Greetings and welcome to Corona Sabbath. This is one of the ways the church is endeavoring to offer spiritual support during these challenging days of COVID-19. We appreciate your feedback and suggestions.
In this summer series on the theme “Grounded” we turn to one of the foundations of our faith – comfort.
We listen to a Matthew 11:28-30 read by Jim Andrews, a scripture lesson that speaks of comfort.
Jesus continued. . .
Come to me,
all you who labor and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon your shoulders
and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble of heart.
Here you will find rest for your souls,
for my yoke is easy
and my burden is light.
Reflection from Kim
With a nod to stand up comedian, Tom Papa, who is featured on ‘Live From Here’ with Chris Thile:
Have you ever gone on a cruise? I have.
Have you ever gone to a movie and every seat was sold out? I have.
I have you ever ridden on a crowded subway? I have.
Have you ever gone to a foreign country? I have.
Have you ever gone to a club and been bumped around on a crammed danced floor? I have.
Have you ever enjoyed a meal in a crowded noisy restaurant. I have.
Have you ever gone to a church service that was standing room only and been uplifted by the congregational singing? I have.
But for now, at least, those days are gone. And we don’t know when or if they will return.
And there are many other things that burden our spirits these days –
Being separated from loved ones, especially those who need our help.
The immense suffering and grief around us, not only due to the corona virus, but also due to the virus of systemic, institutional racism which has us all in its grip. Sometimes it seems we have no more power over racism than we do over the corona virus.
Economic inequities continue to create heavy burdens for most of our society and our world.
Violence, conflict, and war ravage families, communities, and countries.
Global warming is gripping us. The South Pole has been warming at 3 times the the global average for the past 30 years. It’s no wonder this summer is so blazing hot!
We have health concerns. Concerns for loved ones. Problems in our relationships. Financial concerns. Worries about the future. There is much that brings us dis-ease. Are you feeling down yet?
We are indeed heavily laden. We carry difficult burdens. So, yes, we are desperately in need of comfort. We ache for relief. For respite.
But sometimes we seek comfort in ways that are not good for us, for society, or for the world. Endless advertisements, cunningly tailored to fit, invite us to find comfort in a new car, a new piece of clothing, a new electronic gadget. The list is endless. But surely this new thing will give us a measure of happiness and comfort. There’s no reference to the financial burden, the weight of upkeep and storage, the cost to the earth. No, just the offer of happiness, a better life, to give us relief from the stresses we face. Ah, consumerism with its empty promises of comfort.
And sometimes we seek comfort in substances like alcohol, drugs, food, and medications, that again, don’t give us the long lasting relief that we are seeking. Or maybe we seek solace is sex or gambling. Again, we crave comfort but find it wanting.
Some people seek comfort and security in a gun. If I just have a gun, I’ll be safe. I’ll be able to protect myself. I’ll be able to sleep at night. But the worry and the stress does not go away. Maybe it even increases because we are worried about what could happen involving the gun. Again, no comfort.
Let’s listen again to words of comfort associated with Jesus. This version is a translation from the Jesus Seminar:
“All you who labor and are overburdened come to me, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am meek and modest and your lives will find repose. For my yoke is comfortable and my load is light.”
We notice that Jesus recognizes that people are carrying heavy burdens. And whoever we are, Jesus welcomes us. His invitation is not only for certain kinds of people, carrying certain kinds of burdens. No discrimination from Jesus. He is an equal opportunity recruiter. All who labor and are overburdened. This is why the church is always welcoming to everyone, as we say in the UCC, “Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.” Everyone is welcome to receive comfort from Jesus.
And notice that Jesus does not offer to remove the burden. He doesn’t say, lay it down. He doesn’t wave a wand and make the burden disappear. We are given the image of the yoke. An image of servitude. A yoke is a wooden collar that accommodates two animals so that they can pull a cart together, share the burden. We are invited to share a yoke. To help one another bear the load. This is an invitation to find comfort in community, in solidarity, in relationship.
The church is a community of caring people who help share the burdens of life. This is the way of Jesus. Our faith is grounded in this kind of caring community. In the church we expect to give and receive comfort. To share the burden. To pull the load – together.
Notice that we are told that Jesus says he is meek and modest, some translations say gentle and humble in heart, mild. There is no competition or status implied. The way of Jesus provides comfort in this kind of orientation toward ourselves, others, and life. This is the opposite of arrogance, and machismo, and needing to be perceived as a “winner.” Jesus is relieving us of the burden of such shallow posturing and instead inviting us to authenticity and vulnerability. When we are humble, we find that we can share the burdens of another. We find that we are open to sharing our burdens with others. Together, we provide strength and encouragement for each other. And in this way, all receive the comfort needed for the living of our days.
In these simple words from Matthew, we are given a core message of comfort: wholeness, consolation, hope – found in community with those who follow Jesus by seeking joy in other-centered living. With Jesus, there is no promise of no hard times. There is the promise of joy and comfort when burdens are shared.
In The Message, a contemporary rendering of the Bible, Eugene Peterson offers this version of the words of comfort from the gospel. Hear them and feel the solace and comfort of the way of Jesus:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
May it be so! Amen.
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