|Lent 1||March 5, 2017||First Sunday in Lent, Year A||Matthew 4:1-11|
|Ash Wednesday||March 1, 2017||Ash Wednesday, Year A||Matthew 4:1-11|
|Last Sunday after the Epiphany||February 26, 2017||Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 17:1-9|
|Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany||February 19, 2017||Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 12, 2017||Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 5, 2017||Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Reflections on Annual Convention, Susan Tilt||January 29, 2017||4th Sunday after the Epiphany||Matthew 5:1-12|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany||January 22, 2017||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Psalm 27:1, 5-13, Matthew 4:12-23|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany||January 15, 2017||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Baptism of Jesus||January 8, 2017||The Baptism of our Lord, Year A||The Book of Common Prayer|
|Epiphany||January 6, 2017||Epiphany 2017||Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Day, Year A||December 25, 2016||Christmas Day, 2016||Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-4, Psalm 98, John 1:1-14|
|The Eve of the Nativity||December 24, 2016||Christmas Eve||Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2: 1-20|
|Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 11, 2016||Third Sunday of Advent, Year A||Psalm 146:4-9, Matthew 11:2-11|
|Second Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 4, 2016||Second Sunday of Advent, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Sermon Date:July 9, 2017
Scripture: Zechariah 9:9-12; Matthew 11:25-30
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 9, 2017 Year A
"Bearing a heavy weight together"- Komarno, Slovakia
Without peace, life is unsettled.
For people who live in places where war rages, every moment presents danger to physical life.
The lack of peace for those of us who live in peaceful surroundings is harder to define, but the results can be just as devastating.
Some of us experience lack of peace at work, or with our friends, or in our families when we find ourselves at odds with one another, and those odds seem unresolvable.
Transitions in our lives, both good and bad, can shake our sense of peace and security.
Or we can experience the lack of peace caused by our own bodies—by illness, or disease, or the process of aging.
And outer lack of peace can lead to the inner lack of peace in our hearts and minds created by our own inner turmoil, self-doubt, worry, anxiety, frustration and the feeling that we just can’t cope with life.
The prophet Zechariah was writing in a time of transition for the Israelites. They had returned from exile from Babylon, and they were rebuilding their Temple, God’s house. But their lives were far from peaceful. They had to sort out their relationships with those people who had remained behind, they had to re-establish their homes—basically, they were all starting over in a place that had radically changed during the years that they had been away.
Nothing was the same.
So Zechariah addresses this lack of peace in the oracle that we’ve heard quoted in today’s Old Testament reading.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The peace that these people need will come from outside themselves, in the form of a king who will bring peace.
In her commentary on this passage of Zechariah, Rachel Baard talks about the fact that this king bringing peace will be riding a donkey.
She says that the significance of the donkey is that the donkey is “associated with the business of life rather than the business of death. It is the animal used on the farm to help in the production of food and in the town to carry people and goods. It is the very antithesis of the horse, at that time largely an animal used for war.”
So the arrival of the king riding a donkey announces the end of war and the beginning of a universal peace.
All of us need this king, humble and riding on a donkey, to ride right into our lives and hearts, because we can’t control illness, death, or circumstances created by others that in turn change our lives.
Ultimately, none of us can carry our burdens or manage our lives on our own.
What we need is a king of peace to ride into our lives and to remind us that no matter how unsettled the times in our hearts or in our lives, to put it in modern day slang, “God has got our backs.”
The king of peace is no warlord who lives in some far away palace who periodically gallops through to slay our dragons and who then disappears again until the next dragon shows up.
This king riding on a donkey is the one who is going to help us with the mundane stuff of our lives.
This king is the one who will help us plow the fields of our hearts and plant love and peace there.
This is the king who will help us pack up our burdens and carry them with us.
This is the king who will travel along with us on the rough and stony paths of our lives, and he and his donkey will go before us, picking out the way over those rough spots in the wildernesses of our lives when we cannot see or imagine what way we are to go.
In today’s gospel, Jesus, the One we recognize as the King of Peace, asks each one of us to let him come to us and be with us so that he can help us in our times of trouble, and our times of inner turmoil.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying 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.”
In Jesus’ time, according to Mitch and Sri in their commentary on the gospel according to Matthew, peasants used a load bearing yoke, a curved beam that the peasant would lay across the back of the neck and shoulders. Each end of the yoke had chains or suspension ropes to which things that needed to be hauled were attached. Wearing and using a yoke was not easy work.
But Jesus, in his usual creative way, was saying that discipleship is not effortless, but that to follow Jesus is not an exhausting burden either.
Jesus’ invitation to us to follow him is an invitation into spiritual rest. Mitch and Sri point us to Philippians 4:7 which describes the peace of Jesus as the kind of peace that quiets the mind and heart and surpasses human understanding. “Of course the followers of Jesus will continue to experience frustrations, trials and suffering, but these burdens become lighter and more bearable with the Lord’s help.”
To put on the yoke of Jesus is to submit to God’s instruction, to learn from Jesus, not only through what he said, but by trying to live as he did, and to follow his way of life.
So I invite you today to take Jesus up on his invitation and to follow him as his disciple as your first priority. The choice to do so will not be not easy, because we must give up control in order to follow him, instead of making our own way in this world.
But look who we are choosing to follow, the Prince of Peace, the one who is gentle and humble in heart, the one who is with us in every moment of our lives, the one who creates rest and peace for our souls, and promises that rest and peace to us.
And Jesus always keeps his promises.