The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
Epistle: Romans 7:15-25a
15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
It’s been a few weeks since I last posted an Afterthought. April 1st was the last one….To my defense, things have been a little unusual. And even though I have been well-intentioned, I have not been disciplined in doing this. Forgive me.
This past Sunday I spoke about the yoke of Jesus vs the yoke of Life.
Jesus invites us in to rest and get refuge. Only He says that we are to take His yoke upon us. And, again, it seems out of place to promise rest, by putting an instrument of work and submission on. Our experience of life is one of work and submission. The weight of the yoke of Life is a bit burdensome at times. So Jesus asking us to, voluntarily, place a yoke on seems a bit odd. Except He offers something different. He offers a choice (and it doesn’t necessarily seem like this). He says, “Take my yoke. Or don’t. “Only the choice is not between taking a yoke upon you and not taking a yoke at all.
The choice is His yoke,
Or the yoke of Life.
The choice is really easy if we think about it.
Jesus’ yoke is the better deal. It comes with promises in this life and the life to come. God says that He will never leave us or forsake us.
He says that nothing can separate us from Him. That in all things, God will work for our good. And, obviously, much more.
And even though we can mentally assent to this, sometimes we have trouble following through with this in our own faith journey.
This is the struggle.
As a way of illustrating this point, let me share from the Genesis narrative that has been running for the last few weeks. It is the story of God’s covenant with Abram. And Abram and Sarai’s attempts to come to terms with this new life. (*God changed their names to Abraham and Sarah AFTER the covenant of circumcision*. It is an attempt like many of us have made. Well-intentioned. Woefully deficient.
But we follow the mantra Lather-Rinse-Repeat. To our own demise. No way out.
The most glaring example of this is Sarah coming to terms with her attempt to “wear the yoke in the family” when she sends Hagar and Ishmael away the second time.
God promises to make Abram into a great nation (which requires children). Abram and Sarai are not getting any younger. Sarai gives her handmaid (Hagar) to Abram. Sarai regrets this and sends Hagar to die in the wilderness. Hagar gives birth to Ishmael. Ishmael, loosely, means “God has heard. “This is in reference to God telling Hagar that He would take care of her at Beer Lahai Roi, which means “the well of the One who sees me.” Abraham entertains three visitors who let him know that his wife will give birth to an heir. Sarah laughs (Ha!). Then she denies laughing. Then she gets pregnant. She births Isaac (which means laughed because she is now laughing with joy). She catches Ishmael laughing (teasing) the very young Isaac. She tells Abraham to get rid of Hagar and Ishmael. They are sent away.
To sum up: She laughed. Then she laughed. Then Ishmael laughed. And she was reminded of her laugh.
She didn’t want to be reminded of her lack of faith in God.So she had the reminder of that moment in her life taken out of her view. This is the consequence (for her) of “wearing her own yoke. “Not choosing to trust what God had said. She didn’t want to be reminded of what she had done.So she did something else that she, most likely regretted.
So did David. He saw a beautiful woman bathing. He wanted her. He took her. He felt bad. He then had her husband killed to get rid of the wrong he had done. He didn’t want to be reminded of the choice.
And we could go on and on.
Sending our “Ishmaels” away doesn’t solve the conflict.Wearing the yoke of Jesus does.
We can try and cover up our tracks (of poor faith choices), but ultimately, we are called to put on the yoke of Jesus. The yoke of Life keeps us running around. Which is tiring. The yoke of Jesus gives us rest.
And, indeed, it is restful. Better than trying things on your own strength. And doing things your own way. So throw off the yoke of Life. Put on the yoke of Jesus.