Pentecost 5 Lessons & Meditation

FIRST READING:  Zechariah 9:9-12

For the Jewish faith, this text represents either some time during the 70 years of sorrowful exile in Babylon or the post-exilic years when they return home from Babylon failed to become the giddy restoration and glorious renewal that had been imagined.

It is a word of comfort, hope, and assurance that the prophet brings. In the midst of frustrating times, of dreams that never materialized, of limited joy and continued distress, the prophet speaks of the return of a triumphant but humble king to Jerusalem, oddly riding on a donkey rather than a warhorse. Real peace is going to come to God’s people! Israel will be restored “from sea to sea”! And the “prisoners of hope” – all those who are suffering unjustly, who are experiencing oppression and deep need – will be set free, pronounced “not guilty”, and given double restitution.

Zechariah’s name means “the Lord remembers.” When has the Lord remembered you at a particularly troubled time? What happened?

This text has special meaning for the Christian faith on Palm Sunday, the day that remembers the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem not so long before his betrayal, suffering, and death. How did Jesus show humility and also a heart for the poor and the oppressed? How did Jesus display his courage and power that would ultimately lead to victory? There is a popular stereotype of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” Isn’t this both true and also not true of Jesus? If we think “humility” means keeping your head down and staying out of trouble, then that certainly doesn’t describe Jesus!

In the United States, we have arrived at the time of the summer when Independence Day is remembered and celebrated. Yet, all these years later, protestors are marching in our streets, crying for justice, denouncing systemic racism, wailing for too many lives that have been violently taken, and looking for radical change. How is the Church called to be both a humble presence and a challenging agent for liberation on behalf of “prisoners of hope”?

In verse 12 Zechariah speaks God’s promise of double restitution to those of Israel who have experienced unjust treatment and oppression. In today’s United States there are renewed discussions about and demands for reparations for slavery, that is, financial restitution given in response to our nation’s enslavement of millions of African descent people, who served as the fuel for building the American machine. In a recent poll, 74% of African Americans now favor such compensation, and 85% of “white” people oppose them. Some attempts at reparations have resulted in restitution to living victims who suffered in the recent past; other attempts have resulted in restitution toward descendants many generations removed from the original injury, either by direct financial awards or by charities and other indirect benefits.

THE PSALM:  Psalm 145: 8-14

This is a psalm, a song, of praise to God for God’s awesome works and great deeds, for God’s abundant goodness and righteousness, for God’s glory and power. The verses selected for this Sunday lift up God’s truly outrageous love – “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love”, words first found in Exodus 34:6 and repeated again and again throughout the Old Testament – and God’s great faithfulness. Note verse 14: “The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up those who are bowed down.” When was a recent time that God – to borrow words from a Christian song – picked you up and turned you around and placed your feet on solid ground?

SECOND READING:  Romans 7:15-25a

Paul wants to be faithful… he tries to be faithful… but he falters and fails to be faithful. All humans are caught in a profound conflict between good and evil. This includes Christian people – each and all of us. Left to ourselves, we will always get nowhere. Sin is such an enslaving power. Paul is not too proud or too ashamed to speak very personally about his own internal struggle. It is not a pleasant picture. Sometimes we Christians find ourselves saying that “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Paul and we will continue to move deeper into bondage, despair, and death because of our sin… continue to struggle, fail, and suffer. But Paul realizes that, when he humbles himself, faces up to his failures to be a Christian based only on his own strength, and turns to the grace and empowering love of Jesus Christ, it makes the decisive difference in his life and his faith.

When have you experienced Jesus rescuing you from sins or situations that were too big for you to handle? How is Jesus helping you right now? In recognizing our weakness, we are more able to receive God’s strength.

GOSPEL READING:  Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Jesus rebukes the crowd that has gathered around him for finding fault with both his ministry and the ministry of John the Baptist. John is criticized for not eating with anyone. He was all gloom and doom and no fun. He wore those weird clothes and preached those scary messages. They say he must have a demon. Jesus, on the other hand, is criticized for eating with everyone. He was a friend of sinners and seemed to be having entirely too much fun. They call him a glutton and a drunk. Aren’t you happy sometimes when you realize that you will ultimately be judged by God, and not by this or that crowd?

Jesus thanks God that wisdom and intelligence are not required to receive what God has offered. Then he shifts into words of invitation, offering what God has. The words leap out of the page and into our hearts and minds. Rest.

What are your heavy burdens that bring you weariness? Will you let Jesus have and hold them, lift them and “lose” them from your life… and give you rest? Is there something that you think especially burdens “your soul” and leads you to long for rest?

Jesus says, “I will give you rest.” But note that the rest he promises depends on a yoke… on symbolically taking on the weight and the constraint of that wooden crosspiece designed to focus, guide, and ease the work of hauling a load. In the face of toil, the fret and care of daily living, the yoke of Jesus is easy and the burden is light.

Is the yoke of Jesus resting lightly on your shoulders, or are you desperately struggling to get out from under it?

Yokes often link two farm animals together to share the work. What does this suggest to you about Christian discipleship? What do you think the “yoke” of Jesus is? The cross? The new commandment to love like him?

A MEDITATION

In Jesus, we are finding true freedom and the joy of living according to the Spirit. For a Christian, freedom means being the one God intends us to be… becoming the one that Christ enables us to become… and NOT just doing anything and everything as we please. [Please note this, Americans who want to ignore all the guidelines and restrictions that seek to control our COVID-19 infections and losses of life.] And rest, Jesus tells us, depends on a yoke – HIS yoke, the burden of HIS mission. And, you see, we are therefore responsible NOT just for ourselves but for one another. Take up his yoke and learn from him. Bear his love, bear his cross. Here is comfort for your soul, peace in your heart, love for your life.  

Upcoming Events

Jun
19
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2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jun 19 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.
Jun
23
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2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
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Jun
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2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jun 30 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
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3
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2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
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5
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2024
8:30 am Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
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