Rev. Martha Jacobs
What Jesus Doesn’t Say
Psalm 145:8-12, Matthew 11:28-30
July 9, 2017
For years, I have said to people, “God never promised us that things would be easy or that our burden would be light – what God did promise us is that God would never desert us. God will walk with us through whatever it is that is going on for us.”
As I prepared for my sermon today, I realized that while I totally believe that, no one had ever asked me where it actually said that in the Bible, which is a relief! Why? Because it was only while preparing for today that I realized that this is where I learned that God never promised us that things would be easy but God did promise us that God would walk with us through it.
Jesus says come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Jesus doesn’t say, I will take your burden away from you. He doesn’t say, put it down and forget about it. He says that he will give us rest. And then he says to take up his yoke. Now, based on where it falls in the gospel, Jesus was telling the disciples to go out and make disciples by letting people know that God required less from them than those who were oppressing them, those who put the laws above the lives and needs of the people.
But for us today, I want to focus on this yoke being more about Jesus and us working together, helping each other through the ups and downs of our world and our lives. I think that some people believe that once someone accepts Jesus as their savior that life will change, in that, somehow, they will have no problems. Somehow, a magic wand of some sort will be waved over their head and all their troubles will vanish.
Well, if that did happen, it would mean that Jesus was not real. It would mean that Jesus did not really walk this earth, because, as we know, Jesus was fully human and experienced all kinds of problems. He chose not to make them go away, but rather dealt with them and struggled with them, the same as all human beings do. We know it doesn’t matter how much money we have or how much good luck we have, we all have burdens to bear. None of us lives a life that is untouched by difficulties, loss, uncertainty, and yes, joy and love and the surety that God walks with us.
And, that is where the appeal of a yoke comes in. We rarely see a yoke these days, except perhaps on Amish farms and in some foreign countries. A yoke was designed for the beasts who wore them so that their burden could be shared – one did not carry more than the other. A yoke both restrains and enables the ones who are wearing it. It is simultaneously a burden and a possibility. We all have our yokes to bear. None of us has an easy life and many times, our yoke can be more burdensome or it can be filled with possibility, depending on the choices that we make.
Our difficulties are easier to bear when we share them. When we reach out to help someone else, when we walk with them, either physically or metaphorically, we take on a part of their yoke and walk that part of the journey with them. We share their burden and perhaps in doing so, both the person bearing the burden and the one helping them, are open to new possibilities.
And that is what we do as a church family. Whether someone is in need of food or a warm coat or shoes, or someone to take them to the doctor, or pay someone’s medical bill, that is what we do. We help them with the yoke of their life by sharing that burden with them, thereby opening them up to hope and a sense that they are not going through whatever it is they are dealing with, alone.
One of the things that Pat sometimes accuses me of, is trying to fix things when they don’t go as we hope they will. And, I admit, that I do try to fix things – to make them better, because, like most of us, I know what it feels like to suffer a loss of a loved one, or feel the sting of rejection or disappointment that something that I really hoped and believed would happen, doesn’t. That is a part of living and loving and sometimes, I forget that our lives also contain those lessons that we would rather not have to learn, but need to learn in order for us to navigate our world. Many examples come to mind – but I want to use one that many of us might be able to identify with.
Our nephew, Ted, whom some of you have met, was making cookies with his Aunt Pat when he was about 4 years old. He had been baking with her since he was about 2 and she had always warned him about the various things that could hurt him in the kitchen – like sticking his finger in the mixer when the beater was going around; that knives are very sharp and he was not to touch them until he got older; and, that the oven racks get very hot and so he should avoid touching them or he would get burned and it would hurt a lot.
Well, here they were, making cookies, just like they had many times. But this time, when Aunt Pat turned to put the hot cookie sheet on the cooling rack, Ted’s curiosity got the better of him. He decided to see for himself if Aunt Pat was telling him the truth. She turned around and looked at Ted. He had his hands behind his back and looked at her with pain in his eyes. He was trying not to cry, but eventually could not help it. He had touched the rack to see for himself if it was as hot as she had warned him it would be.
Of course, Pat felt terrible. Ted ran and hid in a corner because he was afraid his Aunt was going to yell at him. Instead, Aunt Pat convinced him to come out of the corner and show her his finger. She persuaded him to put ice and then salve on it, which hurt for a while, but the physical pain eventually subsided. I am not sure what hurt him more – the burn or the fact that he had disobeyed his Aunt, and she would be disappointed because he had not listened to her. Instead of yelling at him, she held him until his finger stopped hurting. She shared his burden with him. When they went back to baking, she asked him what he had learned. He said, that he had learned that Aunt Pat was right and that she was trying to protect him because oven racks were very hot!
On a grander scale, I think that is what God does with us – tries to warn us through our learning the difference between right and wrong, and good and bad. But then, because we have free will, we make our choices and, depending on those choices, we have to deal with the consequences of our actions. Sometimes, I envision God wincing or tearing up when we get in trouble or are in pain. Since Jesus was fully human, it makes sense to me that God would understand our pain and maybe even understand why we had to try or do what we did. Sometimes we learn only by doing, and, sometimes that learning comes at a price.
But, no matter the price, like Aunt Pat, who enticed Ted to come out of the corner and be comforted, Jesus invites us to come to him and rest a while, despite the burdens we may be carrying or perhaps because of the burdens we are carrying.
Jesus knows we will make mistakes, that we will have pain, grief, frustration, anger, betrayal in our lives, and he knows that those times are so hard for us. And, while he can’t take away the pain, while he can’t take away the living of our lives, he is there to help us carry those burdens. As the psalmist reminded us in Don’s reading this morning, God “upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.”
I wonder, how many of us choose to carry our burdens ourselves? I wonder – are we ashamed to tell others that we are carrying around something that is weighing us down? Are we afraid that others will judge us as less-than because life is hard for us right now?
I truly hope, and pray, that in this safe space, this sanctuary of God, that you feel that you can share your burdens, and share your delights. It is so much easier for us to claim things when they are going well, but not so much when we are struggling. Whether it be ourselves, a family member, a friend, this is one of the places where you can lay your burdens down. Jesus tells us that we can rest from our burdens knowing that God will share them with us. God will share the yoke of our burdens with us, not taking them away, not promising that life will be easy, but offering a yoke that is easier to manage when we share our burdens together.
Love and commitment have the power to make a difficult task seem more bearable and can sometimes turn those difficult tasks into joys, when we ask others to help us. When we invite others to join in both our joys and struggles, we can rest, knowing that we are not in this fight alone – not only are we there for each other, but Jesus is there with us as well. God offers us a quiet space, a time of relief and rest – so come, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, God will give you rest and will share your burdens – and so will we.