PENTECOST 4, A – July 6, 2014

SCRIPTURES – Zechariah 9:9-12; Romans 7:14-25a;Matthew 11:25-30

“Come to me, all wholabor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, andlearn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest foryour souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11

 Onceagain, with fireworks displays and cookouts and parades, we Americans havecelebrated our Independence Day. One of the special activities in Norwalk onJuly 4 was the reading of the Declaration of Independence by town clerk RichardMcQuaid. The 2nd paragraph begins with the very familiar words:

We hold these truths to beself-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by theirCreator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty andthe pursuit of Happiness.

TheDeclaration concludes:

We, therefore, the Representatives ofthe united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to theSupreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions… [and] with afirm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, mutually pledge to eachother our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Note thereferences to God. He is the Creator who endowed us with our rights, theSupreme Judge of how we live them, and the divine Providence we can call uponto protect our rights. How interesting that this foundational assertion of ournation’s independence also asserts our dependence upon God!

 Thisis not only interesting; it is Biblical. Note how today’s Scriptures refer toGod. “YourKing is coming to you,” says Zechariah. His rule shall be “tothe ends of the earth.” Jesus gives thanks to His Father, the “Lordof heaven and earth.” There can be no independence from the King whorules heaven and earth! This is true even for us followers of the humble andkind Son of God, for Jesus says of Himself: “All things have been handed overto me by my Father.” We are all utterly dependent upon God; and, we arethe most blessed when we not only realize this but rejoice in this.

 Rejoicein your dependence! This is not easy, as independence is something which wecrave.

Ø Fromearly on we are told, “Be your own person! Think for yourself!”

Ø Teenagersyearn for the independence that comes with a driver’s license.

Ø And,the financial prosperity which frees you up to do more of what you want – buyor fix up a house; take a vacation; etc. – is something we all desire.

Wecrave freedom. We yearn for independence.

 Independencefrom God, however – living as you wish and doing what feels right to youinstead of what He commands – is never a good thing. This is because we are notfree people. We are in bondage to sin, even the best of us. “Sindwells within me,” the great apostle Paul laments, and what is true ofhim is true of us all. Do you not constantly feel sins’ urgings and hear itswhisperings of discontent, dissatisfaction, envy, and anger? — even at God? “I donot understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the verything I hate.” Boy, I’ve done that. “I have the desire to do what isright, but not the ability to carry it out.” Sad, but true. “WhenI want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” It sure does. It’s asclose as:

Ø TheTV show you know you should click past and not watch because of the desires itwill reinforce in your mind;

Ø Theharsh response that’s on your tongue, that you know will get your digs in;

Ø Yourspouse, whose request irritates because it’s not what you want.

Sinand evil are in your heart; that’s how close they are. They do not lie theredormant, but seek to shape how we think and live. This is why independence fromGod – not listening to Him, not believing that what He says in His Word istruly good and so gladly following it – results in much sin and evil. It cannotbut do so, for we are all, as Paul says in Romans 7, “captive to the law of sin thatdwells in [our] members.”

 Howmuch better to be captive to God and His Word, to say of the Lord of heaven andearth: “He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep ofHis hand.” (Ps. 95) How much better to go to Jesus to “take[His] yoke upon you and learn from [Him].”

Ø Ayoke – the bar across the shoulders of an animal that binds it to a wagon andenables the driver to control it – is not the image we Americans want.

When you wearGod’s yoke, however – when you bind yourself to His Word to learn it and obeywhat it says – “you will find rest for your souls,” Jesus promises.

 Howso? Where’s the comfort and rest in not only confessing but gladly embracing and rejoicing in your dependence uponGod? As God’s humble and obedient child you will be able to pray, as we did inthe Collect of the Day, “Gracious God,our heavenly Father, Your mercy attends us all our days.” In Jesus God is Gracious,our heavenly Father. What a blessing to know that He is not an almightytyrant who doesn’t care about you and so rules according to His own whims anddesires without regard to what they will do to you! That’s how the citizens ofthe American colonies in 1776 viewed their King, George III. “The history of the present King of GreatBritain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in directobject the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States,” Jeffersonwrote in the Declaration of Independence. That’s not our King and Lord! InJesus God is a Father who loves you and receives you even in your sin; who willforgive you always, and no matter what the sin; who can be trusted to lead youin what is good and right, for He is a good Father; and, who will bring you tolive with Him in heaven. Your mercy attends us all our days: oh, what ablessing to know this! Attends us: inother words, God is attentive to us. He is not just aware, a great Eye in theSky. He is with you to help you. By His Word He directs your ways and keeps youfrom sin, with its harm and danger. He makes your faith stronger as He allowsyou to struggle and be tempted – but never too much, never apart from His restraininghand. You do not know your future, but God not only does; He prepares it andbrings forth His good purpose for you in it as you take His yoke upon you andlearn from Him.

 Youknow, there was a time when getting married was called “getting hitched” or“being yoked.” Although that may not sound all that good, it really is good. Iremember my life before I was yoked to my wife. I sure didn’t eat as well! Ihad more freedom to do things, I suppose, but I’m much happier with the life I havenow. And, one of the main blessings is knowing that I’m not alone.

Ø Iremember when I arrived in Boston for my Vicarage year. How lonely I was in myapartment by myself!

I’venot felt that way since.

 Howblessed it is to be dependent, to be yoked to the Lord of heaven and earththrough your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Don’t ever be afraid of or fightagainst His yoke. “Take my yoke upon you,” says Jesus, “and learn from me, for I amgentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yokeis easy, and my burden is light.”