Eucharist – 4th Sunday after Trinity – 5th July
A reflection for Trinity 4 on today’s Gospel reading.
In verse 28 of Matthew chapter 11, the Lord Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”. I’m sure that all readers will agree that this has been an exhausting few months, and that we are very tired indeed, in spite of spending more time indoors. Tired of Covid 19, tired of not going out freely, tired of the restrictions in seeing our families and friends, tired of being lonely, tired of not being able to access church. Let’s realise our tiredness today and how heavy it is. I heard yesterday a serious radio debate on exhaustion within the virtual world also. Some of us are now having to spend more time on Zoom and other computer conferencing sites than we do speaking to real people, and we too apparently are exhausted, because this virtual way of talking to one another takes up much brain space, and leads to anxiety about such things as how we present ourselves and how we compare with one another in our working lives.
Our picture today is unusual in that it comes from the way of the cross in Holy Week. It’s Simon of Cyrene and Jesus….bearing the weight of the cross together, their arms around one another in solidarity and support. As we are called upon to take up our cross and walk the way of Jesus, so He, in His turn, today promises that he will be there, right alongside us, when we are carrying heavy burdens in our daily lives. As well as the burdens of daily life mentioned above, it would be an oversight not to mention the burden of sin in our lives, mentioned in our first reading from Romans chapter 7: 15-25. Sin is a reality for us when we hear that voice whispering in our ear….suggesting that we do something selfish, hurtful and unloving. St Paul speaks of it in language we can understand when he says “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do”. (7:19) In past times we would have brought these wrong actions and wrong thoughts with us to our confession Sunday by Sunday. St Paul asks the question ”who will rescue me?” and gives the answer “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord”!
The film ‘The Mission’ some years ago told the story of the Christian missionaries with the Guarani Indians of South America at the time of the slave trade. One of the traders killed a local man, but then became a Christian and, consumed by guilt, chose to carry a sack on his back full of weapons of war, a great weight to show his sorrow for his sin. This burden defined who he was and became a threat to life when he climbed precipitous slopes up the side of water falls in the jungles of South America. One day, on a steep slope, he slipped backwards under the weight of the burden, and a native Indian (from the same tribe as the man whom he had killed) simply came up and cut the rope holding the sack on his back and it fell away, and the Christian wept at the release and forgiveness he then experienced.
It is the Lord who as it were ‘cuts our rope’, and it is in the place of weariness and burden that we too hear Jesus say to each of us “Come to me”. Jesus doesn’t say that we won’t have problems any more, but he does offer us the invitation to be yoked with him. A yoke is a wooden device used to attach a pair of oxen together to plough a field or pull a heavy load. Jesus wants us to put our neck in His yoke and He wants to walk through life with us. If we do this, we will find that our burdens are so much lighter to carry with Him alongside us. “Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” says the Lord.