Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yoked to abundant life, Matthew 11:25-30

Matthew 11:25-30 (NRSV)

25 At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 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."
Long have I prayed and read this scripture about "take my yoke upon you...for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" for it is one of the readings of the night service of Compline. The image of the yoke reminds me of those wooden yokes that harness two cattle together to pull a wagon or do other heavy work in areas where tractors are not used. The yoke bonds one to another in common work and common purpose, and also connotes a sense of service to a higher master.

Being yoked is not immediately so attractive to us today, cultural norms put a preference on freedom and individuality and choice, not on being bound up with one another in service to a master. However, no matter how much we resist authority and obedience, we do obey some master - be it the marketplace, the "cult" of busy-ness, or the rat-race. The statement by Jesus reminds his followers that we can take up the yoke of Christ, which is a light burden because Jesus has already done the heavy lifting. The hope of the resurrection means that we no longer need to feel that it all depends on us. Surely, we can still yoke ourselves to the rat race, however, as Williams Sloane Coffin, Jr. once said, "the thing about the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat!" Jesus came so that we might "have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10), and so, the yoke does not dehumanize or demean us, but lifts us to Joy, and Hope, and Peace in the life abundant.

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