The Yoke of Freedom

We speak of freedom in this country--are proud of it, proud that we are a free country. But we take it for granted. Freedom itself is not a right, but a privilege.

Within Freedom we are granted certain rights, such as the right to free speech, the right to vote, the right to worship.

Many don't honor those rights; that is they don't vote, don't speak up to wrongs, don't take a stand for truth or principles; don't work for causes. They let others do all the work. They don't get involved in issues--don't get involved at all. Basically many folks just coast along.

The outside signboard of Trinity right now reads---Freedom includes the right to worship---don't waste it. Unfortunately, many DO waste it. We've become so comfortable with our worship experience we're reluctant to even change pews. Folks sit in the same spot week after week, year after year. Of course it makes things easier for me because as I look out I can spot who's not at worship that day. If it happens two weeks in a row and I haven't heard whether the person is ill or not, I can then make a phone call to find out.

There was a book written back in the 1960's titled, The Comfortable Pew. It was very revealing about how comfortable the Christian Church has become, how it's lost it dynamic, how it's lost it's confronting edge, how it's lost its purpose in caring for and standing up for the poor and weak and disenfranchised. It revealed how comfortable worship had become so that it was almost a performance, a rote experience, not engaging or challenging. Instead of Liturgy (which means 'the work of the people') it has become a show, a performance for the 'audience' gathered. And folks who are gathered for worship treat it like a performance, complaining and criticizing this aspect of that of the worship service. So, even when people do attend worship, they waste it.

In today's Gospel, 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."

In yoking two oxen together, an inexperienced ox is yoked with an experienced one in order to learn. This is what Jesus is referring to. Yoking with him we can learn a great deal, and without him life is just one burden after another, doing it on our own.

Yoking with Jesus means 'rest for our souls' as he says. Jesus is ALWAYS concerned out our souls, the spiritual, eternal part of us. Whatever parable he tells, or statement he makes, it always deals with our spiritual self. There are immediate benefits to following his teachings, but he is concerned about the long run, the eternal.

When you learn from Jesus, when you let him take the burden, life is easier. Not easy, but easier. You're not carrying the full burden. Jesus teaches us how to work with the flow of life's energy, not work against it.

But even more importantly, Jesus gives us tools with which to learn, to grow to become more experienced. However, we're so comfortable with our religion that we border on being lazy. We don't care about becoming more experienced. We don't care about growing spiritually. And the older we get the more comfortable we get and the more we just accept where we are, and just accept the hassles. Because if we were to grow spiritually, it would mean we'd have conflict; we'd have to be confronting; we'd have to take a stand. But we don't want any hassles. We don't want any conflict. We don't want to confront. We just want to coast along. It's a lose-lose attitude.

It not only affects one's life, but the life of the congregation to which one belongs. One's life just seems to go from one unresolved conflict to another, one unresolved problem to another. It also affects the congregation one belongs to. The more 'coast along' folks a congregation has the more it becomes one of those stagnant places that people stay away from, that people whom the church is called to minister to, don't want anything to do with such a place.. They see such a church as full of hypocrites. They see such a church as caring more about being comfortable than really being on the front lines of a compassionate, caring, open, inviting, risk taking, Gospel centered church.

Many folks ignore the tools of being strengthened: worship; reading/studying, knowing what's in the Bible; using the power of being in communication with God in prayer. Many folks just don't care.

But God cares. Jesus says he didn't come to bring peace, but brings a two-edged sword. The sword of peace is a two-edged one. It separates those who want peace from those who just want the status quo. The peace that Jesus speaks of is NOT a physical calm or stillness.

The peace Jesus speaks of has a tremendous energy. In order for peace to sustain itself against a constant bombardment of negativity and unrest from the devil, who is always trying to bring division amongst God's people and separation from God, peace cannot be apathetic, cannot be a coasting along.

Peace is having a constant connection to God. Peace is powerful. Peace is a harmony, a unifying principle, a connection with all of life, a respect for all of God's creation. And peace is NOT an armed peace. That is, peace is not genuine if it takes an army to maintain it. That's not peace. Peace is something you can experience in the midst of challenges and turmoil, somewhat like the eye of a hurricane. A storm rages around it, but at the center there is no storm.

Jesus is not bringing the kind of peace the world thinks of-that is, the absence of conflict or war or turmoil. He brings a much deeper peace. A peace where the assurance of God's presence in one's life brings a new, positive outlook on life, a new, positive approach to life.

Prayer is our connection to that peace. Prayer is our immediate connection to God and God's strength, power, so that we can maintain a peace within ourselves even in the midst of a storm around us.

"A day hemmed with prayer doesn't unravel." That is, praying in the morning and at night strengthens you to meet your challenges and you don't fall apart in the face of them. You are at peace. You aren't taking the burden all on yourself. You are counting on the experience of Jesus. You are counting on the promises of Jesus. You are letting Jesus give rest to your soul.

This week use the tools - help others use the tools. This week pray prayers of thanks, gratitude. Include thanks in all your prayers.

Sun 17th is "invite a friend" Sunday. Don't let your friends waste one of our most precious rights of freedom - the right to worship. And don't YOU waste it.


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