Fifth Sunday After Pentecost Zoom Sermon
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Happy Fourth of July Weekend!!! This weekend is indeed a special weekend for so many of us. For a lot of people, the Fourth of July Weekend means parades and picnics, hot dogs and ice-cold drinks, ice cream and apple pie, baseball, and bombs bursting in air. I think you would agree with me that the adoption of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence in 1776 happened during one of the best weather weeks of the year. Unfortunately, not all is well this year. And many Fourth of July activities have been cancelled.
Well, not all is well with the Revised Common Lectionary that we use here at Calvary Lutheran Church because the reading omits several key verses that I think are important to the overall message for this Sunday. In our Celebrate insert, you will find that several verses (verses 20-24) are not included in the Lectionary Reading. And so, I am going to begin by reading the omitted verse to you.
20 “Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. 21 "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you."
Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum. These are the towns where Jesus spent most of His ministry. These are the towns were Jesus did most of His mighty work. The people in these towns knew Jesus well, and Jesus knew the town folk well too. For some of the folks, in their minds Jesus knew them too well.
Jesus knew their unbelief, and Jesus knew their unwillingness to change, and Jesus knew their refusal to yoke themselves to Him and His Gospel. And that is why Jesus began to reproach the cities in which most of His deeds of power had been done.
One reason I think the Lectionary omits these verses is because we do not like reproach. We do not like reproach in our lives, and we do not like reproach in the scripture readings on Sunday morning.
So instead of including the difficult subject in our reading, the lectionary planners skipped over these verses so we could quickly get to the good part.
The lectionary planners knew this so they moved quickly to the verses where Jesus is gentle, and humble, and promises to make life easy so we do not have to hear the difficult words of reproach and warning which is stuck in the middle of our assigned lectionary reading.
But these words are important. And these are words that we need to hear. And that is why I put them back in our Gospel reading this morning.
Too often we associate reproach with rejection. But reproach is not rejection. Reproach is addressing unacceptable behavior.
Reproach is expressed disappointment. Reproach is concern about the well being of someone or group of people spoken orally to them.
Jesus is concerned about the people in these towns. Jesus is angered by their half-hearted attempts to live out the Good News of God’s Redeeming Activity in their lives.
Jesus is troubled by their response to His teaching and ministry in their communities.
And that is why Jesus told them that they were like a bunch of spoiled children unhappy with whatever was offered to them. Jesus was saddened to learn that the people wanted everything their way and were unwilling to listen to anything He said or did that did not live up to their expectations.
Jesus then used the words He heard from their mouths to make His point. He said John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking and you said he was a nut and possessed by a demon.
I come eating and drinking and you call me a glutton and a drunkard, and a guy who hangs out with the wrong kind of people.
And His point being, sometimes the people with the most going for them complain the most. Here was God in the flesh walking with them, and talking to them, and ministering to them and all they could do was complain. Like little children they were unhappy with anything Jesus had to offer.
Sometimes we act like those little kids in the marketplace, unhappy with whatever is offered to us. We want the Gospel to fit our beliefs, desires, and agendas rather than shaping our beliefs, desires, and agendas to fit the Gospel.
But that is not an option for Jesus. We can either dance, celebrating and giving thanks for the coming of God among us in Jesus, or we can mourn our sins, the brokenness of our lives, and the pain of the world.
But we must respond. We must choose one or the other. Both ways yoke us to Christ. Both ways will reorient our lives and our priorities.
So, what then does this mean for us? I think it means that we take seriously our life of discipleship. Our walk with Jesus means more than just getting what we want. Our walk of faith leads us to work for justice and the dignity of all people.
To be yoked to Christ means to submit ourselves to Him every day in every way. To be yoked to anything or anybody else will only leave us weary and burdened. If we are spiritually weak and burdened it most likely means that we are not fully wearing the yoke of Christ.
My friends, Jesus is not upset because the cities (people) misbehaved. His heart is broken because they had chosen a life less than what they were created for, a life far less than what God had offered to them.
And that is why His Words of reproach would soon become Words of love, care, and concern.
Jesus said: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are caring heavy burdens, 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.”
You know how little children get so exhausted that they just act bad? How they cannot keep their eyes open but still refuse to lay down and rest?
It is not just children that do this. It happens to people at every age and in every generation. Jesus is like a loving parent looking at His children.
“Oh Chorazin! Oh Bethsaida! And you Capernaum. You are like exhausted children, so tired that you do not know which end is up, so weary and burdened that you misbehave.
But life does not have to be like this. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. Let your heart love like mine. Let your mind be filled with the same concerns as mine. Let your feet walk in step with mine.
Let your hands touch the world like mine. Let your eyes see the Father like mine. Take my yoke upon you and live the life God intended for you since the beginning of time when the world was created. Amen.
Let us pray: Praise to you, O God of our salvation. You come to our help and set us free. May your strength be our shield and your Word, our lamp, that we may serve you with pure hearts and find deliverance in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymn of the Day “Take My Life, That I May Be” ELW # 685
Prayer of the Day: You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised. You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.