Sunday, July 5, 2020 – Weary?
Focus scripture: Matthew 11: 28-30:
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 is light.
Anyone weary? It seems that today’s news and social media are determined to keep us focused on sensational things – things that scare us or put fear and doubt into our lives; stories intended to rile us up, stir up indignation and anger, seeking an emotional response to engage us with the story rather than simple observation of what has occurred; stories interpreted in light of the persuasion of the reporter. Weary.
Oh sure, during COVID times, some news shows end with a minute snip of something positive and maybe a longer segment to end the week. Something to make us think things aren’t really as bad as they have just spent the previous 25 minutes convincing us they are. Weary.
Each week I hope there will be relief. Relief from COVID-19 spreading. Relief from unrest and political divisiveness. Relief for the people who are suffering from racism. Some of these things will take the action of people to bring relief. People will need to change. People will need to step up and do something. But people don’t really like to change, and unless they are directly affected, taking action takes the back burner.
In this weary world of people who are sick or recovering, of those who are providing care or working in risky places, of people who are worried about getting sick or surviving financially, and even of those feeling invincible against the sickness and angry about impositions on their lives, in this weary world, we need a word of rest for our souls.
To put it another way, we need a savior, someone who will take our burdens and save us from ourselves, our anxious, angry, afraid, ego-centered selves. Hosanna! Save us!
When Jesus spoke the words in today’s lesson, it was in regard to people whose weariness came from the oppressive religiosity of the Pharisees. “Are you tired of all the requirements placed on you by religious leaders on how to behave and what to do to be righteous? Then give me those burdens. Come under my yoke and I’ll share the load and you’ll learn about true righteousness. I won’t fill you with pompous rules but with the humble virtues of God’s kin-dom. Then your souls will find rest.”
We might wonder how living the life Jesus intends for us is a relief to burdens. Isn’t Christianity full of dos and don’ts? Do this and don’t do that to be a “good Christian”?
Jesus’ teachings weren’t all that complicated. When we recall his way of explaining things, it wasn’t through teaching rules and laws, but through parables of how we should live with each other and get in sync with God’s desire for us. Unfortunately our interpretations have led to a lot of directives, especially as the church has become more and more of an institution.
Do you remember how Jesus told Martha, “you are worried and distracted by many things, but Mary has chosen the better part.” (see Luke 10:38-42) Perhaps this was a way of saying bring your worries and distractions to me, and learn from me, just as Mary was learning as she sat at Jesus’ feet.
What was she learning? Let’s recall some simple teachings: feed the poor, tend the sick, visit those in prison, welcome the stranger, forgive one another, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
We know the Martha side of ourselves – when we get overwhelmed with doing and forget the reason, no matter how noble, when we’ve lost the joy of what we are doing and get cranky and resentful, especially when we see others not measuring up.
I hope we also know the Mary side – when we take a time-out from busyness and “come to our senses,” and take the time to return to the One who will give rest to our souls.
Can you think of times when you have been full of energy even though you were working hard at a task?
Our community dinners come to mind. The meal requires a lot of preparation and clean-up, but the church is usually buzzing with energetic people. We’re teasing each other, laughing, catching up with each other, as well as feeding a hungry crowd. There’s a sense of joy and peace as people go about their work. Is it a burden? Sometimes it is, but usually the burden is overtaken by a sense that the burden has been made lighter, that the yoke is easy. We’re not simply serving a meal, we’re following Jesus’ teachings.
So how do we come to Jesus and give up our burdens? One way is through prayer and saying, “here, please take this from me because I don’t feel like carrying this load anymore.”
Another way is by taking the yoke of Jesus upon us. A yoke keeps those wearing it aligned. This is perhaps why Jesus uses the metaphor of a yoke. By getting our lives better aligned with Jesus, the work we do lines up with the greater purpose of God’s kin-dom. Work that summons the best in us and brings the innate energy and passion of God’s Holy Spirit working in us.
When we are yoked with Jesus, the action that the world needs for change to come about, will not move to the back burner, but will stay on a front burner where the cook can give it a stir and turn up the heat as needed. And we will find rest for our restless, weary souls.
~Evie Doyon, July 2020