God in Christ enters the world’s weariness and pain, and yours, and helps carry them, while inviting you and me to do the same.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Lect. 24 B
Texts: Mark 8:27-38; Isaiah 50:4-9a (also using Matthew 11:28-30, and 2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Are you weary of the weight of the world’s problems, the suffering of a global pandemic, the crises of our society? Are you burdened with personal concerns and anxieties, fears for your future?
Good News, then: Jesus, God-with-us, says, “Come to me, all you that are weary, and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. I will yoke with you and help carry the load.”
When Jesus said this to those first believers, they remembered Isaiah’s words we heard this morning: “The LORD God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word, and listen as one who is taught.” That’s Jesus, they realized. That’s what he said! God’s promise in Isaiah has come to us now.
And that’s your hope and mine in this weary world.
In Christ, God entered the world’s suffering in person, to help carry the weight of all that burdens life.
The world needs this promise more than ever. Nearly everyone is exhausted right now from the stress of the pandemic, the social crises and upheavals, the need for healthy change and transformation of our society. And everyone continues to have their own personal burdens, for them or those they love: concerns about health, about dying, about losing jobs, about struggling to make ends meet, about holding a family together in the midst of conflict or crisis.
Into this weariness and weight, Isaiah says, God comes to you in person – and yes, to all people, but to you, too – to ease your weariness, help you carry whatever burden you are carrying. The Triune God comes with shoulders already wearing a yoke, Jesus said, so that all that overwhelms you can be carried in tandem with God.
And that’s the point of Jesus’ path to the cross that Peter reacts against today.
Jesus didn’t go to the cross because he somehow wanted to suffer pain. Jesus, God-with-us, went to the cross to take the pain of the world onto God’s shoulders and bear it, even pain that the world inflicts on God. He allowed himself to be struck, spat on, insulted, as Isaiah says in this Servant Song today, to take the weariness of the world and heal it.
At the cross God shows you that you are not alone in your weariness or suffering. That God, as the prophets long promised, will be with you, hold you, bear you up. Give you hope that there is healing on the other side, even if sometimes that healing comes with death and resurrection.
At the cross God shows you that weariness and suffering aren’t to be avoided or feared, but shared. And when they’re shared, the burden is lighter, and hope is easier to find than when you’re drowning alone.
At the cross God shows you that there aren’t simple answers to what wearies you or the world, no easy solutions to suffering. But God’s answer is to come to you and the world and help bear the suffering, and so transform it into life.
What’s really beautiful is that Isaiah’s Servant Songs, like the one we heard today, were never meant to only be about one person, one Messiah.
If you read them carefully, they call the whole community to be the ones who know how to sustain the weary with a word, who offer themselves out of love for the sake of others. In our funeral liturgy, we claim this with Paul’s words from Second Corinthians, saying that “God comforts us in all our sorrows so that we can comfort others in their sorrows with the consolation we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Isaiah says today that God has given you the tongue and listening ear of a teacher, that you may know how to sustain the weary with your word. With your embrace. With your sigh. With your self-giving love. That’s why Jesus asks you and me to take up our cross, to follow Christ’s path: take the comfort and consolation I give you as God-with-you, Jesus says, and share it with each other. Take the yoke over my shoulders onto your own, but then invite someone else under it, so you can share their burden.
Yes, that means sacrifice for you and me, Jesus says. Losing one way of life for the sake of the other way. But when we suffer with each other we reach the depths of what love is. Love shared in a community transforms burdens into grace, into life.
Peter was right. The path of the cross – for Jesus and for those who follow – doesn’t sound like a path worthy of a Messiah, a Christ, the Anointed of God.
Peter’s no different from any of us. The world always gets confused and thinks that winning is most important, that if you struggle or suffer you must have failed somehow. But the world’s way always results in more suffering and more pain and more oppression and more violence, and even the ones who think they’ve won really have lost.
But God has a plan that can actually bring healing to this world. Salvation. God has come, and still comes, to share the weariness and pain in the world, to offer rest to you.
And to all people, through you, you who also are Messiah. God’s Christ. God’s Anointed. Because this is the way God will save the world. And save you, too.
In the name of Jesus. Amen