Sermon – July 6, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
“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.” Matthew 11:29-30
For the past couple of weeks, I have begun volunteering at the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour in Lexington. This radio, TV, and internet show is usually taped in Lexington at the Lyric Theater, 44 weeks out of the year, usually on Monday evening before a live audience. The diversity of entertainers who are on the show is interesting. They usually find it easy to stop in Lexington on their way to somewhere else like Nashville or Chicago or New York. The show is unique in that the guests perform their work and also talk about their craft. In addition, the show relies heavily upon volunteers to set up, staff and tear down the stage.
I’m still learning, but right now, I arrive at 4pm on a Monday afternoon and put lightbulbs in the floor lights or set up for dinner or do various errands. Usually once the show begins, I can sit down and enjoy it. It is the tear down at the end of the show that requires many people.
There is the sign to take down and store, the floor lights to dismantle, unplug, and stack. The various instrument stands and amps to put away. And the cords to wrap…. You see, there is a special way to coil the various cords so they don’t get tangled and so that they easily uncoil to be used for the next show. If you do it right, you can fling the cable out and it will not be tangled at all.
And of course, the more people who are there, the shorter time it takes to do the work. The work is spread among many people.
At the end of our Gospel today, Jesus encourages his followers to put on his yoke. Now a yoke is something used with various animals – water buffalo, oxen – animals who help with work. A yoke is important for a variety of reasons, so Jesus’ plea to his listeners has much to impart to us.
- A yoke provides guidance and direction, letting the animals know which way to go and where to go next. We all need God’s guidance in our lives. Jesus’ teaching and example and the Holy Spirit are the yokes in our lives, telling us where to go next.
- A yoke provides training. Yokes can be used to train the animals how best to work. Throughout our lives, we need teaching and training about the work God is calling us to do and the best way to live the Christian life.
- A yoke allows animals to work together. Most of us are familiar with seeing a pair of oxen yoked together. The yokes prevent the oxen from fighting with each other, and allow the oxen to pull and to work together. Jesus tells us our burdens will be lighter if we take on His yoke. One of the reasons is that we can share our burden with each other in Christian fellowship.
- A yoke allows the animals to do more work and move heavier loads. By its very design, the yoke makes it easier for the animals to work. And isn’t that true with the yoke of Jesus? Jesus’ teaching and example…Jesus’ love…Jesus’ meal, all make our loads lighter.
When I think about tearing down the Woodsong’s stage all by myself, I feel overwhelmed. First of all, I don’t know how I’d get that sign put away! My burden would be heavy. It would take many hours. With so many of us, though, the burden is spread. I’m excited to help…happy to help…feel satisfied when everything is put away.
And that’s how it is with Jesus’ yoke. When we carry our burdens alone, we feel overwhelmed, even paralyzed, weighed down and heavy. We may think, (and how many of us have done this) that we must bear our burdens alone. Or we want to be in total control, so we rely only upon ourselves. We don’t want anyone telling us what to do! We don’t want anyone else to know what’s going on with us! We believe to be grown up and mature, we need to do it ourselves. We are afraid God will demand too much from us. So we refuse the yoke. We refuse the guidance. We refuse the teaching. We refuse to spread the burden around to make it easier to bear.
Jesus reaches out, encouraging us to put on his yoke. “Don’t be afraid,” he says. “I am gentle and humble,” he says. And here is the most blessed promise, “…and you will find rest for your souls.”