Breaking a Few Yokes

buy provigil in south africa The Sunday Sermon – August 9, 2015

do you need a prescription for cytotec in mexico Matthew 11:25-30

 Hear the message: 

So, August is in full stride now and if you’ve read my epistle in this month’s Newsletter you are aware that much energy is spent in these weeks of this eighth month of the year “organizing for communal life,” namely the communal life of the ministry year ahead: 2015-2016. We will return to our “full schedule” in September after the Labor Day weekend and officially bid a fond farewell to the summer of 2015.

We are reconfiguring some staff positions to more fully engage and support the Team ministries in our coming year. We are preparing for a new Seminarian, our fifth Student Minister since I’ve been Head-of-Staff here. Our Child Development Center is preparing for a new school year. We are incredibly fortunate to have the leadership we do in our school. Sharon and Kathy, take care of the children, parents, and teachers beautifully, but their “ramped” up schedule affects our own. From the enrollment drive that has already begun, to open houses, chapel services scheduling, and preparations for the first day of school, our campus is buzzing with the organizing of this, our broadest, outreach ministry. Our Chancel Choir, Youth Group, and non-Sunday ministries and fellowships have moved back up to the front burner and are being discussed and “organized” to most effectively serve the needs of our faith community this coming Fall, Winter and Spring.

Good stuff, one and all. Some comfort in returning to old patterns, some excitement considering new ones, and always a good sense that we are engaging in faithful and fruitful conversations after a fun and fellowship of the past summer months.

Now I share this, as do every year in one way or another, not to make anyone overly anxious about the planning needed in these weeks, and surely not to be self-pitying. We understand that the priestly role, however deep and wide it may be at any particular time of the year, is part of our call. We spent most of our summer talking about the “costs of discipleship” and we embrace them just as we do its joys.  It’s just that this month the “costs,” the time spent in organizing, tips the scales. Nothing new, it happens every year. And I’ve been wrestling this week to figure out how I might tip the scales back a bit, how I might offer some words of stability for our “lopsided church lives” this month and into next. I’m hoping that some of these thoughts go beyond the organizing we’re doing here and speak to your wider lives and all the organizing you’re dong to get ready for school – primary, secondary, and collegiate; or new job schedules; of “simple” seasonal changes you are preparing for. All of this “organizing” is too easily done at the expense of really being present in life – with those you love or those you trust or even those you are organizing “for.” Words of wisdom …hmm …

Pray with me. And listen for the Word of God from Matthew …Read Matthew 11:25-30

So, as I read that passage following my little introduction, the question is this: If Jesus’ “yoke” is easy, and burden light, whose yolk and burden am I carrying? Whose are you carrying?

A yoke is an instrument that holds, or binds one thing to another for the purpose of accomplishing some sort of work, doing some necessary but, in our minds at least, often undesirable task. That doesn’t sound like the yoke Jesus is speaking of, but let’s consider our own understanding first and ask ourselves …

What are the “yokes” in our lives today? What things are we bound to outside of ourselves. What things require our obedience and submission? We can start with family, I suppose. Marriage or commitment to a spouse or significant other. Parenthood – fatherhood and motherhood. Our extended family: parents, grandparents and grandchildren, brothers and sisters, and all their families. We are yoked. Bound by love and obligation.

Beyond the people in our families we serve the activities and schedules of our lives together as family and with friends. Vacations and family times, sports events, educational requirements and opportunities, scouting, dancing, overnights, get-togethers. With a sixteen, fourteen, and twelve year old in our household, Katie and I are pretty fully “yolked” to this load. Bound by requests and desire. So many of you, too.

Beyond the family there are our jobs and professions. The regular office hours combine with early breakfast meetings and late dinner conference calls. “Back to the office” evening meetings and occasional overnight seminars and continuing educational needs.   Staff and company picnics, holiday parties and birthday celebrations. Calendars and deadlines. We are yoked. Bound by necessity and self-fulfillment.

Beyond our families and professions there are our personal goals. Diet, physical appearance, mental acuity, spiritual fulfillment, wholeness and peace. We are yoked. Bound by our promises to and expectations of ourselves.

