July 5th: Proper Nine, the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Susy Hessel is a lay preacher at St. Hilda St. Patrick and is a mental health counselor. This sermon was preached based on the below manuscript. The gospel text was Matthew 11.16-19, 25-30.

Have you ever felt ignored, like you didn’t exist? You know you haven’t done anything wrong but no one seems to listen to you. It feels like you are invisible. You speak out but you are not seen. No one seems to hear you. But deep inside you lives a powerful voice and you have to let that loud voice free and speak the truth.

We are hearing the dismissed voices of the world at this very moment in time. A revolution began May 25 th when a black man named George Floyd was murdered by police. His death has now been witnessed by millions of people and has become a personal tragedy. He was begging for his life but was not heard. We witnessed the callous arrogance of the perpetrators as they acted out the sins that live in their hearts and the dysfunctional system that has allowed such atrocities to happen with little recognition. George was ignored and not listened to. He died needlessly while begging to be heard. The breath of Christ, the Ruah was extinguished all because of the color of his skin.

George’s death has made us all acutely aware that we are also a part of the problem. This civil rights movement has made us all face the stark reality that either we have been silenced or we have been complicit in silencing others. Only now are we beginning to acknowledge the inherent discrimination that has been a way of life for hundreds of years.

Last week Jesus sent his disciples out to a land of systemic turmoil to be social activists and teach his message of love. They were met with opposition by non-believers but they persisted with hope and their message of peace.

Jesus’s came to disrupt and eliminate a system that was only beneficial to the rich and powerful. To create change we have the exhausting task of evaluating the system and recognize the sins we have committed that have contributed to perpetuating it.

Christ said “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.”

Yoke is a funny word, it is wood crosspiece that goes over the necks of two animals and attached to a plow so they will so they will not wander from the path set out by their master. And historically It was used to describe slaves as yoked to their master and the political laws of the day restricted them from having a voice or free will.

Jesus invites us to come to him with our sins of complicity, persecution and oppression. We are given the chance to let go of our arrogance and sense of entitlement and become vulnerable and humble. It is in our willingness to explore our ignorance that we are led to spiritual awareness and away from our intellect and the idea that we have all the answers.

Taking the yoke of Jesus is to accept into our hearts his invitation to Gods guidance and direction and denounce systemic hatred that demeans and discards our valuable brothers and sisters. Infernos may live in our hearts but are we willing to bring our anger and distrust to God and honestly open our hearts to fighting for love? The yoke of Jesus is a yoke of loving service and peace.

As activists in the name of Christ we must be willing to have the weight of our sense of security and self-centeredness challenged and transformed. We are all a part of creating the damage of racism and we must be a part of healing the divide that is so deeply ingrained in our society.

Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, learn from me and I will give you rest for your soul. We carry a heavy load when we close our eyes to the existence one of Gods creations. Bring your guilt and justifications and find rest and receive God’s grace and spiritual knowledge.

The dichotomy of creating discomfort and dis-ease to effect change and the idea of doing this in a way that is free of having to prove ourselves is confusing. There are risks involved and action is required because the spiritual rest offered in the yoke of Christ is not idle. Rest doesn’t mean go home, put our feet up and watch a movie. It means knowing when to use our voice and when to get out of the way so those who have been silenced can speak. It means taking risks and acting with compassion and mercy. Breathing is easy when the yoke of a master is removed from our necks. It means accepting the loving discipline and direction of Christ. George Floyd would have been able to breathe if his perpetrators had looked past their arrogance and embodied an open heart of love.

We find hope when we begin to fight for a cause and not against an enemy. It is God’s grace that gives us the spiritual knowledge to live the fervor and magnetic energy that is instilled in the peace and love in our hearts. Let’s be activists out into the world unencumbered by our burdens and fueled by freedom and peace in our souls. We are the embodiment of change so let’s take action. Go out and let love be seen and heard.

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