O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. (Psalm 105:1-3)
As we join together, wherever we are, let us praise God, pray for God’s world, and listen to God’s word.
Let us glorify and adore the one true God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
Almighty God the Father,
gracious Lord of all,
whose glory knows no bounds:
we worship and adore you.
Lord Jesus Christ the Son,
eternal Word of God,
whose mercy never ends:
we worship and adore you.
Most good and loving Spirit,
source of power and life,
whose goodness lasts for ever:
we worship and adore you.
Eternal Lord God,
you are worshipped and adored by all the hosts of heaven:
we join our thanks and praise with the triumph song of prophets and apostles, saints and martyrs of all the ages,
praying that your grace may enable us,
unworthy as we are,
to worship you adoringly on earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer of confession
Christ our Lord calls all who love him earnestly to repent of their sin and live in peace with one another.
Therefore, let us confess our sins before God and one another.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you and against one another,
in thought and word and deed,
in the evil we have done,
and in the good we have not done,
we have sinned through ignorance, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We are truly sorry and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who died for us,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may serve you in the newness of life
to the glory of your name.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, the apostle assures us:
If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous;
and he is the perfect offering for our sins,
and not for ours only,
but for the sins of the whole world.
(1 John 2:1-2)
Hear then Christ’s word of grace to us:
‘Your sins are forgiven.’
Thanks be to God.
Lord God our Heavenly Father give us a sense of your presence as we bring before you our prayers for ourselves and for the world.
In a world which often seems to be so divided, angry, partisan, and judgemental, we pray today for goodness, reconciliation and forgiveness. Lord, we ask you to help us to seek out opportunities to work for understanding and tolerance between people.
Lord, today we pray for victims of war, earthquake, fire, famine and disaster. For those whom disaster has left homeless, injured or bereaved and today our thoughts and prayers are especially with the people of Ethiopia and Hong Kong as they go through social unrest, United States and all the countries that are overburdened by the corona virus pandemic.
We pray for all who are desolate and in pain or sorrow this day. We pray especially for anyone known to us who are sick, in trouble, or in need, and in a moment of silence we name them in our hearts.
In your mercy, heal their sickness, dispel their fears, and may they know that you are ever near them, and may they enjoy the strong and steadfast comfort that your presence brings.
Lord, we pray for those whose hearts have been saddened by the death of someone close and dear to them, for members of our families who have died and whose anniversary we recall.
Help us to experience the comfort of the Holy Spirit within us, and the fellowship of the church family around us until we are reunited once more in your heavenly kingdom.
Lord of life and Love, with thankful hearts we acknowledge our lives to be a gift of your grace, renewed every morning and nurtured every day in your tender care.
Keep us faithful to the challenges this day and the week ahead will bring, make us a blessing to those whose lives we touch and show us how to receive in gratitude the blessings their lives bring to ours.
Let us join together in the Lord’s prayer:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Psalm 145:8-14 (NIV)
8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
9 The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, Lord;
your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
Matthew 11:16-19 and 25-30 (NIV)
16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
How is 2020 going for you? It began with the bushfires, then Covid-19, and lasting impacts of Covid-19. Whatever we planned as individuals, as a church and as a society hasn’t worked out. Things haven’t worked out – and while there have been some good things arise, overwhelmingly, things have been difficult. Things have been harder than usual.
Many years ago, Malcolm Fraser captured that sentiment in the line “Life wasn’t meant to be easy.”
It rings true, doesn’t it? Our experience is that life isn’t easy. Sometimes, and especially this year, it seems as if everything’s against us.
As Malcom Fraser said, “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”.
Except I think Malcolm Fraser was wrong.
Because as we read the bible, we certainly learn that life isn’t easy. But we also learn that it wasn’t meant to be that way.
Life was meant to be easy. But it turned out not to be… because we got in the way. Not just us here at Carlingford, but all of us. As Paul wrote to the Romans “There is no one who is righteous, not even one… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:10,23)
In turning away from God, in turning to our own ways, we made life hard. As it is put in Genesis 3 “cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;” (Gen 3:17-18).