We are yoked to our desire for spiritual fulfillment and that desire comes as a “double-yoke,” joined as it is with our sense of obligation to a church, the church, our church. Worship, Sunday school, choirs, youth groups, adult groups, Wednesday dinner, Tuesday studies, holiday events, Ministry Team service, Session meetings, stewardship – the constant giving of our time and talents and money. We are yoked. Bound by our call from God and response to God’s church.

We are harnessed, in other words, to many yokes. And we are tired. If you didn’t feel a little bit weary before we prayed this morning, you probably do now after that list of obligations. We are worn out by the yokes we carry, the yokes we take upon ourselves. And again, I note: These don’t sound like the yoke Jesus’ is speaking of.

And of course they are not. The yokes we bear are most often in service to ourselves and our own needs, right? Even our religious and spiritual ones. We are tired because we shoulder our yokes, those we just listed and more, and strike out on our own to conquer the “fields of our lives” to fulfill our own desires and our own needs.

As the title of the sermon this morning states, one of our tasks as disciples of Christ, members of a family or a work force, and citizens of the world, is to break a few of those yokes, a few of our yolks, the ones that keep us tied to servitude and obedience for the sake of competition and getting ahead, being liked and popular, having the newest and the fastest, the best and the brightest, having the most space or the perfect staff or the best ministry, tragically defined most often by size and notoriety. Break those yokes, take up the one Jesus offers, and learn from him. What does that mean? What can it mean?

Learning from him involves paying serious attention to the fact that he lived “gently and humbly in heart.” Our life, when we honestly follow him, requires a spirit of gentleness and humility, as modeled by Jesus. Think back to the “yokes” I mentioned earlier, think over the ones you identify in your own life.

If, and when, we take on any of the tasks that I spoke of – personal, familial, or professional for selfish and self-centered reasons, in order to get ahead of others or make life easier for ourselves at the expense of others, then we will have little or no rest for our tired bodies. If we meet and organize ourselves and as a church, discussing and planning and surveying and visioning for any other reason than the glory of God through the betterment and growth of the community we have been given, then we will labor in vain and be exhausted when we’re through. If we want more opportunities and things for our children or youth to do, in our personal lives or in our church life, so that we may be relieved of our own responsibility to them, then we will continue to feel the weight of the yokes we are asked to bear. Those are the yolks we must break if our souls are to find the rest, Christ promises. Those yolks we’ve shouldered that are driven by guilt, or fear, or “being number one,” or fueled by the judgment of others. Lay those burdens down and take up the yoke of gentleness and humility. Put down those yolks that keep us strapped to the past and to the rules our culture and our world have shackeled us with …

There is a Zen Buddhist wisdom story that illustrates this beautifully:

Two monks were on a journey to distant monastery when they came to a river and there on the bank sat a young woman.

“I beg you,” the woman asked , “could you carry me across? The current is strong today and I’m afraid that I might be swept away.”

The first monk remembered his vows not to look at or touch a woman, and so, without so much as a nod, he crossed through the heavily flowing currents and soon reached the other side.

The other monk showed compassion and bent down do that the woman could climb on his back to cross the river. Although she was slight, the current was strong and the rocky bottom made it difficult crossing. Reaching the other side, he let the woman down and went on his way.

After some hours journeying down the dusty road in silence, the first monk could no longer contain his anger at the second for breaking his vows. “How could you do what you did? You broke your vow by carrying across the river! You’ve put our reputation at stake!”

The first monk looked at this companion and smiled, speaking softly, “I put that woman down way back there at the river bank, but you are still carrying her.”

“Come to me all you that are weary are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” Learning from Christ involves paying serious attention to his gentle spirit and his humble heart.

As you go through your week this week, if you notice yourself feeling guilty, or angry at yourself or at others, pause to notice what rules, what “vows,” what yokes are guiding your thoughts and weighing you down. As you go through your week this week make a conscious effort to leave the experiences of guilt or shortcomings or competition behind. Don’t’ carry them with you. As you go through your week this week, when you feel tense, remember the monk who left his burden at the river and did not trouble himself afterward, and try to do the same. Remember Christ’s call to gentleness and humility and take up that yoke. It is light. It is easy, and we will find rest.

May it be so. Amen.

Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / January 29, 2012