‘But to what will I compare this generation?
It is like children sitting in the market-places
and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you
did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking,
and they say, “He has a demon”;
the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and
they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!”
Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.
Then he began to reproach the cities in which
most of his deeds of power had been done,
because they did not repent. ‘Woe to
you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For
if the deeds of power done in you had been
done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented
long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell
you, on the day of judgement it will be more
tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you.
And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.
For if the deeds of power done in you had
been done in Sodom, it would have remained
until this day. But I tell you that on the
day of judgement it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom than for you.’
At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you,
Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because
you have hidden these things from the wise
and the intelligent and have revealed them
to infants; yes, Father, for such was your
gracious will. All things have been handed
over to me by my Father; and no one knows
the Son except the Father, and no one knows
the Father except the Son and anyone to whom
the Son chooses to reveal him.
‘Come to me, all you that are weary
and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will
give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and
learn from me; for I am gentle and humble
in heart, and you will find rest for your
souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden
the grace, mercy and peace of God be with
us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ; Amen.
Emma Lazarus was born in New York City in
1849 to Sephardic Jewish parents. Her father,
Moses Lazarus, was a wealthy merchant and
sugar refiner. This allowed Emma and her six
siblings to have fine private educations.
Emma loved writing and poetry. As she grew
into an adult, she was able to take two extensive
trips to Europe in the mid-1880s. As she began
to explore her Jewish roots there, Emma became
increasingly interested in the anti-semitic
activities in Russia following the assassination
of Tsar Alexander II – called, “pogroms.”
These were riots meant to massacre or persecute
the Jews of Eastern Europe.
Emma made it her life’s work to write
poetry to shed light on these atrocities for
Americans, and to advocate for schools for
Jewish immigrants and refugees coming to New
York from Eastern Europe. Emma’s most
famous work is a poem called, “The New
Colossus,” written and donated to an
auction of art and literary works in 1883
to raise money for the construction of a pedestal
for the gift given to the US by France for
our 100th birthday in 1876 – the Statue
of Liberty. In the poem, she likens the statue
to one of the fabled Seven Wonders of the
Ancient World, the Colossus of Rhodes. That
old Colossus was a giant statue of the Greek
god Helios, said to have stood at the harbor
of the city of Rhodes on the Greek Island
of the same name, from 280 BC until it was
destroyed by an earthquake in 226 BC, never
to be rebuilt. Lady Liberty resembles it in
size and likeness, and Emma’s poem lifts
up this new beacon of welcome as a far more
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is
the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother
of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide
welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged
harbor that twin cities frame.
ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries
With silent lips. "Give me your tired,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
I know that as a Jewish person, Emma Lazarus
would not have been familiar with the words
of Jesus from our Gospel reading this morning:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and
carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you
rest.” But as I remember those words
that she wrote, “Give me your tired,
your poor, your huddled masses yearning to
breathe free. The wretched refuse of your
teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost
to me…” I see an obvious connection
between her love for her fellow Jews fleeing
persecution and the call from Jesus to all
people who carry heavy burdens in life, especially
as they seek to be faithful disciples and
love their neighbors as God has commanded
all of us to do.
The assigned text for today from the lectionary
committee omits verses 20 to 24 in this reading.
These are the woes that Jesus pronounces on
certain cities of the land – Chorazin,
Bethsaida and Capernaum - all Jewish cities
on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus
visited them regularly. Capernaum was even
considered Jesus’ adopted hometown.
Now we don’t know about any specific
evil deeds for which these cities were remembered
and that they had to repent. Jesus mixes them
in with Gentile cities – Tyre and Sidon
and Sodom – all of which were notorious
for suffering destruction for their sins.
Why does Jesus bring them up then? I think
it goes back to his words about his ministry
and John the Baptist’s ministry. John
came neither eating or drinking and they said
he has a demon. Jesus came eating and drinking
and they called him a glutton, drunkard and
friend of tax collectors and sinners. No matter
what a person does or says – even if
there are pure intentions behind them –
people will criticize. It is in our nature
to question or doubt, and certainly Jesus
heard these comments from people in these
Galilean cities. The New Colossus has been
around so long that people accept it without
much thought, even though many of us deny
that these words are applicable today. I imagine
that at the time there were plenty of people
saying, “NO! Don’t send us your
huddled masses, wretched refuse or homeless
tempest-tost! Send us the good people, who
have the skills to make it on their own and
be productive in society!” Even though
we are called to love all of God’s children
with a particular attention to “the
least of these,” the presence of sin
in our communities will question the motives
or actions of Christians who reach out in
love to the hurting of the world.
That is why I insisted on reading this passage
in its entirety, with the otherwise excluded
verses re-inserted. Without them there we
are prone to turn a blind eye to the ways
that we sometimes turn inwards to ourselves
and our own individual wants. It is also a
good testimony on this weekend of Independence
to remember that patriotism is not a blind
nationalism which ignores the fact that there
are still people hurting and oppressed –
not only in the world, but in our own country.
We celebrated yesterday our nation’s
independence. Maybe today as we gather virtually
for worship, it is time to reflect on how
we can be better as a nation and as disciples
of Jesus Christ – knowing that today
people in our land are still yearning to breathe
free. Jesus calls people to come for rest,
but we still shoulder the burdens of life.
The good news is that Jesus gives us the image
of a yoke which is not only over our shoulders,
but Jesus’. In fact, it is a yoke over
the collective shoulders of our entire community
to carry forth the call for loving the neighbor
and seeking justice for all of God’s
children. Today we can look at ourselves critically,
knowing that we are capable of great love
and compassion, AND we are capable of destruction
and hate. We often confess that we are sinful
and unclean, not just words we speak on Sundays
which fade by Monday afternoon. These are
words that describe us and our whole community
that can bring renewal to our nation today,
the first day of our 245th year.
That is why it is important to remember today
that those of us who live in places where
sinfulness exists are called to turn again
to God for healing and for direction. And,
that we have a savior who shares our burdens,
calls us to rest in his presence, and most
especially has already been there and done
that. Jesus has loved all, even those who
called him a glutton and a drunkard …
even those who claimed that his cousin John
had a demon. The only way to combat evil and
name-calling is by embracing them as givens
whenever love and justice are pursued, and
to remain faithful in the grace of Jesus Christ
Dr. Fred Meuser was the president of Trinity
Lutheran Seminary here in Columbus for many
years, including the first three of my four
years there. Dr. Meuser took this whole idea
of “honest discipleship and patriotism”
and wrote new words to the familiar song,
“God Bless America.” On this,
July 5, it is a good song to hear as we ponder
the ways that God has called us free people
to love all people, and to strive for justice
everywhere, even in the face of criticism
and name calling.
Bless all the nations, Lord, not us alone,
Bless all leader with wisdom
With the light shining bright from your throne.
Bless the homeless and the hopeless All the
children, lost and lone.
Bless all the nations, Lord, not us alone
Bless all the nations, Lord, not us alone.
us to love the world, just as you do.
Fill our hearts, Lord, with Christ’s
love That we all may give glory to you.
Bless the hungry and the weary Show us all
what we can do.
Help us to love the world just as you do,
Bring peace to all the world we trust in you.
people fight and die may conflict cease.
Touch the people in all lands With a heartfelt
commitment to peace.
Heal all hatreds, calm all vengeance From
such passions bring release.
Bless all the nations, Lord so wars may cease,
Give to all people, Lord, your wondrous peace.