Pentecost 5, July 9, 2017

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Title:Pentecost 5, July 9, 2017

 Sunday, July 9, 2017, Pentecost 5 (full size gallery)

Today we had 41 in the service under a day of full sun and low humidity. The Phlox, Crepes Myrtle were out this week.

We were at the end of a week of celebrations with the July 4 event at St. Peter’s and the Village Dinner the next night. Today, we celebrated the birthday of Laura Carey and Kelly’s Paterino’s marriage.

At the same time, we have two members of the congregation going to UVA this week for major surgeries this week and another member with a significant transition. Another member lost a grandfather. Catherine combined the Prayers of the People with a Public Service of Healing from The Book of Occasional Services.  

The readings related well to the mood ofthe congregation.

Today’s readings offer hope that our sorrows and burdens will be lifted through God’s saving power.  The sermon considered both the readings from Zechariah and the Gospel 

The prophet Zechariah reminds us that Zion’s king is coming, banishing war and proclaiming peace.The psalmist sings of God’s glorious kingdom of power and compassion. In his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul proclaims that we are freed from our moral weakness and inclination to sin by Jesus Christ our Lord. In the gospel, Jesus offers rest to all who long for relief from their burdens.

The prophecies of Zechariah in the Old Testament were made in the early period of reconstruction after the exile, about 520–518 BC. Zechariah was especially concerned for the rebuilding of the temple, the reinstitution of the Levitical priesthood, and the purification of the disunited community. He looked for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy to bring about the messianic age.

The picture of the coming of the Messiah in today’s reading combines the themes of the royal Davidic expectation and the increasing emphasis in late Old Testament writings on the pious poor who live in humble dependence on the Lord. The king to come will be both “victorious” and “humble.”

Whereas the horse was associated with warfare, the donkey was a symbol of peace, particularly associated with the Davidic Messiah (Genesis 49:10-11). Universal dominion and peace will characterize the Messiah’s reign.

From the sermon – "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.”

Chapters 11–12 mark a turning point in the Gospel of Matthew. Chapters 1–10 have established the authority of Jesus in word and deed and his gift of that authority to his disciples; chapters 11–28 will chronicle the rejection of Jesus’ authority by the false Israel and his description and designation of the true Israel.

Today’s reading summarizes these themes; Jesus has witnessed to the rejection of both John the Baptist and himself (11:7-19), and has condemned those who have seen his “deeds of power” yet not repented (11:20-24). Jesus goes on to praise God for the divine wisdom that hid these truths from the unrepentant. True recognition of spiritual reality comes from God (16:17), but God is neither capricious nor insensitive to people’s lives in disclosing spiritual truth. The “infants,” the “simple” are open to receiving it.

Verses 28-30 are found only in Matthew. The “yoke” in the Old Testament stood for servitude under the king (1 Kings 12:4) or under a foreign conqueror (Isaiah 14:25). It symbolized then, not the means of bearing a burden, but the burden itself. The “yoke of the law” was God’s covenant, (Jeremiah 2:20, 5:5) identified also with Wisdom (Sirach 6:24-25). The rabbis spoke of the “yoke of the law” as giving rest and reward (Sirach 51:26-30), but to the poor and the outcast it was burdensome (23:1-4; Acts 15:10).

Jesus asserts two messianic claims in Matthew’s reading. First, only the Son can reveal the Father – verse 27 – He is the yoke -the way, the path, or the avenue to the Father. Secondly, in verse 30, he asserts his yoke is easy. He invites his followers to accept his “rest” in verse 28 when they are overburdened.

Jesus as a carpenter certainly would have made wooden yokes to join pairs of animals together for heavy work. The yoke would have to fit right – not rub or be rough on the animals, but something that would truly help the animals bear their burdens, pull together, be more efficient as a team than either would be alone. Jesus invites us to take a yoke just like this with Jesus as a partner in the yoke. He fits it right to help us bear our burdens and needs at the same time recognizing our gifts.

The whole passage unites both apocalyptic and wisdom themes. Jesus is the One who reveals God to humanity; in Jesus are offered the knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:9) and the Sabbath rest promised in the last days (Hebrews 4:1-10). Jesus is himself both the teacher and the lesson. He is “gentle and humble in heart” and calls us to accept him and become like him.

From the sermon-"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." 

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