Sunday Reflection and Prayer 5th July
Song of Solomon 2:8-13
In the name of…
It’s interesting as we move through the year and follow the Revised Common lectionary readings, interesting in several different ways – it moves through significant events in the Christian year and in the life of Jesus and covers the basics of Christian teaching. Such a simple sentence and yet look at how much that covers. The RCL readings are often challenging for the preacher as we look at common themes and what the message for today might mean. Some weeks one feels like ‘ducking out’ and finding other texts to preach on yet, I do like the discipline and sometimes…like this week…one finds that the readings are old favourites that speak very much to the times in which we are living.
All our readings today are about relationship.
Our reading from the Psalms is about God’s unfailing compassion, love and mercy and about the history of this loving relationship throughout the generations.
Our reading from the Song of Songs is a beautiful poem that on the surface is about the love between a man and a woman but on another level is about our relationship with our loving God. This reading lifts the spirits at this time of year as we do see the flowers appearing and covering the earth, the cooing of doves and so many other birds can be heard as well. During the first weeks of lockdown when the world and roads were quiet the sound of the bird calls was truly wonderful.
Our reading from Matthew’s Gospel is so well known. It speaks of the relationship within the Godhead between Father and Son and speaks also of our part in that relationship. It doesn’t matter how knowledgeable, wise or learned we are - all can be a part of this treasured relationship.
In fact, this passage speaks about the humility that we need in coming before Jesus. We are better to come to him in the expectation of learning rather than with the arrogance of thinking we know it all. Sometimes when we think we have heard things before, or we have already made our minds up or think ‘this is boring repetition’ we miss the golden pearl of wisdom that may be found.
This passage is originally directed at the Pharisees and scholars those who enforced the law of God, those who thought they knew everything there was to know and sought to enforce their knowledge on others, those who made everything seem so difficult who changed the loving relationship with God into a heavy burden that was more about doing things than about being
a loved child of God, being a part of a loving, grace filled relationship.
Come to me, take my yoke upon you,
my yoke is easy and my burden light.
The heavy load here as I’ve said, for those folks of Jesus day was that burden put upon them by the Pharisees to keep what they perceived as the law of God, the TORAH. In Hebrew scripture the TORAH is often referred to as a yoke.
Jesus plays on that idea of yoke – take my yoke upon you –
take my teaching as your standard – get rid of all that heavy stuff – my yoke, my teaching is light in comparison.
In the Greek ‘my yoke is easy’ means my yoke is well-fitted.
In the days of Jesus yokes were made of wood. The ox was
brought to the carpenter's shop and carefully measured and
then the yoke was roughed out. Then the ox was brought
back and it was tried on him - the yoke was then marked -
and carefully adjusted by shaving the wood. Each yoke was
tailor made to fit each ox.
When Jesus says that "my yoke is easy and my burden light" what he means is this:
The life I give you is not a burden to punish you,
your task is made to measure - to fit you.
What Jesus is saying is:
My burden is light,
it is not meant to weigh you down with demands,
it is not rules and regulations about what you can and cannot
do, nor is it a task that you will hate doing.
No, the burden of Jesus is like the one in the old story about a
man who comes upon a little boy carrying a still smaller boy, who
was lame, upon his back.
"That's a heavy burden for you to carry", said the man.
"That's no' a burden", came the answer, "that's my wee brother".
Come to me, all of you who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.
This passage speaks to us in so many ways today. We may no longer be burdened with the weight of the TORAH and keeping the law of the Hebrew Scriptures but we can be heavily burdened with so many other worries that distract us from our life of love and service. When we are heavily burdened with worry it is hard
to focus on Jesus, it’s hard for us to find the peace of God’s Holy Spirit with us on the journey. Heavy burdens and constant worry and stress can make us ill.
Come to me all you who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.
In these times of lockdown, and worry about catching Covid-19, in these times of concern about families and loved ones, about jobs and businesses re-opening, about social distance and the lack of hugs, about the future and how it will change…
now is the time to come with all our burdens before our loving Saviour, to share the load we are carrying with him, to spend some time in prayer and refection and meditation to find the comfort he longs to give us the peace that is past all human understanding, and to do so in the confidence that God is with us through all of this and beyond all of this and is making all things well.
Rest in the Lord today and always, his peace be with you. Amen
Prayers for Others:
Twenty-five years ago the world watched in horror at what unfolded across the Balkans generally and, particularly, at Srebrenica. Those who thought that such unthinkable extermination only happened elsewhere, or belonged in the history books, were shocked to see such scenes taking place in ‘civilised’ Europe.
It was never more important than it is now that we remember what happened - in a historical sense - and because it is so very easy to allow ourselves to slip into the same dark places. Even now, there are divisive voices in our communities, doing their best to emphasise difference and to exploit what’s going on in the world for their own ends. These voices must not prevail - which will require all people of goodwill to do more than be idle bystanders.
In remembering Srebrenica, with deep shame and sadness, let us apply ourselves to working for reconciliations, understanding and peace in our world today.
Let’s join together in prayer, lets pray
Loving Heavenly father,
In times of weakness and hour of need,
yours is the strength by which we carry on,
the shoulder we rest our head upon.
When our load is heavy and too much to bear,
yours are the arms stretched out to help us
the grace that we depend on.
In times of weakness and hour of need,
your voice is heard, ‘Come… find rest.’
This is grace divine, the path we tread to wholeness
of body and spirit, the path that leads to you,
and for which we offer our heartfelt thanks and praise.
Loving Heavenly Father,
Help us to turn to you and learn from you,
to rejoice in you and to serve you
so that we may find the rest that you have promised.
We come to you to this day not only for ourselves
but for others too,
for those who do not know your peace
for those who have not yet found any rest
or those who struggle with the burdens of life.
We pray that they would come to know your love and your peace.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We ask your healing to be upon those who are sick --- your strength to be with those who are tired -- your wisdom and your love to be with those who live with despair and fear. Minister to them as we minister to them. We bring before you in the silence our prayers for people we know personally
Lord, hear our prayer...
We remember today the celebration of the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the NHS and we bring you our thanks for all those who work so selflessly to bring healing to others.
We pray too today O God for your blessing to be upon our
congregation and upon our church,
and upon all the churches in our new Lochleven Network,
We ask for your presence to be seen vividly in what we
and our brothers and sisters in Christ do each day.
We pray that your peace, your joy and your love
will flow freely in us and through us
as we take up your yoke and follow where you lead us.....
We remember too, Srebrenica
God of yesterday, today and tomorrow,
Hear us as we pray and remember the people of Srebrenica,
We pray for those, whose memories are scarred with pain,
For those whose hearts are broken
For lives that were torn apart.
Hold us, and all those we remember in your embrace,
Never letting us forget the sins of humanity.
Bring us close to all;
Mothers and children,
Fathers and sons,
Sisters and brothers of those left behind
And heal their pain and sorrow.
Teach us never to forget the lessons of the past,
And in going forward, create a world of equity;
Not to be divided by hatred and discrimination
But united in courage, love and empathy
Help us Lord to learn to live for a world
Where differences are valued and respected
Where fear and distrust will never consume us.
We ask that those suffering would know your peace
and their lives might be restored through your grace.
We ask all these things and we thank you and we adore you,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour Amen.