Archives: Proper 26

How To Avoid Becoming a Burden When You’re Carrying a Burden

Do you feel burdened?

The writers of our epistle and gospel want to know.

“You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God,” Paul says.

Jesus speaks of the scribes and Pharisees, saying, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.”

What is the difference between the two? What separates those in the Beloved Community who impose burdens on others, and those who remove them?

The topic of burdens is important throughout the Bible.

Paul tells us in the Letter to the Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.”

Jesus himself says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

We all know what it is like to feel burdened by life.

Every single person we know is bearing a burden of some kind, some seen, some unseen. Cancer, financial hardship, caregiving for an elderly parent, a child struggling in school, addiction—the burdens add up and weigh us down.

And we all feel the collective burdens of lives lost or altered in natural disasters, mass shootings, and the global struggles of poverty and disease.

It’s no surprise that the bearing of burdens shows up all over scripture.

And in our texts for today we have the contrast between how Paul is trying to relate to his spiritual community, and how the scribes and Pharisees are.

What differentiates the two? Continue reading

The Best Part of Being a Height-Challenged Sinner

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he!” If you didn’t get to sing that in Sunday school as a kid, you were missing out.

Luke goes to great pains to point out to us that Zacchaeus was short in stature, but he means it in terms of more than just his physical height (or lack thereof).

Zacchaeus doesn’t have much moral stature either. He’s not just a tax collector, but a chief tax collector.

Luke says that he’s rich, and we can read into that “filthy rich with ill-gotten gains.”

This is not an admirable man. In fact his moral stature is so low that he can’t even see Jesus.

But one of Zacchaeus’ greatest characteristics is his lack of self-consciousness.

He is curious about Jesus, and he is determined to see Jesus.

So Zacchaeus, a rich and well-known figure in the community, climbs a tree to see Jesus, no matter how ridiculous it may look.

It is not a dignified posture, and immediately draws attention to Zacchaeus’ physical shortness, that he has to take this step to see over the crowd.

Could we infer that he also boldly reveals his lack of moral stature as he climbs this tree in the imaginative universe of this story?

If he is not afraid to be seen to be too physically short to see Jesus, is he equally courageous in admitting his lack of ethical worthiness?

How could we do the same?

How could we approach Jesus with an utter lack of self-consciousness, exactly as we are? Continue reading

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