Sermons 2008
Easy Yoke? Proper 9A 2008, 6 July 2008, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Home | Light and Love, Christmas 1B , 28 December 2008, John 1:1-18 | The light and the darkness, Christmas Day, 25 December 2008, John 1:1-14 | What would you see? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2008, Luke 2:1-20 | What did you say? Advent 3B, 14 December 2008, John 1:6-8. 19-28 | A refining fire, Advent 2B, 7 Dec 2008, Mark 1:1-8 | Alert, alert! Advent 1B, 30 November 2008, Mark 13:24-37 | Where will we stand: sheep or goats? Proper 29A 2008, 23 November 2008, Matthew 25: 31-46 | The talents to...? Proper 28A, 16 November 2008, Matthew 25:14-30 | Choose this day, Proper 27A, 9 November 2008, Joshua 24:14-25; Matthew 25:1-13 | All Saints A, 2 November 2008, Matthew 5:1-12; 23:1-12 | Holy or not? Proper 25A, 26 October 2008, Matthew 22:34-46 | Things: God's or Caesar's? Proper 24A, 19 October 2008, Matthew 22:15-22 | The wedding and the allegory, Proper 23A, 12 October 2008, Matthew 22:1-14 | The vineyard and the rock, Proper 22A. 5 October 2008, Matthew 21:33-46 | Deference and disobedience, Proper 21A, 28 September 2008, Exodus 17:1-7; Matthew 21:23-32 | Be content, Proper 20A , 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Only one true church? Proper 18A, 7 September 1008, Matthew 18:15-20 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 22:1-16 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Holy Name and Holy Ground, Proper 17A, Exodus 3:1-15; Matthew 16:21-28 | What's in a name? Proper 16A, 24 August 2008, Matthew 16:13-20 | Dogs? Proper 15A, 17 August 2008, Matthew 15:10-28 | Time to get out of the boat, Proper 14A, 10 August 2008, Matthew 14:22-33 | Who, me? Proper 13A, 3 August 2008, Matthew 14:13-21 | LIKE what? Proper 12A, 27 July 2008, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 | Good seed, bad seed, Proper 11A , 20 July 2008, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 | Watch the Farmer, Proper 10A, 13 July 2009, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 | Easy Yoke? Proper 9A 2008, 6 July 2008, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 | Baptism of David William and Anne Tyler, Proper 8A, 29 June 2008 | The Twelve or the Dirty Dozen? Proper 6A, 15 June 2008, Matthew 9:35-10:15 | Jesus likes sinners?, Proper 5A, 8 June 2008, Matthew 9:9-13 | Lawlessness or not? Pentecost 3A, Proper 4A, 1 June 2008, Matthew 7:21-29 | What do you mean, if? Easter 6A, 27 April 2008, John 14:15-21 | Comforting words and St Thomas, Easter 5A, 20 April 2008, John 14:1-14 | Ordinary good shepherds, Easter 4A 2008, 13 April 2008, John 10:1-10 | Light for clarity, Easter 3A, 6 April 2008, Luke 24:13-35 | "Blessed are those who....", Easter 2A, 30 March 2008, John 20:19-31 | Hallelujah! He's alive! Easter Sunday A, 23 March 2008, John 20:1-18 | He had it all, Palm Sunday A, 16 March 2008, Matthew 26:14-27:54 | Lazarus: Waiting for Jesus, Lent 5A, 9 March 2008, John 11:1-45 | Miracles Physical and Spiritual, Lent 4A, 2 March 2008, John 9:1-41 | Living Water, Lent 3A, 24 February 2008, John 4:5-42 | God's unselfish love, Lent 2A, 17 February 2008, John 3:1-17 | Temptation, Lent 1A, 10 February 2008 | Ash Wednesday, 6 February 2008, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | They heard the Lord call, Epiphany 3A, 20 Jan 2008, Matthew 4:12-23 | Come and See! Epiphany 2A, 20 January 2008, John 1: 29-42 | Remember Your Baptism? Epiphany 1A, 13 January 2008, Matthew 3:13-17 | We Three Kings, The Epiphany, 6 January 2008, Matthew 2:1-12

Proper 9A 2008 Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30

A few of us who have been here for years may remember that the lovely Lyle Gage walnut mantel piece around the fire place was not always there. Before the sound proofing panels were added almost twelve years ago, a heaven wooden double trace oxen yoke was affixed to the wall there over the fireplace. And below it was this verse from today’s gospel: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” After the renovation the yoke seemed to have disappeared, who knows where.

In ancient Palestine ox yokes were also made of wood. The farmer or drover brought in the ox or oxen and measurements were taken. The thick wooden yoke was then roughed out and the animals were brought back to try the yoke on for adjustments. These were carefully tailor made so that the yoke fit well and not hurt the oxen. (1)

There is a wonderful legend concerning the quiet years of Jesus prior to his visible ministry. The legend is that Jesus the carpenter was one of the master yoke-makers in the Nazareth area, indeed in all of Galilee. People came from miles around for the best yoke that could be made, hand carved and crafted by Jesus, son of Joseph the carpenter.

When customers arrived with their team of oxen Jesus would spend considerable time measuring the team, their height, the width, the space between them, and the size of their shoulders. Within a week, the team would be returned and Jesus would carefully place the newly made yoke over the shoulders, watching for rough places, smoothing out the edges and fitting them perfectly to each team of oxen.

Shops in those days had signs over their doorways then as now. The legend also suggests that Jesus’ carpenter shop may have had a sign over its door as well. And who knows, that sign might have advertised, “My yokes fit well.” (2)

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Sounds like what Episcopalians have accused of in recent years. But what does it really mean? What does this easy part really mean. Chrestos, the word for easy used here in reference to the yoke, can mean well fitting. But at a deeper level it can also mean kind. Matthew’s reference is to the kindness, mercy, and love that God has for all his children. And the light burden placed on the children of God as a result of the light yoke is to reflect that kindness, love, and mercy to every one without fail. It is an echo of the great Summary of the Law: to love God and to love the neighbor as one’s self. (3)

In the context of his time on earth and his debates with the scribes and Pharisees, the light yoke could also mean something else. The scribes and Pharisees accused Jesus of being a friend of tax collectors and sinners, categories of people with whom the self righteous were forbidden to associate by the detailed rigors of the Mosaic law. Jesus swept all that aside with the great commandment. The Mosaic Law became a guide for Christians, not laws for which violations were punished.

A last story told by the great Scottish biblical commentator William Barclay: In this story a man came upon a little boy carrying an even smaller boy who was lame. “That’s a heavy burden for you to carry,” said the man. “That’s no’ a burden came the answer. “That’s my little brother.” (1)

This is the Fourth of July weekend. We Americans have much of which to be proud as we reflect on our 232 year old experience with freedom and democracy. As has often been the case we are surrounded by the demands of difficult war and clamoring political strife. But in the middle of it all we can never forget God’s call to carry our little sisters and brothers, the poor, the hungry, the sick, the homeless. If we who call ourselves Christians don’t see to it, who will?


1. Barclay, Matthew, vol 2, p17
2. Ibid; eSermons Illustrations for Proper 9A
3. Hare, Matthew, pp 128-129.
1. p.17