Jesus and John the Baptist were two very different people. Those who knew both of them couldn’t believe they were cousins. They were almost exact opposites. One lived a very simple, almost austere, life and the other enjoyed being with folks at parties and interacting with people eating and drinking rich food. Jesus seemed to always be with people who weren’t very likely to associate with those Jews who followed the Law to the letter.
Even though they were so different, even though they both preached about repentance, people had trouble understanding they were both preaching about God’s kingdom. One was the ‘messenger’ and the other the Messiah. One was a square peg and the other was the round hole. Folks couldn’t see how they could get the two together. So, they had questions. They just didn’t get it.
Both John and Jesus had a message from God for the people. Some got it and quite a few didn’t. They were so used to listening to the leaders of the Temple about keeping the Law down to the last little letter that they couldn’t believe that Jesus’ “yoke” could be any easier.
If it was easier it couldn’t possibly be right. It has to be hard to a Jew, to be perfect, to be holy. Some folks believe the same thing about being a follower of Jesus. It has to be hard to follow Jesus. It has to be painful to be perfect. We have to jump through a lot of hoops to be holy. It can’t be fun to be a follower of the Way. Not everybody can do it.
Go back to the beginning of the gospel lesson you heard today. Jesus is talking about children playing their games in the street. They played their songs but some children didn’t come out to dance. They sang funeral songs but no one came to mourn.
I could say something similar. I preached a message of repentance but no one repented. I preached a message of loving neighbors and still there are neighbors who aren’t loved. I preached a message about peace and yet there’s war, between countries, between neighbors, between brothers and sisters.
Jesus prayed to the Father and gave him praise because he was glad that the smart, powerful people didn’t get his message but the common, little people did.
Who gets the message from God today? Is it the wise and learned or is it those we don’t pay attention to as we go about living our lives? Are we trying to follow all the commandments in the Old Testament, doing it the hard way? Are we asking those others to do it our way or do we trust God to show us the way? Are we expecting everyone to be like us? Are we trying to get square pegs to fit into round holes?
Is there only one way to know and follow and do God’s work? Maybe we’re the ones who aren’t getting it. Maybe we’re the ones who are wrong. Maybe there’s another way or maybe there’s more than one way to be a true follower of Jesus. Maybe our yoke is heavier than it should be.
So, what are we going to do? What are you going to do? Are you going to keep trying to get every one to conform to your way of thinking? Are you expecting everyone who comes through these doors to be just like you or me? Are you still teaching the same way you did 25 years ago and expecting those listening today to get it? Are you playing the same song and complaining because no one’s dancing to your music?
Friends, it’s time to open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to God’s Message of repentance and love. It’s time to admit to ourselves and others that we don’t have all the answers, that maybe we’ve been wrong. It’s time to stop talking and listen to ‘others’ concerns and questions.
If we’re the square pegs and we encounter some round holes it’s about time that we sit down and listen to each other and see how it’s possible to coexist. Maybe it’s time to put some radii on our perfect 90 degree corners.
Friends, it’s time to take off the old yoke that has become so burdensome, that has been chafing our shoulders and put on this ‘yoke’ Jesus is talking about. It’s time to trust God and let God show us the way.
It’s time to simplify our lives. It’s time to listen to the others. It’s time to help and love the others, even if we don’t understand their lifestyle. It’s time to quit trying to make them life us.
In life just like in our world there are many different kinds of people and personalities and shapes. There are some who are triangles. Some who are squares and some who are circles. And then there are those who are really different, they’re trapezoids and ellipses. Where’d they come from?
All of us have been given gifts from God. This I believe. All of us, I believe, are expected to use our gifts to the benefit of those who live around us.
So, as I mentioned at the beginning of worship this morning, take some time to pray and listen for God’s prompting this week. Pay attention to how God is working all around you. And at the end of your day reflect on you noticed God helping you with this holy work you’ve been called to.My friends, Jesus’ yoke is light and easy, try it on and give God your thanks and praise for the grace he shows you every day. Amen.