Matthew 11:16-19; 25-30
The current generation that is about to move into power is Generation X. This is the generation that makes up 21% of the population. In this generation 16.2% of them never graduated high school but it is also the highest percentage of people with secondary education. 40% of this generation has grown up in broken homes. The generation before them, the Baby Boomers, looked at sex as euphoric, marriage as romantic, and feminism as a breakthrough. This generation, the Xers see sex as dangerous, marriage as a financial arrangement and equality as a necessary survival tool in a world of wrecked courtship rituals, splintered families and unreliable husbands. What can I compare this generation too?
This is the exact question that Jesus was asking himself in the beginning of this scripture. Jesus looks at his generation and, as the Message Translation puts it, calls them out as spoiled children. He tells them that they are children who want to play games such as “wedding” and “funeral”, similar to our children playing “school” or “house.” As they are playing though they are unwilling to compromise and end up just whining. He states that John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking and they call him crazy. Then Jesus comes along eating and drinking and this generation calls him a glutton and a drunkard and a friend of tax collectors and “sinners”. This generation didn’t like either of the people God sent because they didn’t live up to their expectations or their image of who God was supposed to be.
If we are just all spoiled children, whining because God is not who we want God to be, then who is God and how can we find out what he is like? To find out these answers we skip ahead to the 25th verse, which is the next section in today’s passage. If we start to read this we learn very quickly who knows who God really is. Who God is, isn’t revealed to the wise and learned. God is revealed to the little children, the infants. What does this mean though? This means that if we truly want to understand God than we need to stop acting like adults and spoiled children and go back even farther, to when we were dependent infants.
An infant usually means that you are still too young to walk and talk. Once you start to walk and talk you become a toddler, then you are closer to being the spoiled children who whine for what they want and not what they need. As an infant though you are still dependent on those who are taking care of you. You can not eat by yourself, bath your self or do anything else to take care of yourself. As an infant you accept the world as it is given to you. You don’t ask questions (because you can’t) and you just go with life. To know God we are to be like infants, we are not supposed to think about it so much. Adults love to over analyze and over think a situation. We love to look at something and ask where the catch is and where is the loop hole? When it comes to God though we need to stop thinking so much because it is not that hard.
To know God we are supposed to think like an infant. But then the scripture goes on to say, no one knows the son expect the Father, no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. See this clears it up, scratch what I have said, no one knows who God really is except Jesus. Thanks for coming this morning, let’s sing the last hymn and call it a day. Does this mean that no matter what we cannot know who God is? What is the point of worshipping a God that we cannot know him? Why are we here then singing hymns and praying in the name of God if we cannot know who this God is?
We can know God but only when Jesus reveals it to us. So if we want to know God then we need to know Christ and Christ will tell us who God is. So the key then is to get close to Christ and then we will find out who the Father truly is. To get close to Christ, the Son, means that we need to follow Christ, the Son.
S. I. McMillen, in his book None of These Diseases, tells a story of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application blank that asked, “Are you a leader?” Being both honest and conscientious, she wrote, “No,” and returned the application, expecting the worst. To her surprise, she received this letter from the college: “Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower.” We are called to be followers. We just need to know what it takes to follow.
Friday we celebrated the 232nd birthday of this nation. We will gathered with family and friends around BBQs and then on blankets to watched fireworks. We live in the best country in the world. In the United States of America we can live as free people. Free to choose our President, our job, our religion and our ice cream flavor. No where else in the world could we have such a wonderful freedom and we should celebrate our traditions, our past and the future of the country in which we live. But there is something quite important to understand as we go to celebrate Independence Day tomorrow. Today’s scripture poses a little different view of life than the American way of life.
America is the home of apple pie and baseball. It is the home of Davey Crocket, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriett Tubman and Abraham Lincoln. It is also the home of Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Oprah. We are a nation that honors and values our independence and our autonomy. We love stories of people who have pulled them selves up by their boot straps, those that are self-made and gone on to amazing and glorious things. We love our strength and power because it is with our brains and brawn that we have become the world’s super power. Long ago on July 4th, 1776, we resisted the yoke of tyranny and oppression and declared our independence from Britain.
