July 6, 2014: Why God Doesn’t Fit So Well in our World


Sermon
The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Some thought Jesus is out of touch with religion, reality and the ways of the world. That would be the religious leaders of his day. Many in our day, still think he’s out of touch. Frankly, he is – because of how we try to structure reality. We try to fit God into our ways. And God doesn’t fit. God wants to fit us into God’s world. A lot of people may say otherwise, but don’t want that.

Jesus makes claims he can’t prove. The lowly and needy are impressed with him – not exactly the right stuff to be in touch with the world. He doesn’t always say nice things about everyone. Where I grew up, our mommas taught us, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, then don’t say anything, until they walk away.” Jesus gets in trouble for saying what he thinks, and it doesn’t matter who’s in front of him. Today he says of the religious leaders, “Well, they’re like whiny children playing stupid games.” They thought John the Baptist was too depressing, funeral-like – repent, get forgiven, get baptized. He wouldn’t dance. And Jesus, to them, is a party guy, a glutton and drunkard, who hangs out with undesirables, misfits and sinners down at the local bar. He needs to be more pious. They can’t be satisfied with anybody but themselves.

Jesus feels a prayer coming on, one he wants us to overhear. Surely God already knows this. What’s surprising is he’s glad God reveals secrets to “infants,” the little and simple ones in the world’s eyes, and withholds wisdom from the worldly certified wise. Talk like this that gets Jesus killed. The ones the world and religion say don’t count and don’t matter will more likely see who Jesus truly is. That can anger good religious folks who try so hard to be enough – to impress God and each other.

Does God really keep secrets from some, and reveal those secrets to others? Probably not. From what I understand, God wants us all to know the divine ways and bask in His love. Honestly, those at the bottom can be very perceptive and wise. I worked for a short time in my home church before I left for seminary. The church secretary – barely out of her teens, married, with only a high school education – noticed something was amiss with me, besides the usual stuff you’re used to by now. “You must be hurting.” “Why do you say that?” “You try too hard to act funny.” I had been through an awful experience that spring. Some at church knew my story. I hadn’t told her. What would she know? I was a university graduate and she wasn’t. I was headed to graduate studies in religion. The seminary graduates I worked beside were blind to my pain. Only she got it. They had other things to see, I guess. Boy did she teach me an important lesson.

That’s probably why some eagerly take up Jesus’ offer: “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden. I’ll give you rest. Yoke yourself with me. You’ll find rest for your soul. My yoke is easy. My burden is light.” They get it. If you’ve been told, “You’re not enough. God can’t accept you as you are. You don’t belong here,” you hope that’s not all there is. They hear Jesus’ invitation. They believe God does love them as they are. That’s why we as church offer rest to those burdened and broken down by religion and life. We need to let people know Jesus has room under his yoke for us all. These are the ones Jesus cares for and invites. Just because the sign says, “Church,” doesn’t mean that church is yoked and works with Jesus. They may not tell people they don’t matter – they just treat them that way. Jesus invites us to love others, not judge them. And honestly, that’s not always a yoke that is easy and may produce unrest in us, until we finally see and truly learn of him.

All of us are yoked to something. The question is – to what? A Christian minister[1] recently writes how he participates yearly in the National Day of Unplugging, a program to help people recover the Jewish Sabbath rest – and unyoke for a day from iPads, iPods, smartphones, and computers. Ever wonder why you feel burdened, weary, weighed down? Check your yoke. Is it adding more burden and anxiety? To be yoked with Jesus is to bear the burden of being loved just as you are – failing, falling down, messing up, being wrong, and there he waits to pick us back up. It’s called salvation – healing, wholeness, transformation, discovering what has already been given us. We carry the yoke Jesus hands us, not the world. His yoke is to know, “You are my beloved. Now go live with others as I do – serving, loving and forgiving.” And when we finally get that yoke into us – we understand what is wise. We see how foolish worldly wisdom can be, and out of step in God’s reign, where God’s rest doesn’t fit with the world’s agenda for us.

Jesus doesn’t impose his yoke. He lets us choose. The only penalty is the one we inflict on ourselves. His ways are gentle. His offer is – well, an offer. That’s why we invite others to him, not force, guilt or shame them.

What is Jesus’ yoke? You are God’s beloved, and he will carry us through the good and difficult times, if we ask. He’s always beside us, and over time, we slowly learn him, where he is. Strive for what matters to God. Learn of Jesus. And pray for the humility to ask Jesus to open our eyes, and see what others commonly don’t yet see – that we are all – have been, and ever will be one in God, salvation freely given for all. Once we learn of him, our eyes open to God’s reign, we have a new story to share. That’s truly – amazing – God’s grace.

His yoke is easy, his burden is light. God offers us the rest that comes from trusting we are always safe – because we are forever held in God’s hands – and because of that, we rest it the Lord, and all is well – more “well” than we can ever imagine.



[1] The Rev. Keith Anderson, “When Freedom Becomes a Burden,” Day 1, July 2, 2014.

 

 


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