Tuesday, 1 July 2014

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”: a sermon (Matthew 11: 16-19. 25-30)

Jesus said, “… my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Do we really believe this?

Jesus said, “… my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

There are many people who do not believe this.

Jesus said, “… my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

There are many people who will try to tell us otherwise.  Some are people outside the Christian faith, while others are within the Christian faith.

Firstly, there are some people outside the Christian faith – and, for that matter, usually outside the life of any faith – who believe they have a solemn duty to tell those of us who practice the Christian faith – or, for that matter, those who practice any faith – just how stupid we are.

And, you know, doing this is an easy way for any person with a second-rate or even a third-rate mind to develop a reputation as a cutting-edge “public intellectual”:  just “have a go” at religion. 

It’s almost as if they’re told something like this:

Pick a religion – pick any religion – and rant against it.  It’s an easy way to get your views in print in the paper.  You may even get to do a few TV documentaries like Richard Dawkins.

Of course, you’ll get more people to notice your ranting if you pick a faith to rant against that actually has a lot of adherents in the area where you live.  Pick a large target. 

Normally, pick out a few old facts from way back in the “bad old days” and act as if they’re still the case.  For example, you can talk about the way couples in a “mixed marriage” were treated by their churches and their families back in the “bad old days”, not how they’re treated today.

And, in all of this, talk about how faith and religion is a “burden” that people need to be “liberated” from.

You know the routine. 

I’m sure we all can think of many media figures who follow this pattern, many of whom can be very intelligent and reasonable when you get them off the topic of religion.

But, when they get onto their religion hobby-horse, they will argue with Jesus’ words, “… my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  For them, Christianity – and any other faith – is, by definition, an uneasy yoke and a heavy burden, from which people need to be liberated.

Still, Jesus said, “… my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

And then, there are others as well.  There are people within Christianity who believe that the Christian faith needs to be an uneasy yoke and a heavy burden.  They say that those of us who do not treat our faith as an uneasy yoke or a heavy burden simply don’t get it.

There are those who make the Christian faith an uneasy yoke and a heavy burden in the area of beliefs. 
  • For example, there are some who insist that a Creationist understanding of the beginning of life is the only way a Christian can understand the world’s origins, and that any understanding of the world’s origins other than a literal reading of the first few chapters of Genesis sells our faith short.
  • There are some who emphasise a doctrine of blood sacrifice as the only way we can make sense of the crucifixion of Jesus, and they act as if those of us who understand the crucifixion in other ways are denying the significance of Jesus.
  • There are those who believe that God is going to eternally punish people who get their beliefs wrong, and they are very annoyed at those of us who cannot stomach that idea.
I believe that all of these make the Christian faith an uneasy yoke and a heavy burden.

In response, Jesus said, “… my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

As well, there are those who make the Christian faith an uneasy yoke and a heavy burden in the area of lifestyle: 
  • There are those who think Christianity is about abstaining from some of life’s pleasures.
  • There are others who think that Christianity is about taking a particularly hard line on some questions of sexuality or of bioethics.

And to each of these groups, Jesus continues to say “… my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

And then there are those whose heavy burden and uneasy yoke takes the forms of a belief that we need to make all sorts of cultural contortions in our worship style if we want our faith to be “relevant”.  There are those who tell us we can’t really regard our church life as genuine:
  • unless we become artificially “happy-clappy” in our worship,
  • unless we engage in the latest worship gimmicks Sunday after Sunday,
  • unless in selecting music for our worship we adopt an artificial penchant for hip-hop or “heavy metal”. 
To these as well, Jesus says “… my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

But it’s not only
  • to rampant secularists
  • to fringe ultra-conservative Christians,
  • or to unreflective dilettantes in the area of worship,
to which Jesus addressed these words.

Jesus spoke these words to us as well, even to those of us who enjoy the privilege of worshipping within a balanced, mainstream church.  In mainstream congregations and denominations, we too need to avoid the trap of making unreasonable and excessive demands on people's time, energies, or finances, thus turning our faith into an uneasy yoke or a heavy burden.

You and I, no less than anyone else, need to keep Jesus’ words in mind:  “… my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The sacrament which we shall share is a sign of this.  Not only does Jesus call us to be his people.  He provides us with strength and refreshment on the way.  Through everyday gifts of bread and wine, Christ encourages us to feast with him frequently and joyfully.

Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

2 comments:

  1. I enjoy reading your articles. You really have a wonderful blogs. Keep up the good work. Thank you also for the information!

    Yong
    www.gofastek.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the comment, Cindy. I'm glad that you find it helpful.

      Delete

Constructive comments, from a diversity of viewpoints, are always welcome. I reserve the right to choose which comments will be printed. I'm happy to post opinions differing from mine. Courtesy, an ecumenical attitude, and a willingness to give your name always help. A sense of humour is a definite "plus", as well.