Fifth Sunday After Pentecost: July 5, 2020
Year A, Proper 9: Psalm 45: 11-18; Genesis 24:34-38, 42029, 58-67; Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
View Bishop Goff’s sermon below or CLICK HERE to view it on YouTube. The text of her sermon is also below.
Homilist: The RT. Rev. Susan Goff, Bishop of Virginia
Come to me, all you who 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 of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
Weary. That could be a byword for these times. We’re weary of quarantine, weary of distancing, weary from lack of hugs and healing touches. We’re weary of the news we hear day after day. We’re beyond ready to be back in the fullness of physical community with others, in person. And yet we know as the number of coronavirus infections spikes across the country, the time has not yet come.
Jesus shows us the way when we are weary. Take my yoke upon you, Jesus says. A yoke is a crosspiece that it fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart they are to pull. The yoke distributes the weight. It shares the work. It makes the burden easier. Be yoked to me, Jesus says. I am sharing the weight so that the yoke will be easy and the burden light.
What does taking on the yoke of Jesus look like this weekend? What does it look like for us to be yoked to Jesus, tethered to Jesus in this moment?
In this time of pandemic, taking Jesus’ yoke upon us looks like the church communities in our diocese that are gathering for worship outdoors. With proper distancing. Wearing masks. Sharing music but not singing together. Greeting, but not touching one another. A summer celebration looks like a congregation that worships in a way that might feel a bit awkward and unfamiliar – in order to protect the most vulnerable among us and slow the spread of disease.
Taking Jesus’ yoke upon us this weekend looks like the church communities in our diocese that have chosen not to worship together in person yet, not until the day when everyone in the congregation is able to participate in person, without fear. It looks like a congregation that continues vibrant on-line worship only and stays connected through a variety of technologies – in order to protect the most vulnerable among us and slow the spread of disease.
Taking on Jesus’ yoke looks like people of many backgrounds gathering day after day in peaceful witness against the violence experienced by persons of color. In Richmond. In Fairfax. In Manassas. In Winchester. It looks like people taking risks so that their voices might be heard for the protection a vulnerable population.
Taking Jesus’ yoke upon us looks like the removal of the slave auction block from a street corner in downtown Fredericksburg, and its placement in the Fredericksburg Area Museum where it’s history can be told and contemplated in a larger context. It looks like people of hope risking accusations of political motivation so that descendants of slaves can walk down the street without a constant reminder of terrors or the past.
Taking Jesus’ yoke upon us looks like the Black Lives Matter banner that hangs on the fence outside our diocesan offices in Richmond. It looks like a sign of welcome to our neighbors, honoring that while Jesus taught us to love all neighbors, without exception, Black lives are particularly vulnerable now.
Taking up Jesus’ yoke looks like acknowledging the weariness of others and working concretely to relieve their burdens. “Come to me, you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,” Jesus said. Those words are echoed in the poem, The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus, which was written to help raise funds for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. You’ve heard the words,
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Jesus’ words are echoed in this poem that is part of our heritage as Americans. His words urge us who follow Jesus and think not only of our own weariness, but to reach out to others who are weary, to lift their burdens, to lift them in prayer, to act concretely for their well being.
In every one of those places—and so many more—we see what our being yoked to Jesus looks like. In those places, we see what love looks like. The love of God made known to us in Christ Jesus. Because love is revealed whenever people make sacrifices for the sake of others. Love is on display when people share in community with others, even if we experience community through technology for a time. Love is shown in all its wonder when people dare to look at history not through their own lenses, their own contexts, but through the eyes of others. Love is alive when we love other people as we love ourselves.
This gift of love is given to us through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord. This gift of love is not cheap – Jesus gave his life so that we could receive and know it. It was risky for Jesus. Living the way of love, the way of sacrifice for the sake of others, including people we don’t know and will never meet, this way of love is risky for us. People will accuse us in this divisive time we live in of being political. They will accuse us of being partisan. They will accuse us of being biased. The truth is that we are biased. But our bias as Christians is not a partisan bias; it is a Jesus bias. We are biased because of Jesus’ love for us, and our love for him and for all whom he loves. We are biased in favor of honoring other people, in favor of listening to the lives of those from whom we are different, in favor of believing that every human being, without exception, is worthy of love, worthy of life.
Claim that bias. Proclaim it boldly. Take Jesus’ yoke upon you. Attach yourself to his love. Receive his blessing of rest in the midst of weariness. Because his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
Before our church buildings were closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, sermons were recorded at St. Andrew’s and uploaded by Kemp Miller, for whose ministry we are all grateful. To access the entire library of audio files for those sermons, CLICK HERE.