an acrostic poem.
Do you remember those?
You start with the letters of someone’s name, and then write the poem
by writing something good about the person for each letter of their name.
It’s a classic for mother’s day in preschools and kindergartens.
Believe it or not, Psalm 145 is an acrostic poem.
There is one verse for every letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
But even though we may think of this as the most simplistic type of poem,
the psalm is a beautiful piece of poetry,
a hymn of praise which expresses the belief and worship of God’s people.
The acrostic style – praising God from A to Z –
emphasizes the completeness of God’s sovereignty.
The psalmist uses the word “all” seventeen times in 21 verses.
The psalm clearly sets out to claim that everything - all of creation and every generation – praises God and owes it’s life to God.
I invite you to turn to Psalm 145 on page 801 of the BCP follow along,
since only a brief portion of the psalm is included in our readings for today.
What originally drew me to Psalm 145 this week is verse 8, the beginning of our appointed reading.
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
This is an Old Testament confession of faith,
found in the Torah, the psalms, and the prophets.
I love this statement of belief because, rather than trying to describe God and pin God down in fancy theological language,
it describes the people’s relationship to God, whom they experience as gracious, merciful, patient, always faithful and loving.
Look at verses 15-16
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.
These verses recognize that everything we have comes from God.
All the world is God’s domain
It reminds me of the words in the Nicene creed when we say,
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life”
We, along with all living things, depend on God for our very lives.
The psalm also recognizes a God who is present in our times of need.
Verse 14 says
The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
We all fall.
We slip, we stumble,
we fall away from God,
we fall into trouble
Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin sings,
“We fall down, but we get up – for a saint is just a sinner who fell down and got up”
We all fall,
but we count on God – who is gracious and merciful and steadfast in love –
to help us get up again and again.
It is this recognition of our dependence on God that Jesus invites us to in today’s gospel.
Jesus mocks the wise –
those who come before God full of what they know and understand,
those who count on their own strength and goodness to save them.
Instead, Jesus says, those who know God are infants –
the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the persecuted –
all whom Jesus called blessed.
The sick and lame, lepers and demon-possessed, tax collectors and sinners –
those who come to Jesus seeking help in their weakness –
those for whom Jesus says he has come.
Come to me, Jesus says.
Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
A yoke is not something we see or talk much about these days.
Literally, a yoke is the wooden piece laid across the shoulders of oxen or cattle so that they can pull a heavy load.
It can also refer to the wooden piece carried on the shoulders to carry a load,
such as buckets on either side.
The word also means a burden of servitude –
the yoke of oppression laid upon people by cruel or unjust rulers or leaders.
Instead of these yokes of burden and oppression,
Jesus offers a yoke of freedom.
Freedom from the wisdom of the world which will always want more. –
the culture in which enough is never enough and nothing is ever good enough.
Following Jesus is not easy – it is full of risks and demands,
as we all know if we read a few pages of any gospel.
But it is also a way of freedom, because it is the way we become who we are meant to be –
beloved and cherished children of God, part of Christ’s body in the world.
Elisabeth Johnson, a scholar at the Lutheran Institute of Theology in Cameroon,
“To take his yoke upon oneself is to be yoked to the one in whom God’s kingdom of justice, mercy, and compassion is breaking into this world, and to find the rest for which the soul longs.
“It is a life yoked to Jesus under God’s gracious and merciful reign, free from the burden of sin and the need to prove oneself, free to rest deeply and securely in God’s grace.”
Jesus invitation to be yoked to him means becoming joined to the God of Psalm 145 –
who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
It means knowing the Lord, the Giver of Life, the lover of souls
It means accepting forgiveness and experiencing new life.
It means welcoming the peace of the Prince of Peace –
not the peace of everything always going our way, or always be right,
but the peace of grace and love and always being made new.
Thanks be to God.