Yoked Together

A talk at Morning Prayer on 17th July 2019

Matthew 11.28-30

Jesus said, “Come to me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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”.

YOKES

When I came to this passage, I had a vague idea that a yoke was something you put on an animal to help with things like pulling heavy ploughs.

What I never realised before was that actually a yoke goes over the shoulders of two animals so that they can work together.

This way they form a team and work together, sharing the load.

Another thing I didn’t know was that it’s common to pair an older more experienced animal with a younger one so that the younger one can learn what to do.

And so it makes sense that Jesus talks about giving us both rest and a yoke to carry.

THE BURDENS WE CARRY

What Jesus is offering here is a rest from carrying burdens on our own.

A rest from struggling on alone with our sins and frailties or feelings of shame and guilt, and also a rest from constantly trying to match up, be the best, to succeed and to never show any signs of weakness or vulnerability.

However much we try we just can’t manage to get everything right all the time and we can end up very frustrated with ourselves and full of regrets.

In other words, we can end up carrying a heavy burden of “should haves” and “didn’t dos” and “if onlys”.

But then Jesus comes and offers to take all that from us in exchange for a lighter burden that we don’t have to carry alone.

WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP

Jesus offers us, instead, a chance to be yoked together with him.

We’re given the possibility of giving up all that stuff that makes us so tired to carry in exchange for working with him, sharing the load, drawing on his power and guidance and knowing that we’re never alone.

When we take on Jesus’s yoke we enter in to a partnership, a relationship, in which we can find the security, love and forgiveness we need to make a fresh start and know that we’re always supported and loved.

And, I think, we’re yoked together as fellow-Christians.

We’re not meant to do the whole business of following Christ alone – instead we’ve been given each other, the Church, to work alongside us, support us, guide us, love us and teach us.

And then we in turn can do the same for those who come along behind us.

We are to be yoked with each other, just as we are yoked with Christ.

It can seem like there’s a lot to do to live out our calling as members of the Church and followers of Jesus, but if we can fulfil our roles with Jesus close by us,  sharing the load, and if we do things his way, in his strength, then we will find that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Busyness

A “Thought for the Day” for Black Cat Radio on 8th June 2019

When I’m not doing church stuff, I’m self-employed doing proofreading for students with learning difficulties like dyslexia. And the funny thing about my job is that it’s either massively busy, because the students have all got deadlines at once, or there’s nothing to do at all. Sometimes I grumble a bit when it’s busy but actually I find it harder when there’s nothing to do.

Like a lot of people these days I can fall into the idea that I have to be busy all the time. If I’m not I can end up feeling like I’m somehow not contributing or wasting time or just not doing as well as everyone else who’s rushing about all over the place. And it gets a bit competitive sometimes, with people tying to out-boast each other about how much they have to do.

Life is very busy for a lot of people these days, with pressure at work and children to bring up, but the idea that we have to be seen to be doing something all the time is a very modern one and I wonder if it’s really all that helpful. There’s a lot to be said for being someone who stops for a bit to think or listen to a friend or do something we enjoy. And there’s no need to feel bad about taking some time to stop and breathe and enjoy ourselves – it’s an important part of being a healthy human being.

There’s a reason why the Bible tells us to take a day each week in which we do no work – it’s because it’s good for us. So perhaps we could all try taking a bit of time off, even if we can’t always manage a whole day, and discover the joy of being a human being rather than a human doing.