Prisoners of Hope

Sunday, July 06, 2014

“Prisoners of Hope” (Zech 9:12)

4A Pentecost Proper 9 July 6, 2014

Zech 9:9-12; Ps 145:8-15; Rom 7:15-25a; Mt 11:16-19, 25-30 (RCL Track Two)

At times it seems we have failed, at least according to other people.  Yet further than that, at times we become frustrated by our own self defeating actions and attitudes.  We have “hurts, hang-ups and habits” that impact our lives.  At times we become our own worst critics.  No one can criticize us as much as we criticize ourselves.  In this, we sometimes feel that we are ‘prisoners of death’; inmates within a prison from which we will never escape.

Our Gospel reading this morning is connected with the apparent failure of Jesus’ own ministry.  From this passage we can take it that either Jesus, or early Christians, or both felt that they were failures.  The same thing appears in the Epistle.

Indeed, it is true that God prepares people to minister to others and develops compassion through suffering.  Therefore it was necessary (as St Luke says) for Jesus to suffer.

Though we feel we have failed, at times, yet despite that, and also through that valley, we become and continue as ‘prisoners of hope’ (Zech 9:12). In our reading from the prophet Zechariah, in our Psalm, and also in the Gospel we have the theme of the compassion of God for us.  Because we look for the compassion of the coming messiah, we are prisoners of hope (vs Rom 7:15f prisoners of Death) in the pre existing Christ, and in the coming and compassionate Christ. Deliverance from [‘this body of Death’] comes through the messiah, through Christ, by incorporation into his own body.”  We cannot and do not reach heaven as individuals–rather, we reach heaven because we are included within the body of Christ.

In our Gospel reading, the “Easy yoke and… light burden” of Jesus is cast in words similar to those spoken by Wisdom in the book of Sirach 51:23-27, a book which appears in the Apocrypha to the Hebrew Scriptures:

“23 Come aside to me, you untutored,

and take up lodging in the house of instruction;*

24 How long will you deprive yourself of wisdom’s food,

how long endure such bitter thirst?

25 I open my mouth and speak of her:

gain wisdom for yourselves at no cost.

26 Take her yoke upon your neck;

that your mind may receive her teaching.

For she is close to those who seek her,

and the one who is in earnest finds her.

27 See for yourselves! I have labored only a little,

but have found much.”

This July 4 weekend is a celebration of being ‘prisoners of hope’ in the USA.  July 4 celebrates and affirms freedom and life in the United States.  This is a freedom which is not licentious.  Individual freedom is within a shared law of freedom, a shared national Constitution which respects each and every person.  Though we may receive this freedom freely and easily, yet there are many others who have sacrificed a great deal for it.

Perhaps there is some way that you feel you have been a failure in your life.  When Jesus has compassion on us, we should also have compassion on ourselves.  Tomorrow is a new day, and we can start again.  Our readings this morning seek to turn our eyes to our hope and expectation in a compassionate God and messiah who will lead us in easy steps into all wisdom.  Let us pray…

Hope of the world, O Christ of great compassion:

speak to my fearful heart, torn and conflicted.

Save me, your child, from consuming passion,

for I am weary and tired by my own vain hopes and aims.

Hope of the world, God’s gift from highest heaven,

bring to my hungry soul the bread of life:

still give to me your Spirit to heal my inner wounds and end my inner strife.

(adapted from the words and lyrics of Georgia Elma Harkness)

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