I looked out at the congregation and said “If Kmart had a Blue Light special like this, they’d sell out in a minute.” Of course you don’t know what a “blue light special is. You may not even remember KMart!
Suffice it to say it was a marketing trick that a store use to use to draw attention to special deals they had in their store.
And my reference was to the wonderful offer God makes to us to give us His Life as our own! An amazing offer that most people miss for lots of reasons, I’m sure. But we should NEVER take for granted we who have this treasure of Faith don’t need to check out now and again how we are offering our Faith to others. No generation should be able to say “They never told us!”
Look at our Lesson today in Matthew 11:27-30:
The Lord said to his disciples, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Our Lord Jesus is speaking to a group of weary people. You see, when the Lord came to His people they were subjects of the Roman Empire. When the Romans came along, they adopted the Greek culture of the day, renaming the pagan Greek gods with Latin names and establishing an Empire that came to be know for the “Pax Romana” or the Roman Peace. The Roman Emperors built roads, established safe commerce routes all over the vast Empire, and conquered more and more land and peoples. Some of the nations conquered weren’t that thrilled about Romans and weren’t really all that happy about being in the Empire in the first place.
And the nation of Israel was one of those nations not particularly happy with Roman occupation of their nation or Roman control over their government.
So, the Lord’s offer of comfort and a lighter “yoke” was really a great offer. But the reality of His offer is even greater than they imagined. They would have settled for a messiah that kicked out the Romans and the Greeks and made Israel “great again.” But Jesus had something much more cosmic in mind.
His First Offer is Huge! He tells anyone who would listen that He will make the Unknown God known to them. What’s more, everything the Father has has been given to Him to share with anyone who would come to Him. Contemplate this for just a moment. Not too long or you may get overwhelmed! The Uncreated God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the All-Poweful, Omnipresent, Omniscient (look it up!) God offers you and me everything He has through His Son, our Lord Jesus. This offer is nothing short of inviting you and me to become “by grace what Christ is by nature.” The Orthodox call this “theosis!”
But His Next Offer makes it possible to accept His First Offer. “Come to me.” With these three words the Lord Jesus lays out the only path to ever receive the incredible gift He offers the whole world. Jesus tells them and us that the heavy burden you are trying to carry all by yourself isn’t necessary. He’ll trade His light “burden” for your heavy burden. He’ll give you a yoke (think bridle on a horse or bull used to harness their strength and control them) that’s easy compared to the horrible slavery to a “master” that does not love you!
And all of this He freely gives to you IF you will come to Him. And, by the way, He says this this way so you’ll understand He isn’t dangling this in front of you to trick you, but to show you the way to escape the heavy life you’ve imposed on yourself!
Today, we’ve been told that being Orthodox on Purpose is a slavery and hard for we humans, but the truth is following Jesus is much easier than continuing a life unfocused, undisciplined, and unfaithful. That way of life is much harder than the path of a purposeful Orthodox Christian. Let’s embrace the path and come to the One Who wants to give us Himself rather than stay a slave to one who only wants to take!
So many people visit your community, especially at festival time! Why not offer them our greatest treasure – our Faith?