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Leaving the Burden with Christ

7/6/2014 Fourth Sunday after Pentecost   The text for today’s sermon is Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Ah…freedom!  This weekend is all about freedom…the freedom won in a Revolutionary War, the freedom to go to a firework display or a parade, the freedom to travel or to stay home.  We relish our freedom and the choices we are given – whether we are 9 or 90 or even as young as a toddler

A mother found out just how frustrating it can be when dealing with a child who is given choices.

She was preparing breakfast for her two-year-old daughter when she asked the toddler, “What would you like for breakfast…a bagel or a bowl of cereal?”

The little girl answered, “Chocolate.”

“No,” her mother replied, “You can’t have chocolate for breakfast. Do you want a bagel or cereal?”

Again the little girl said, “Chocolate.”

Slightly exasperated, the mother said, “No, honey. You can’t have any chocolate until after lunch. Now what do you want…a bagel or cereal?”

The little girl said with a grin, “Lunch!” (as told by Don Colbert, What Would Jesus Eat? [2002], 145)

Isn’t it a wonderful thing to have the freedom to choose?  But the freedom we enjoy is limited, at best.  For, all of us are slaves to time and circumstances.  This weekend, many of us have been able to enjoy a change of pace as busy schedules were traded in for a weekend celebration.  But, even those us who were able to get a momentary escape from the burdens of everyday life and the yoke of routine demands, will soon feel like the reprieve never took place.

It is to an oppressed people who were not free to make the choices that we make every day that Jesus makes an offer that cannot be refused.  It is to a people who cannot escape the demands of life, and who are burdened by the musts and should imposed upon them that Jesus gives an invitation.  It is to the Jews of his day, a people weighed down by the yoke of the law which is a heavy burden, rather than a joyful task, that Jesus speaks, “Come to me, you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”  Come to me and you will find true freedom.  Come to me and you will find something to truly celebrate.  Come to me…and rest.

My friends, here is an invitation that all of us could use.  Here is an invitation to take the weight of our world off our shoulders and to hand it over to Jesus who will help us carry it.  Here is an invitation to break the chains that keep us from enjoying the life that our Lord has given us.  Jesus invites to come and hand our burdens over to him.

Each and every day we are bombarded with demands – the musts and shoulds imposed upon us by our jobs and families, our health issues and the society in which we live.  We are torn by the demands of raising children and caring for elderly parents.  We struggle with moral values and issues of the past which we cannot forget or forgive.  We battle against temptations and our own ambitions and greed.  We may find ourselves filled with guilt over those things we have done and left undone, the wrongs we have done and the good things that we have failed to find time to complete.  We are weighed down by many things, all demanding a piece of us and our time and our allegiance.  But, we have a place to bring these burdens.  We have a Lord who invites us to trade in our yokes for another, for one which he will give us, one that is fashioned out of his love for us and for all people.

This all may seem too good and too easy to be true – that we don’t need to trudge through life alone.  We don’t need to shoulder the burden of facing the unknown; the burden of thinking about an estranged family member; the burden of tensions among work colleagues; the burden of grief that comes with death or loss.  We do not need to deal with these stresses in life on our own.  We can take these burdens, these things that weigh heavily upon us and put pressure on our bodies, minds and spirits, to Jesus and let him shoulder them with us.  We can take these things to him, along with our human weaknesses and our failures and our struggles to find the joy in faithful living.  We can lay these things at the foot of the cross.

I once attended an Ash Wednesday service in which the congregation was invited to write on a slip of paper any burden, any struggle, any sin, that was troubling them.  Then, after contemplating the meaning of the cross, everyone was invited to bring forward the slip of paper and attach it to a cross that had been fashioned out of the pine tree that had decorated the nave during the Christmas season.  It was a dramatic moment as people came up and affixed their burdens to that cross and handed over their troubles to Christ.  For the entire Lenten season, that cross stood center stage with all the slips of paper hanging from it.  Then, at the Easter vigil on Holy Saturday, the cross was set ablaze and the fire from it was used to bring in the new light of Easter into the church.  Throughout the year, the flickering of the candles was a vivid reminder that all the troubles and sins which were handed over to Christ had died with him and were gone forever in his rising from the grave.

Sometimes, we need those dramatic moments in life – for more often than not, what really weighs us down is not a heavy burden we can easily identify, but rather those things that get in the way of us seeing that Jesus is there for us.  If we never take the time to contemplate the cross and what Jesus did for us, we will never let him rid us of our burdens and find peace.  If we never take the time to think about the way we live our lives and the stress and pain it is causing us, then we will never take those burdens to Jesus for him to shoulder and we will never be free of them.

So, on this long holiday weekend which focuses on freedom, we are invited to let go and to let God help us.  For, Jesus is inviting us to come to him.  He is saying, “Stop!  Come unto me.  My burden is light and what’s more, you don’t have to carry it alone because the yoke is meant for two.”

My friends, let Jesus help you carry your burdens, whatever they may be…and may the peace of the God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.



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