Yes: Life is hard.
And that’s what we read throughout the Old Testament. Life is hard. The people complain. God sends help – which sometimes comes in the form of something bad – to bring the people back to him. Judges, prophets, kings, plagues, invasions, exiles and so on.
It’s a cycle we see happening time and time again as we read the scriptures. But it’s a cycle that ends with Jesus. The birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago wasn’t the end of life being hard, it wasn’t the end of suffering, but it was the beginning of the end.
Not everyone gets that distinction though…even many Christians struggle with the idea. Bad events are often thought to be God’s judgement. Many people claimed the 9/11 attacks were the result of the US turning away from God. Earlier still, AIDS was often claimed to be God’s judgment on people not following God’s commandments.
Yes, life is hard, but Jesus’ birth was beginning of the end. But we know that Jesus’ own life wasn’t easy. Jesus was one of us – and he experienced all the hardships of human life. Up to and including death. And in rising again, he conquered death… the firstborn from the dead as Paul writes to the Colossians.
But the end is not yet – and in the meantime, life remains hard. And there is no assurance that Christians will have an easier time of it than non-Christians. In fact, there is the assurance that life won’t be easy…
Jesus’ says in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5) “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” and as we heard recently “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24)
And our experience reflects that, doesn’t it? And our experience also reflects that not everyone is prepared to accept Jesus – that many people either think that they can solve the problems of the world themselves, or that the world’s problems simply cannot be solved.
Jesus says in this morning’s reading “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ (11:16-17)
We played music, but you didn’t respond. And then we were sad, and you didn’t care. People didn’t respond to a happy message, or an unhappy one.
People just didn’t respond.
And then Jesus spells it out for his listeners.
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; (11:18)
John is John the Baptist… the one who was preaching baptism and repentance out in the wilderness by the Jordan. Famous for wearing a goat hair robe and a rope for a belt, and for living on a diet of locusts and wild honey.
People thought he was mad for living like that – Jesus tells us they thought he had a demon.
But when Jesus came along and started preaching, he didn’t live like that – he ate and drank, and presumably had clothes better than a goat hair robe, people criticised that too - ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
It’s a lose/lose situation. If don’t eat and drink you’re mad, if you do, you’re a glutton and a drunkard! People will always find fault… if they want to find fault. And if you want to ignore the message… well sometimes the easiest way to ignore a message is to discredit the messenger…
Having reflected on that hypocrisy, Jesus prays.
“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;”
I think sometimes there’s irony or even sarcasm in what Jesus says… but we Christians are often keen to take everything at face value. “Father… you have hidden these things from the wise an intelligent and have revealed them to infants”.
The wise and intelligent can’t grasp what the infants can?
They might think they’re wise and intelligent, they might even be wise and intelligent in the eyes of the world, but if they’re missing their own double standards, and if they’re missing the obvious, well then, how wise and intelligent can they really be? As the saying goes: perhaps they’re too smart for their own good.
In verse, 26 Jesus confirms that it is God’s will – “yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” The gospel – the good news of Jesus is for everyone – not just the religious elite, not just the intelligentsia, not just for the nation of Israel – but it’s good news for infants. If the infants can ‘get it’, then we all can, can’t we?
Unless, like the ‘wise and intelligent’ that Jesus talks about, we choose not to.
Then Jesus affirms his special place in creation, in verse 27 he 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.”
There is no one like Jesus. There is no one else who knows the Father he does. As Jesus says in John’s gospel, he is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him. (John 14:6).
Today’s reading climaxes with verses 28-30, which is one of my favourite passages in all of scripture. Jesus says “Come to me, all you that 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 in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (11:28-30)
There’s an invitation.
There’s an assurance.
There’s an offer.
First, the invitation. Jesus says “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens”. Who’s weary and carrying heavy burdens? Maybe it’s easier to turn it around and ask “Well, who isn’t?”.
