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Ash Wednesday ~ 17 Feb 2021
Matthew 11: 28-30
“The yoke’s on Us”
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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.”
In the 21st century the metaphor of yoked oxen is far from our personal experience. It is an agricultural image. In many cultures oxen are used for plowing, for pulling carts, and hauling wagons, for threshing grain by trampling, and for powering machines that grind grain or supply irrigation among other purposes. A team of Oxen are yoked together for more power than one animal can supply alone but they are also yoked so that a more mature ox can provide experience and training.
These familiar words, recited at commissionings as well as at funerals, signal Jesus’ teachings moving in a new direction.
Tonight’s passage from Matthew begins with an invitation
“Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens…”
This scripture is an introduction to Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus as healer and restorer, an agent of the Divine. It is a call to compassion and confession. Jesus is inviting us on a journey. “Come to me.” And the invitation is for all of us, all of humanity have “heavy burdens”. All of humanity has been burdened by the Pandemic that still rages. All of humanity is burdened by the prejudices we carry and inflict. All of humanity lives with a consciousness of our mortality and limitations.
Ash Wednesday is the first step, a time of naming our brokenness. As we enter the season of Lent, we commit to enter also into a season of healing and recovery that requires the naming of what has been shattered.
What has been shattered in your life: Is it your understanding of yourself as physically or emotionally strong? The story of a wife realizing her husband could not be all protecting….
Is it your understanding of equality and freedom?
Is it your understanding of yourself as without prejudice and without privilege?
Is it your understanding of the church as perfect?
Is it your understanding of our nation as perfect?
In answering the call to be on the journey with Jesus, we are invited to “learn” from him… and so we set these 40 days aside to pray and reflect so that we arrive at Holy Week prepared to take up the cross and continue the work of healing on his behalf.
Healing is about much more than simply the cure of a physical disease. Our physical health is intertwined with social, communal, moral, and holistic health. This is the real “recovery” we seek.
Rest that is promised is the presence of God, the presence of Jesus, with us. Just as God told Moses that his journey in the wilderness would be accompanied by the divine presence, giving “rest” along the way, Jesus is telling folks that their decision to be his disciples, though there would be burdens, those burdens would be “light” (seemingly an oxymoron) because he would be with them.
We take “the yoke” of responsibility as disciples of Jesus to be the Body of Christ–a body of those who need healing and offer healing in the world.
My hope is that we will explore and name what “yoke” is the right one for each one of us, and as a church together. An easy yoke is one that is “well-fitted,” making the carrying of difficult things ergonomically easier. As disciples, we do not simply attempt to duplicate the actions of an absent master; on the contrary, we rely on the ongoing presence of Jesus himself. What particular “well-fitted” ministry of healing will we discover that we can engage in with the ease, and therefore passion and vigor, that can make a difference? What are we willing to sacrifice in order to be agents of healing?
“Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you … and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).