A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Burdened By Confusion

I conducted an experiment last week in which I asked for input and reflections upon the gospel lesson for this Sunday (Matthew 11).  I asked, "what makes you feel weary and heavy laden?"  Then I promised that I would weave those responses together into a sermon.  So, thank you to all who responded and here goes:

What makes you feel weary and heavy laden?  For some of you the answer was apparently "responding to blogs."  But for others of you a recurring theme and one echoed by my heart as well, was feeling burdened by not knowing what we should do with our lives.  One person said she feels torn between what she feels she should be doing, what others expect her to be doing, what she enjoys doing and then she feels guilty for the choices she makes.  As I pondered this gospel passage in that light, a little two letter word struck me “my”.   Many people have expectations of us and we have our own expectations of our selves.  But Jesus does not talk about these burdens.  Jesus says,  “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  When we feel weary and heavy laden it might be worth asking whose burden we are carrying.

Of course, this doesn’t always apply.  There are tragedies that strike and hardships in life that are unavoidable and heavy indeed.  But,  when it comes to the choices we make, if we struggle under a heavy burden that seems to be going nowhere, it is worthwhile to ask ourselves, “whose burden am I bearing?”  Is this something Jesus asks of me?

Still, it is not as simple as that.  Jesus sometimes asks us to do difficult things. "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34) This does not sound like a walk in the park.  Furthermore, there are many situations in life where our fondest desire is to know what is right and what God wants us to do and yet we do not always know.
Sometimes it is difficult to know what God wants us to do.  Much of the time we don’t even know what we want.  The gospel of Matthew talks about children arguing over what to play.  Some want to play the flute and dance while others want more dramatic action; wailing and mourning.  This is such a vivid image for me.  I often see it acted out by my own children and clearly it is not only children who behave this way.  Jesus reminds us that people complained about John the Baptist not drinking and not eating and then complained that Jesus was drinking and was eating.  It often seems, as one responder pointed out, that we don’t know what we want except that we know it is not what we have.  
I was contemplating the difficulty of knowing the will of Jesus during a bike ride a few days ago.  Just as I was getting pretty cranky about it all, a big, beautiful Monarch butterfly flew across my path.  A sense of wonder overtook me, the frustration left me, and I remembered how marvelously wondrously mysterious and transcendent are the ways of God.  Who was I to doubt the wisdom of one who created the beauty of the butterfly?  This lasted for about 10 yards, I am not one who can easily maintain an attitude of submissive trust for long.  But for that one moment I caught a glimpse of a great truth.  Jesus tells us that the Father and the Son are intricately intertwined.  Jesus says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27)  The story of Jesus tells us of a much larger truth that is beautiful beyond our comprehension. 
 We are called to live our lives by this truth.  For all that Jesus is offering rest in this passage one person pointed out that there are still many actions we are called to here.  Jesus calls us to come to him, take his yoke, and learn from him.  All of these actions are about immersing ourselves in the story of Jesus. So we pray, read scriptures and we go to our places of worship and hear words of scripture spoken and sung.  We hear again the story of Jesus who healed and loved and taught and then died for our sakes.  
Church may seem pointless at times but it is part of how we immerse ourselves in the story of Jesus with the support of others.  For Jesus calls us to take his yoke upon ourselves.   A yoke is usually something that binds two animals together so that their combined strength might pull the burden.   We are claimed by God and yoked together so that our burdens are shared. We are yoked together so that we need not struggle in our confusion alone but can contemplate and discuss together how the truths of scripture guide us in our daily lives.   Jesus invites us to take his yoke, giving us purpose in our lives.  God claims us as God’s children so that even our struggles and confusion become part of the story of God.  We may not always get it right, the path ahead may be murky indeed but always we are children of God yoked together to live God’s love in the world.  We rest in the promise of Jesus that his yoke is easy and his burden is light, trusting that somehow these are words of truth in this world of many burdens.  In this truth and in the promises of God, in the body and blood of Christ Jesus and in the hope of the resurrection we surely will find rest for our souls.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

1 comment:

Bird Woman of Dakota Road said...

Pastor Sheri - Thank you for your blog.
Tom pointed it out to me & said how good it was.
I am glad I am living in rural Kansas because of
people like you. Collette