yoke weighs nothing at all.