Sunday 5th July 2020 – 4th Sunday after Trinity Sunday
This Sunday’s Meditation is by Mrs Alison Sen,
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
“Stay at home, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, work from home (unless you can’t), don’t use public transport (unless you must), only shop once a week, stay at least 2 metres from everyone (except where you can’t), wear masks, wash your hands ………….!”
Lockdown regulations …endless new rules to absorb, apply … and as for all the guidance and regulations about reopening churches … well, let’s leave that for another day! Maybe, like me, you’re feeling weary of trying to understand, trying to comply? I have to frequently come back to the purpose of it all, which is to keep ourselves and others safe by the way we live.
When Jesus says these beautiful words “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” it’s in the context of his people being not so much work-burdened nor sin-burdened but law-burdened because the scribes and Pharisees have laid an intolerable load. In the following chapter Jesus indicates how the religious leaders’ rules of Sabbath observance have missed the real point of the Sabbath. Matthew 9:36 says Jesus “was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” So the people are suffering under a load of religious responsibilities laid on them by priests and scribes. Although these legalistic demands are meant to honour God, they have become “heavy burdens”, like a yoke. A yoke often has negative connotations – yoke of slavery or oppression. But it is, of course, positive when used in partnership, like the image of oxen sharing the load to pull the plough, relieving the weight of burden and difficulty.
In the New Testament Peter lives out an example of breaking free from the burden of legalistic demands when he meets with the Roman centurion Cornelius to answer his questions about Jesus. Following a vision in which he’s challenged to liberate himself from religious regulations Peter crosses cultural boundaries in order to ensure inclusivity and hospitality and a gospel for all.
So Jesus offers this beautiful invitation:
28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
It’s an invitation to put down the weariness of trying to comply and endlessly failing, and instead to take on Jesus’ own yoke and burden and to learn from him. To me, however, burdens don’t sound easy or light, particularly as we know that rather than dismissing the law Jesus calls us to take it further (eg it’s not enough to love your neighbour, love your enemy too). But there, perhaps is the key … the burden we receive from Jesus is a burden to love … to love God and to love others, just as Jesus summed up the law. This is not easy in our own strength, but to me this suggests that Jesus shares the yoke with us. And it’s a love which first comes from God, which forgives us, frees us, heals us and transforms us. “My yoke is easy” is perhaps better translated as good or kind and represents entering into a disciple-relationship with the gentle one, where we constantly learn from the one who ultimately carries the burden. We will find rest or relief, not from inactivity, but from the relief which comes from love.
Being unable to gather as church has been a challenge for many of us. In fact it was a difficult and contentious decision to close church buildings during lockdown, but really it’s a small sacrifice of the comfort we find in the familiarity of space, rituals, or the beauty of a building, for a greater good, for love of others, for protection of those most vulnerable. Rituals are not wrong – but they cannot take from the importance of our God-given burden to love. The message is simple – Come to Jesus, share his burden to love without boundaries – and there we will find rest for our souls.
Previous Sunday Reflections
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