Today though, this guy who eats with sinners comes along and states that our knowledge and our wisdom don’t mean a thing when it comes to knowing God. Jesus tells us the yoke is not suppose to be resisted and actually we are invited to take this yoke ourselves and surrender all we have to the one that is greater than us. Even while living in this super power, if we are to know the true God, than we are to make ourselves powerless and humble in front of the Almighty. Instead of celebrating our independence, today, as we come to the Lord’s table, we rejoice in our dependence.
At the end of this passage Jesus moves into an inspiring invitation. He states, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. This continues the breathtaking call to follow Christ.
This cannot be the same Jesus who in the 10th chapter of Matthew tells us we are to lose our lives for him. This is the Jesus who told us to put our mothers, fathers, and children second. We are to carry our cross and follow him. We don’t like these texts and would much rather hear the words of this one. Yet, many people have taken this invitation wrongly though. First they think that if you are to follow Jesus than your days will be filled with only happiness and free from worry. Then they think that they won’t have to do any more work. They think that once you become a Jesus follower that you won’t have to suffer or be in pain again. Well if you believe that I have some acres of rainforest to sell you in Canada.
The truth is, this is an invitation to work. To follow something or someone implies that you actually have to do something. Christ offers us a handmade yoke to wear. Now a yoke is the thing that is commonly placed on the neck of oxen so they can plow a field or carry a cart. Yokes are made of wood and if they are made correctly they are formed to the shape of the ox’s neck. It should cover a large area of skin to distribute the stresses widely. It should also be smooth, rounded, and polished with no sharp edges, so that no one point will endure unduly high stress. This is what Christ is offering. Your own personal yoke, made just for you.
When I was in Boy Scouts we went to Philmont Scout Camp in New Mexico for a backpacking adventure where for two weeks I hiked around the Rocky Mountains. When I first started in scouting I had an old backpack. It was an external frame backpack and within three years of using it began to wear on me. I would go hiking with it and when I came home I would have bruises on my hips and armpits when the backpack didn’t fit well. By the time I went to Philmont I had a nice internal frame backpack that when cinched down would fit me like a glove. I hiked almost 100 miles with that backpack in those two weeks and never did I get one bruise or blister. That backpack fit and it made hiking easier and actually I was able to carry a heavier load. Christ is offering yoke that is easy, gentle and it is made especially for us.
Jesus promises that if we follow him, he will give us a yoke made just for us to carry and also that he will be there as we go along. Actually if you look at most yokes they are made for two. When we agree to follow Christ, Christ slips the yoke on us and than walks with us through life. You cannot follow if there is no leader around. Christ is always there, that is why he says, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Christ is there to give us what we need and when we need it. He will not shelter us from life but instead will lead us through it.
· The Jackie Boles Bible Study and Solomon’s Porch have both done Adam Hamilton’s study, The Christian Family Tree. One of the things both of these groups have commented on was when we studied the Orthodox Faith. In that Christian Denomination they view the ‘real world’ differently. When we think of the ‘real world’ we think of the world beyond these walls. It is the world we live in for the 166 hours a week, but that is not the case for the Orthodox tradition. They see the ‘real world’ as what we are doing now, worship. It is within the walls of the church that we receive the best picture of the ‘real world.’ The place we live the other 166 hours of the week, is merely the shadow lands.
When we enter worship and open our hearts and souls to God, we find rest from our heavy load. Christ takes over and the yoke becomes light. In those ‘real world’ moments of worship we are refueled and rejuvenated for our work in the shadows. Christ is not contradicting or hypocritical here, he is simply offering his all to those who follow. Giving to all the assurance that they are not alone on this journey which demands a lot but nothing we have to do alone.
Today we come to God’s Holy Table, I look around this real world. I can see people who need rest for life’s struggles, from heart ache, pain, and worry. A year after arriving to this pulpit I don’t look out and see nameless faces, actually I don’t see names anymore. I see people. People, whom I have grown to love, and care about, and who I know need rest from life. We come to feast on the Body and Blood of Christ which is a reminder of what Christ did for us. It is also the place where we can stop asking questions, relax and accept what is given to us. Today when we receive the bread and dip it into the cup, we can acknowledge that we are followers, dependent on the gift that this meal represents. We need to stop acting like spoiled children and start acting like infants. God is not who you make God out to be. God is God, so just get over it. Stop thinking about it and just accept Christ’s invitation. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
And all God’s people said…Amen