Life is hard, and life is hard work. It seems there’s never enough time to get done everything that we want to get done – let alone everything we should get done. So we push ourselves, we rush, we hurry, me might neglect things or cut corners. Traditionally, Sunday is a day of rest. And even if it is our most restful day, I wonder how many people don’t have at least a mental list of things they need to get done? They might be good things to do… but they’re things and they take time, but even when we’re having fun, it can be exhausting.
So Jesus invitation is to all of us. To all people. “Come to me” he says.
And then the assurance – “Come to me […] and I will give you rest”. And rest is the solution. The solution to carrying heavy burdens – the burdens of life – is rest. That is what Jesus offers.
If we look back to those well known words from the Old Testament “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. “ (Ps 23:1-3a)
And the Hebrew which is translated as “still waters”, is literally “waters of rest”
So we have the invitation, and then we have the assurance.
And then, finally the offer “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.”
We often think of a yoke as something that restrains… but that’s not what a yoke is intended to do. These days, we don’t know much about yokes. When I was at Lay Preacher School I met a dairy farmer who, with her husband, ran a competitive bullock team –yes, they do exist and are popular at various country shows. She knew a lot about yokes.
From her point of view, the yoke wasn’t a burden for the bullocks, nor was even it to control the bullocks, which I’d always assumed; rather it’s a mechanism to harness their power. The yoke, rather than being a burden, is a tool. It helps get the job done.
You are probably also familiar with the lighter yoke, where some sort of pole is placed across the shoulders, with burdens hung on the ends. Again, the yoke itself is not a burden, instead, it’s a tool which makes carrying burdens easier – you can carry a lot more with a such a yoke than without.
Thinking of the yoke Jesus talks about in this context, I’m reminded of his words to the rich young man later in Matthew’s gospel, when the rich young man despairs of being able to be saved. “With man this is impossible,” Jesus tells him “But with God all things are possible”.
So when Jesus says take my “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;” he’s saying take my way, it’s easier. Jesus’ way, rather than the ways of the world, make bearing life’s burdens easier. And as well as taking on his yoke, he says we should learn from him. Listen to what he says, follow his commandments, live the way that he wants us to live. Because, he says, he is gentle and humble in heart.
And wouldn’t it be great if we were like that – gentle and humble in heart? Not just sometimes, but all the time. And that’s how we find rest, the rest we all need.
That is Jesus offer – take his yoke, learn from him, and we will find rest for our souls.
Jesus’ invitation, his assurance and his offer is there for all of us. We have to decide for ourselves if we accept it. We can be be like the wise and intelligent folks who choose not to accept it. We can think that rather than Jesus being the solution to the burdens of life, we can deal with those burdens ourselves.
Many people think that we can solve the world’s problems by ourselves… and a few even try. But the scriptures… history…. and our own experience tells us that’s not going to work.
So it’s a choice. A choice for us. A choice for all people.
A burden, or a yoke?
Life was meant to be easy…. But it isn’t.
Do we try to deal with the burdens of life ourselves… or do we take on Christ’s yoke?
The invitation, the assurance and the offer is there.
If we turn to him, he will give us rest.
His yoke is easy, and his burden is light.
The writer to the Hebrews said:
Do not neglect to do good
and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:16)
And so we pray,
Gracious God, our heavenly father,
You have blessed us richly, and given us all we have.
We ask you to accept the offering of our worship and our lives,
And ask you to empower us to be witnesses to your love shown to all people in Jesus Christ our Lord,
In whose name we pray.
May the Lord of peace give you peace at all times and in all ways.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all evermore.
(2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18)
Hymns for this week:
Looking Out: 16 weeks
Next week (July 12):
Lectionary: Psalm 119:105-112 or Psalm 65:1-8, 9-13
Genesis 25:19-34 or Isaiah 55:10-13 – the value of things
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
For worship: Genesis 25:19-34, Romans 8:9-11
Theme: “The value of things”
Worship will include Holy Communion.