Come, take, learn.
What makes us weary? Lockdown is now easing but it has been a long time, longer than we thought it would be back in March. Weary of not seeing friends and family, weary of not seeing live sport, or of not being able to play sport. Weary of all the limitations imposed (and largely accepted) for the common good.
This Sunday’s lectionary gospel reading is Matthew 11 vvs. 25-30 with the well known invitation from Jesus:- ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’ Many of you will be able to hear Handel’s setting of those words. How though is this possible, i. e. how can people ‘come’ to Jesus? The most obvious way to answer would be to start with faith.
Faith that Jesus is more than a long dead figure from the past. That then leads on to faith as trust in Jesus in the present and for the future. As Baptists we can naturally make a connection between faith and believer’s baptism. In other words being baptized (or coming to the mercy seat in the S A, or confirmation) is one way people can ‘come’ to Jesus.
Having responded to the invitation to ‘come’, the believer soon realizes that there is a continuing invitation, a ‘keep on coming’. This involves prayer, corporate worship, and Holy Communion, receiving the bread and wine. At present KSBC does this last mentioned ‘separately but together’ in our own homes.
The next phrase to consider is ‘Take my yoke upon you’. What sort of yoke do we picture? Is it a yoke for animals or humans? Do we make the connection –‘ah, Jesus was a carpenter, he must have made yokes?’ When we use our imagination, we are entering into the meanings of the text-yes meanings.
Is this a single or a double yoke? Barbara Brown Taylor describes how she came to realize that it had to be a double yoke. She had felt that, as a Christian, she had so many things to do; ‘brownie points’ to be earnt. In the end her back seized up and she had to spend two weeks in bed. Truly ‘weary of carrying heavy burdens’ her enforced rest gave her a fresh insight into this well-loved invitation. A single yoke enables a person or animal to carry a heavy load, but eventually they have to stop. With a shared yoke one can rest while the other pulls…….. ‘when the day is done both may be tired, but neither is exhausted, because they are a team.’
She continues by pointing out that most of us ‘think our yokes are single ones …….that the only way to please God is to load ourselves down with heavy requirements-good deeds, pure thoughts, blameless lives, perfect obedience-all those rules we make and break and make and break, while all the time Jesus is standing right there in front of us, half a shared yoke across his own shoulders, the other half wide open and waiting for us, a yoke that requires no more than that we step into it and become part of a team.’
Sometimes we make ourselves weary. Listen again to the invitation, ‘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’. Come, take, and go on learning in that double yoke.
We give thanks for that measure of health and strength that we have.
We give thanks for those who bless us when we are weary.
We give thanks for all those who are carrying heavy burdens in this time of crisis.
We give thanks for the yoke-maker: his invitation and his offer. Amen