by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, July 5, 2014:
First Reading: Zechariah 9:9-12
First Reading (Semi-cont.): Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm: Psalm 145:8-15 (Psalm 145:8-14 NRSV)
Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 45:11-18 (Psalm 45:10-17 NRSV)
Psalm (Alt.): Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (Semi-continuous)
Second Reading: Romans 7:15-25a
Gospel: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
In this week's Gospel, we see the mystical Jesus, the one of bizarre stories and metaphors that confuse. The first part of this week's Gospel has those strange comparisons calling us children in the marketplace, and then Jesus reminds us that he and John are the latest in a long line of people sent by God to get our attention. And then the Gospel ends with that strange bit about easy yokes and light burdens, when the very definition of yoke and burden encompass experiences that aren't easy and light.
Maybe in these days of rising prices, you're feeling the more traditional definition of yoke and burden, a strangling and a crushing sensation. Maybe you're weary of the world's problems and the inability of governments to even attempt to solve them. Maybe you wish for a savior to show up in our troubled times. But then you'd have to wonder if we'd even notice, in our world of noise and distraction.
Sometimes, when I feel most bleak, I like to return to the words of the Old Testament prophets. It's good to remember that no matter how terrible our historic age seems, it's not really a new situation. This week's reading from Zechariah commands us: "Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope."
That command is our burden and our yoke. We must be prisoners of hope. We are called to commit to resurrection. That doesn't stop with our belief in a resurrected Lord. That's just one sign, among a galaxy of signs, of a God who creates and recreates the cosmos daily.
In our deepest despair, we must remember that we're Resurrection People. To me, that's one of the beliefs that separates Christianity from the other major religions. We don't believe in a fixed universe. We don't believe that we're doomed. We don't believe that we have to accept our lot with stoic resignation and wait for a better life--in a future lifetime, in Heaven, but not right now.
No, our burden and our yoke is that God calls us into partnership in this remodeling of the world into one that is more in line with God's vision and plan. Could God just step in and order it to be so? Perhaps. But God didn't create that kind of universe. For whatever reason, God found it much more interesting to design a world in which we have free will. We can put our necks into the yoke that God offers us and discover that what appears to be a burden is, in fact, a blessing that transforms us as we transform the world.