Reflection for Sunday – July 9, 2023

Readings: Zechariah 9: 9-10; Romans 8: 9, 11-13; Matthew 11: 25-30 
Preacher: Deni Mack

Jesus invites us to come to him when we are heavily burdened. Rochester is burdened with smoke so heavy we are advised to stay inside or limit our time outside and wear a mask.

I listened to eleven young adults talk about the air quality alerts.  First, Sam said, “this is what’s been happening out West for years. We need practical regulations.” 

Liam said, “62 million people in 17 states heard air quality alerts but it’s not only a U.S. problem; other nations address air quality.”   

Dan noted, “Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Cedar Rapids, we’re all hearing air warnings.  The air is very unhealthy. The peril is exacerbated because some environmental protections were removed a few years ago!”

Clare said, “The heat waves down south are history making and even Europe has been getting hotter than ever before.  Each summer, the heat worsens. 

As these young adults named heat and air quality as burdens not one of them sounded like Debbie Downer.  Rather they shared ways they’re trying to be the change they want to see in the world.

Jane said, “I don’t drive unless I have to.  This summer I encourage our children to wear masks; they’re used to biking and walking.”

Harold said, “We’ve a garden.  And what we’re not growing, we buy locally. We’re warding off climate catastrophe.”

Emily said, “We refuse to own a car; we thank God we can bike or take the bus to work; we never fly or cruise.  They’re gas guzzlers.  We have taken the train and love it.  We try to cut down on fossil fuel dependency.”

Scott chimed in: “Our little family prays that all humanity has equal access to clean air, pure water and nutritious food.  You know how prayer works. You pray for the hungry; you feed the hungry. That’s how prayer works.”

At this point I sensed I was listening to angels solve the world’s problems.

Michelle added, “Praying for clean air moves us to do something about it. Remember, in the first year of the pandemic, the air over Los Angeles, Beijing and New Delhi cleared!  We are learning our lesson.”

Amber offered, “and we’re demanding our legislators get on the ball; we will not vote for anyone who has not supported care for God’s creation; we track voting records. Humanity depends upon responsible regulations.”

Today’s Gospel shows Jesus praising his father for revealing vital wisdom to the little ones.  I listened to young people who made lifestyle changes many of us cannot imagine.  Would air quality and water purity be better today if we’d been doing what these young people are doing?  Has our lifestyle laid a heavy, deadly burden on the next generations?

Heat and foul air are burdens we may all carry and there are other burdens we bring to Jesus and address.  We pray for victims of gun violence and for the killers.  We pray for their families, classmates and neighbors.  Lentory Johnson told religious leaders her son was shot dead by strangers in 2015.  Stricken with grief, Lentory claimed today’s Gospel, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened.”

And God moved her to listen to children impacted by gun violence. She found some had never spoken about their brother or aunt or best friend’s murder as the adults in their homes were too devastated to listen.  Lentory kept listening to children impacted by gun violence.  Their stories moved her to meet with city leaders and she formed a board to work with her to hold Essay Contests for Children Impacted by Gun Violence.  At the award ceremony in the atrium of the Monroe County Legislature Mayor Evans spoke with such love and passion that we sensed the Holy Spirit praised the children, their families, their teachers and Boys and Girls Club dancers, poets and orators.  The children impacted by gun violence wrote not only of their feelings but named solutions to the problem of gun violence.  God reveals much to little ones; from their lips to God’s ears.

Any burden carried by anyone calls us to prayer. We go to God with these burdens.  In silence we listen to God who nudges us to put legs on our care, advocate for needed change and continue to pray. Among us are people who are God’s disciples with people who are burdened.  Caregivers are God’s hands as we pray today’s psalm, “The Lord…raises up all who are bowed down.”

Denise Mack