Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 6 July 2014, Proper 9
Year A RCL: Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Psalm 45:11-18; Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
“The road is long, with many a winding turn.”1
May we travel it together, guided by the Holy Spirit.
You may recall the ballad “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” that tells about the long road that “leads us to who knows where, Who knows when.” The refrain teaches us about today's scriptures: He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. (I have learned that the lyrics of the 1969 ballad by Bobby Scott & Bob Russell are inspired by an earlier story2.)
My brother, my sister “ain’t heavy” because s/he is a gift to me from God, yoked to me with God’s well-fitted yoke.
“my yoke is easy & my burden is light.”
The Greek word for “easy” can mean “well-fitted”.3 Bible commentator William Barclay says4 in Jesus’ day the wooden yokes for oxen were custom-made after the ox had been measured. That way the-to-measure yoke fit well.
It makes sense to do this so that your expensive ox can work well & with less injury.
There is legend5 that when Jesus worked as a carpenter, the shop had a sign over the door: “My yokes fit well.”
Think about those times in your life when you have had to work with a heavy, ill-fitting yoke. St. Paul tell us his experience in our lesson from Romans today:
living with the burden of sin, the yoke of sin,
can make us lose sight of God – who is Love,
whose burden is light, whose yoke is easy.
When we lose sight of God’s love, we can fall into the grip of fear – that bend in the road that leads us to inaction & a sense of being alone.
Fear tells us we are at a dead end.
Fear lies.The road we travel with Jesus has no dead end: It has blind curves that the Holy Spirit will guide us safely through. The Holy Spirit may extend the hand of a Brother or Sister in Christ to lead you through the fear, past the blind curve & on to the next stretch on the road of life.
Paul tells us clearly that, although our human nature is to stay mired in fear & sin so that we do the wrong we don’t want to do &
don’t do the good we want to do,
Jesus is our rescuer.
Paul says: “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Jesus is the answer.
Through Jesus & the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can move forward in faith. We can live, trusting God. We can say “Yes” to God.
Notice what an amazing story we have in Genesis of a person saying yes, accepting, trusting a new yoke:
We hear Rebekah say “Yes,” to the call she receives, which our lesson says comes as God guides Abraham’s servant.
Rebekah responds, trusting God
like her future father-in-law Abraham does.
What burden do we see Rebekah take on?
She takes on work when she encounters Abraham’s servant at the spring.
She not only gives him water,
but also she lowers her water jar many times into
that spring &
hauls it up to water those
10 camels with the servant & his assistants.
Rebekah's hospitality is like Abraham's hospitality when the 3 strangers come to where he lives.6
Rebekah puts forth extra effort to carry that
heavy load of water.
“He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”
– he’s a fellow human being.
Rebekah goes the extra mile – literally: She agrees to leave home to journey to a new beginning, trusting God.
We have to trust God to get on with life or we will get worn down, bearing all its pressures alone. Then we lose imagination & joy. Then we are like children who refuse to play – who refuse to be in relationship with others, to work together, play together, to live in the fullness of life God intends for us.
God makes us for relationships, for unity.
God makes us in God’s image: the Holy Trinity,
which loves us – loves you!
Rebekah values relationships. Her name can mean bound7 or a team of horses8. Like a team of oxen, a team of horses works tied together.
Yoked together, the team works in unity.
Oxen & horses show us that by working together, the yoke is easy & the burden is light.
You are smarter than any horse, any ox.
Through the Grace of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you:
You know he ain’t heavy,
he’s your brother,
she’s your sister
& all the rest of us know:
You ain't heavy!
You're our brother, you're our sister.
As the song by Scott & Russell says9:
The road is long,
With many a winding turn,
that leads us to who knows where,
Who knows when.
I paraphrase, But you're – we're strong – strong enough to carry….So on we go…
gaining strength for this journey…
If I'm laden at all, I'm laden with sadness,
That everyone's heart Isn't filled with the
Of love for one another.
My Sisters & Brothers, WE have work to do to
fill empty hearts with the gladnes of love for one another
– to fill those empty jars so they overflow.
Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew. Vol. 2. Revised Ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1975.
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. New York: Paulist Press. 1984.
Book of Common Prayer. New York: The Church Hymnal Corp., and The Seabury Press. 1979.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. 2nd Edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2001.
Davidson, Baruch S. “What Does the Name Rebecca Mean?” Accessed 5 July 2014.
Dios Habla Hoy: La Biblia. New York: American Bible Society. 1983.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
http://www.kveller.com/jewish_names/display.php?n=Rebecca&k=787. Accessed: 3 July 2014.
http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/the_hollies/he_aint_heavy_hes_my_brother.html. Accessed: 5 July 2014.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 29 June 2014.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
1 Note: Lyrics by Bobby Scott, Bob Russell. Accessed: 5 July 2014. http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/the_hollies/he_aint_heavy_hes_my_brother.html.
2 Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew. Vol. 2. Revised Ed. P. 18.
3 Ibid. P. 17.
4 Ibid. 17
5 Ibid. 17.
6 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. P. 49.
7 http://www.kveller.com/jewish_names/display.php?n=Rebecca&k=787. Accessed:7/3/14.
8 Davidson, Baruch S. “What Does the Name Rebecca Mean?” Accessed: 7/5/14. http://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/651535/jewish/What-Does-the-Name-Rebecca-Mean.htm