Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’
This reading is used so often in services of healing and remembrance. Words of comfort and reassurance for those who suffer, whose life is unmanageable. We imagine an opportunity to bring our cares to Jesus and to hand them over; to rest in the arms of his loving Father.
Jesus gathers his children, his little ones with no authority or importance, around himself. And it is these who receive the message of redemption first of all; without the need for learning, sacrifice or judgment. Perhaps because they already know what judgment and sacrifice really mean?
The offer made to those who are weary is not one of complete release. Unless the Lord planned to recreate Heaven on earth that was never going to be a reasonable expectation. This is our earthly life and it is part of our journey that we live it; as Jesus lives it - with the pain and the weariness and the labour.
The yoke is easy because it is not adorned with carvings, bells and brasses, it has been shaped by trial and tears; the burden is light because we should not be carrying what is not needed to get us into the Kingdom or allow us to help with it's construction.
In previous years I talked about the idea of harnessing a young fretful animal into the same yoke as an older more experienced beast; teaching through sharing and growing together until they fall into step. This year I am thinking cowboys, gardeners, artists....I am thinking particularly allotment growers...
If you have ever taken on an allotment ( a small plot of land for growing vegetables etc) then unless you are very lucky, you normally start off with a carpet of nettles, thistles and bits of half buried metal. The first-time enthusiast will have bought every piece of equipment and clothing possible; read every book and magazine on the market; will be at their plot until sunset in all weathers and within days will have blisters upon blisters and aches in places where they didn't know they had places. And the nettles will be winning.
Across the paths will be the seasoned growers sitting in chairs drinking tea from pitted enamel cups, enjoying the sun or seeming to walk past a row of earth only to have shoots springing to life. And they will appear to have achieved this with a well worn shovel, a penknife and a piece of string.
Fortunately, most growers seem to be on the same wavelength as the Lord. Once the weeks of initiation have taken place (do you return the' nod', have you parked the furthest away, how loud do you have the radio on?) then the offer of advice, help and support will be made and you will be humbled enough to listen.
The remedies will be simple, cost next-to-nothing and will work. You will understand the meaning of miracle, experience and wisdom; your life will be well worth living.
Important to realise - the commitment will not have changed; the seasons will not bow to your needs, the potatoes will not earth up themselves; the mice will not divert from your shed (unless you rub garlic around the doors and windows) but the burden will be lighter and your soul - a growing soul - will be at rest.
The Lord tells us over and over that our lives need to be simple; as he sends out the disciples with no more than a staff, as he lives with no place to rest his head; as he asks the rich young man to give away what is causing him the most worry; as he challenges the Temple to let go of the rules and the small 't' traditions that stop them from following God's Law. Jesus lives in humility and trusts that his Father is taking care of him.
So should we.
So should we.