Reflection: July 9

Published on Jul 9th, 2017 by Webminister | 0

“Who said my yoke was easy?”

         Fred Cradock was a great preacher and biblical scholar, but equally as important, a wise and compassionate human being. I had the pleasure to meet him and hear him speak at Epiphany Explorations in Victoria a few years ago.

Craddock shared his wisdom in a set of biblical commentaries, and in one he said of this passage from Matthew, “Christ’s offer in Matthew is not of permissiveness, but that of a shared yoke, of love and of forgiveness.”[1] The yoke, in other words, is not a heavy burden because it is a shared gift of love and reconciliation.

         I find these words of Craddock, and Matthew, comforting.

         There is no question that Jesus’ comments echo the image of a yoke that was placed on oxen or other beasts of burden. They are yoked to do hard work. But in offering these words of a new KinDom of love, Jesus points back to the gift of Wisdom. In the Wisdom literature of ancient Israel is found another reference to yoke, the hard and heavy yoke of doing what is right under Torah. Jesus promised that the Torah is indeed a light gift of life and love. However, the Jewish leaders of the day had weighed the people down with extra burdens of the Torah. The Torah was not providing the release from slavery that was intended when Moses came down off the Mountain bringing the Torah.

         And that’s where the reminder about Wisdom comes in. Wisdom for those of Jesus’ day and earlier referred to the personification of God as a woman who creates, who inspires, and who gives freedom. The beginning of Proverbs speaks of Wisdom personified. The end of Job has the writer referencing Wisdom’s presence at the beginning of creation. Wisdom is the sower of the seeds of community and shared love.

         Quite frankly, Jesus likely saw something of Wisdom’s sensibility in himself; certainly, those Gospel writers writing about him did, especially John. Maybe Mark comes a close second as Jesus comes across more out of the Wisdom tradition. Matthew and Luke perhaps lean more to a prophetic sensibility for Jesus.

         You’ve heard it said—although not so much of latter years—“God will not give you more than you can endure.” This is not found anywhere in the Bible. Nor is it part of any religious teaching, except perhaps for a conservative view of the world and of God; this conservative view also teaches that everything happens for a reason.

What Wisdom does is invite us to see ourselves more firmly rooted in community with other seekers or strugglers. Wisdom invites us to not pretend that what we are experiencing isn’t real and isn’t hard. Life is hard and we face struggles; not all the time, of course. And some people endure more struggles than others. The impetus to live, and live fully, is the impetus given by Wisdom, who invites us to share our burdens with others. This is the gift of Wisdom that calls us through many of the African-American Spirituals, to share our burdens. This is the gift of Wisdom that invites us to move beyond our Western penchant to face issues alone, and thus to share our struggles with others. This is the gift of Wisdom that says we are not alone, that we live in God’s world, and that we are part of a KinDom.

Remember that new vision of Kingdom that we have been using the last few years? It is the idea that we are “kin” together and so we’ve dropped the “g” and made it KinDom. The common wealth shared in family. The common love, the common compassion, the common knowledge that we don’t have to face things alone.

Yes, I realize that all families have their issues, but in those situations, we choose our family; close friends become family… Kin. This sense of being Kin has become our focus the past many years.

Wisdom also teaches us what Paul declared in his letter to the Romans: we don’t always get it right! He put it more eloquently when he said that the good he wanted to do he didn’t always do; and the bad things he didn’t want to do, he sometimes ended up doing. I think we can all say that we’ve been there. And lest we think it just Paul and his intensity, almost every religion has a similar philosophy expressed in different forms. The Roman poet, Ovid, says this in Metamorphoses: “Desire persuades me one way, reason another. I see the better and approve it, but I follow the worse.”[2]

         What the Church still has to offer in this 21st Century, although it is getting lost in the trendy quest to be relevant, is that we are a group of people who acknowledge our humanity and our struggles and seek to find ways to live God’s abundance together. It is hard to resist western society’s teaching that we need to be rugged individuals who can cope alone. We forget that heroes are never just one person; heroes had teachers, role models, people who stand beside them, people who have shown them a different way and in an extreme moment, that teaching has come through. It is a heroic thing to reach out, to ask for help, to acknowledge limitations, to say to others, “Will you walk beside me.” Remember Louise Penny’s four statements? They are, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I need help. I don’t know.” That’s the kind of Wisdom that Jesus was talking about and embodied.

         This is the kind of Wisdom that means we can survive and even flourish in the face adversity. This is the Wisdom that means we can share our burdens because we are in this together, and God is a part of it all. This is the Wisdom that says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Of course it is; it is as light as love. It is as weighty as compassion.   Amen.

 


[1] Preaching the New Common Lectionary: Year A, After Pentecost. Abingdon, 1987, page 88.

[2] Ibid, page 86.

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