Proper 9: Zechariah 9.9-12; Romans 7.15-25a; Matthew
Almighty God, you have broken the tyranny of sin and have
sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts, whereby we call you
Father: give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service, that
we and all creation may be brought to the glorious liberty of the
children of God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
ONCE, at a school governors' meeting, I said to a teacher: "I'm
sorry: I can't come to the concert tonight." Everyone laughed, and
I looked blank - until someone explained that they had just been
talking about why some people say: "I can't come to
something," and others: "I can't go to something."
I had just proved and disproved their point. Thinking about it,
I said "come" because my point of reference was the person who
issued the invitation and where she was, inviting me to join her
Both Zechariah and Matthew use the word "come": "Behold, your
king comes to you;" "Come to me." How different it would be, had
they said: "Behold your king goes to you;" and "Go to me."
"Come" implies presence and proximity - the prophet speaks to
the people where they are, and the king comes to the people where
they are. Jesus invites his hearers to be close to him where he is,
not to go to find him somewhere else altogether.
So, before his death, he promised the disciples: "I go to
prepare a place for you, and I will come again and take you to
myself, that where I am, there you may be also." Even when he did
say "Go into all the world and preach the gospel," he immediately
followed it with: "I am with you always, even to the end of the
age," thus providing the assurance that, wherever we go, we go with
"Come" is a word that we use when giving invitations. "Come to
me," says Jesus, "all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens."
The criterion for coming is simple: being weary and burdened. No
wonder people who come to Jesus find themselves with other people
who are worn out, under pressure, and at the limits of their
patience, and, therefore, not always easy companions.
Why come? So that Jesus can give rest. But Jesus says more:
"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me." Rest is part of what
Jesus offers people who come to him, but so, too, is the
opportunity to keep in step and learn from him.
Jesus's words of invitation were spoken to people who were
completely unpleaseable, as we all can be in our worst moments.
They would neither dance when there was music, nor cry when there
was mourning. John the Baptist's strict ascetical life was too
conservative; Jesus's joyful life too liberal. Whatever God offered
If the so-called wise missed the point entirely, who had got the
message? The infants, the ones who did not know to do anything
other than to trust the goodness of their heavenly Father. It is in
that context that Jesus invited the weary to come to him for
Zechariah's message to the dispirited people of Israel was,
essentially, similar: "Your king comes to halt the warring, to
restore hope." He spoke of people's being prisoners of hope - a
powerful image of being simply unable to escape hope, bound to and
with hope. It makes me wonder what a world imbued with
unpreventable hope might look like.
This king is a rest-giver, a hope-giver, who comes to us. What
is the incarnation, if not God's coming among us? What is Jesus's
ministry, if not coming to the people in villages and towns that
were largely overlooked, even despised, by Jerusalem?
Sometimes, as a southerner now resident in the north-east, I
have an idea what it feels like for this region to be overlooked by
the capital. The kidnapping of schoolgirls in north-east Nigeria
has highlighted how that area is not central to Nigerian life,
while the news is relentlessly full of stories of people whose
daily lives go unheeded by the rest of their nation, let alone the
world, until something shocking happens.
What would it be like to live as if no one is overlooked, as if
our king has come to everyone to offer rest and hope? What would it
be like to dedicate our freedom to God's service, so that all
people, even exhausted people in forgotten backwaters, may come to
the glorious liberty of the children of God, who calls them to
come? Perhaps, this week, we can let our imaginations wander and