July 19, 2020: 7th Sunday of Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, the gift of Your Gospel is the most precious possession we can have.  It freely forgives and freely uplifts, taking away the burdens that often overwhelm us.  So today, teach us to embrace the Gospel at all times.  Amen


TEXT:  Matthew 11: 28-30

Dearly Beloved by Christ: 

          If you sleep through the entire night without getting up, count yourself very blest!  If you sleep until about 3 a.m. and then awake, why?  Usually the cause is your liver.  It’s detoxing something you breathed in, ate, or were exposed to just about that time.  If you go right back to a sound sleep—terrific!  But what if you don’t?  What if you’re fitful until the morning light dawns?  That’s probably because you’re detoxing, or trying to detox your mind of some sort of sin, or its effects upon you.  And if that’s the case, you awake and feel weary and burdened the rest of the day.


          Our synod has a bishop’s conference every year.  A few years back, one of my former classmates preached a sermon on this text to us.  It was timely.  Who doesn’t feel burdened and weary as they deal daily with both their congregants’ sins and their own?  But then he correctly stressed these words of Christ: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for my yoke is easy and my  burden is light.”  That preacher took great pains to inform us that the yoke referred to is not the burden of sin(s) but the Gospel, meaning forgiveness for those sins!  Christ is all about removing guilt (which I talked about in depth last week), the shame that results for them, and replacing it with the uplifting freedom of God’s forgiving love—found only in Christ.  But let’s research out this heavenly phenomenon. 


          Go back to one of those fitful sleep times.  You wake up around 3 a.m., toss, turn, and attempt to drift off into oblivion.  It doesn’t seem to work.   You replay the day in your mind.  You had an argument with your spouse.  You lost your temper with your kids.  Work was miserable and people were testy.  You got a bill you didn’t plan for.  Someone shared bad health news with you.  You responded without thinking it through.  The blood pressure rose.  Now in the middle of the night your mind is trying to resolve it all and it isn’t working.  Maybe even in your dreams, moments before waking up, some semi-ancient problem or person reared its ugly head.  Why?  It’s all because of sin.  It’s all because you took, or are taking, such burdens all upon yourself.  You cannot let it go because you’re living under the Law.  You think that somehow you have the ability to handle such things all on your own.  You don’t.  I don’t.  No mere human does. That’s because our conscience is corrupted and influenced by our own sin.  In short, we cannot “fix” our subconscious mind and resolve sinful disruptions to it.  For remember: God made us to live in harmony with Him and all creation and human sin disrupts that flow of peace and joy and harmony.  So, we wake up and replay scenarios and all we do is end up frustrating ourselves.—Does this sound familiar?  This is the “weary and burdened” mindset that Jesus is referring to. 


          At Jesus’ time everyone knew exactly what a “yoke” was. Oxen were used for the heavy moving of objects.  Usually you “yoked” together 2 oxen with a heavy wooden beam so that they could pull in tandem.  You wanted 2 similar oxen in size, weight and strength to do this.  That’s why the Bible mentions: “Do not be unequally yoked together as some are” because if one strong ox was teamed with a weak one while plowing a field, the furrow would never  be straight and everyone would tire out quickly.  Hence the expression: “Pull your own weight.”  Anyway,  no human would ever want to wear a yoke.  It would crush us. 

          So, when Christ talks about: “carrying His yoke” it seems like a misnomer.  But it isn’t!  For replacing the yoke of sin via repentance and faith means an unburdening of yourself.  That’s why He adds: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  What’s more easy and light than forgiveness?  We know that Christ came to win forgiveness, harmony with God, by dying for all sins on the cross.  The cross was His yoke, which was originally our yoke.  The harmony of creation is life, eternal life, and He won it for all of us by dying while nailed to that yoke.  And then He replaced it with eternal life, harmony once more, by rising from the tomb.  He thereby gave us His weightless yoke of such life through faith. 

          Faith is truly a weightless “burden.”  Nothing is easier than faith.  You simply say: “Thank You Lord for doing the heavy lifting and giving me the results.”  It is letting go of past burdens because Christ took them all away.  Faith means your life and afterlife isn’t about you “fixing” everything for everyone, but appreciating how Christ fixed it all and then just being appreciative of such blessings! 

          The result is: “rest for your soul.”  So, when you find yourself awake and tossing and turning in the middle of the night, don’t replay what you did or didn’t do, or what you could have said or done.  Instead, think about the Gospel or God’s gift of forgiveness.  Focus on the fact that He bore your burdens and carried your sorrows—all of them.  Leave the past in God’s grace-filled hands.  Sweet dreams will ensue.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox 

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