You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, Weary? Come Rest, HERE.
There is a beautiful back and forth, a pulling and pushing, a shaping and forming laid out by Jesus in this passage from Matthew. With these verses placed as the foundation for our reflection, it is interesting the chapter we read for Memorial’s All Church Book Read in Chuck Tennessen’s book Forever Earthbound was entitled “Balance.” Reading the multiple short stories in the chapter, this idea of balance jumped out. Balance is really important as we learn how to live together in any time period… but especially now—during the pandemic.
This holiday weekend our living together, our yoking of past, present, and future, leads me to note that as we celebrate our country’s independence and remember that bit of history, it is also important to remember how we are connected to the land on which we live. It is important for us to remember to whom we owe thanks for caring for this place in the generations before us. Thus, we offer gratitude today to the people of the Ho-Chunk nations, as well as the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Sauk and Meskwaki, Miami, and Sioux—all of whom have lived on and tended to this ancient land and its lakes.
A few years ago, Steve and I participated in a week-long class in Northern New Mexico called, Hiking the Harmonies of the Land. As we walked through the high desert, we learned about the geology, archaeology, and history of the land. These are the lands of the Ute, Pueblo, and Apache. One of our first lessons was one of balance. Do you know what Rock Balancing is? Well, we were asked to work together to build the tallest tower of rocks that we could.
So, we got busy. It was easy to find rocks in the desert landscape. What wasn’t so easy was figuring out how 7 people, who had just met, would work together to balance the stones. As we gathered in the mainly dry bed of the arroyo, this was our model: A pillar of nicely balanced stones someone (or someone’s) had completed before we arrived.
As you see, there is one, large, upright stone on the bottom, and progressively smaller, generally flatter rocks as the tower continues. Nicely balanced.
Human endeavors integrated with nature.
Marking a presence. A being—with creation. The Divine. Maybe even a sense of calm, but also impermanency.
What words would you label onto this image?
Those who gathered virtually offered words such as “balance,” “harmony,” “patience,” “larger supporting the smaller,” “teamwork,” and “unity” in the chat on Zoom.
So, as I noted, it wasn’t so easy to begin a totally new project—even though we had a template. We were 7 people, doing 7 different things. Taking 7 different approaches. One person was the championship lifter. His specialty was the heavy rocks. Another person tried organizing us, and we listened to their directions in snippets… but not fully. Someone else strongly felt focusing on flatter rocks was the way to go. There were a couple of people who really tried to follow the directions the heavy rocker, flat rocker, and director were suggesting—but had trouble determining to whom they should really listen. Yet another person wandered to the side and sat in the shade observing the situation at hand. I found myself watching the construction and picking up wedge-shaped stones to place in the gaps, studying the growing balancing act to the best of my ability.
Here is the result of our effort:
How does it make you feel?
What words come to mind as you look at this image?
This time those who gathered virtually offered words such as “precarious,” “awesome,” “smaller balancing the larger,” “support,” “reaching,” “fragile,” and “unique” via chat on Zoom.
As you look at the image, hear once again these words from Jesus:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
Let me ask, how are you feeling today?
Are any of you weary?
Jesus goes on to say, “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” (Matt. 11: 29-30).
Learn from me.
I am gentle and humble.
This is easy.
When you are weary and burdened, pick up my yoke… and I will be there for you.
When we are yoked… connected… we gain strength from one another—and our burdens, all the brokenness inside our hearts and out in the world, get lighter.
Today I am not going to venture into the tough reality of Jesus’ call, for we know that picking up the yoke and following him is not easy. That the picking up of the cross is work that will challenge us, unsettle us, not comfort. In this moment, we are going to make space to acknowledge the ways in which we are weary:
- We are weary of the pandemic.
- Tired of meetings on Zoom.
- Exhausted by the division between “maskers” and “anti-maskers.”
- Vaccinators and anti-vaxxers.
- Feeling confined to home.
- Drawn out of our homes an onto social media and out on the streets to address racism. White nationalism. Anti-Semitism. Islamophobia. Homophobia. Transphobia.
- Learning how to become anti-racist.
- Missing loved ones whom we cannot visit in the hospital, or nursing homes.
- Doing grocery shopping and errands for parents, other family members, or friends, who cannot (should not) do so themselves because of the coronavirus.
- FaceTiming and Zooming with grandchildren instead of getting hugs and kisses.
Hear Jesus say to you this day, “Come to me, all you that are weary… and I will give you rest”
Beloved, remember that we are yoked… connected. We can gain strength from one another, and from the Holy Spirit, when we lean into that cross-piece of our faith as people who follow Christ—our resting, and walking, and working with God.
And remember. Remember the core of our identity as Jesus followers. We are people who say “yes” to God’s call to resistance. A resistance to the cultural and consumer driven bonds which do all they can to pull us down, oppress people of color, economically break hearts and souls.
And never forget. Never forget Jesus urges us to, in Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of these verses, “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matt 11:28-30, The Message).
Being yoked with God, draws us into the natural rhythms of extravagant grace and balance with all of creation.
The Divine Love beckons.
Professor Jennifer Kaalund says, “Jesus wants those who are burdened to learn from him; Jesus’ gentle instruction will enable you to find rest for your soul; to find wholeness and completion… Getting to know Jesus helps us to know ourselves better… In a world where the truth is often presented as debatable and lies are painted as truth, we can become weary. The truth does matter. Truth is the beginning of wisdom. It is a starting point for us to live fruitful lives…. As we learn and mature in our walk with Christ, we should grow in understanding the importance of knowing God and perhaps more importantly being known by God.”
We are yoked, connected to Great Holiness.
Come into that sense of balance and rest this day.
Through God’s love, and Jesus’ rest, we participate in something that goes beyond ourselves. Take a look at the balance rocks again:
See God’s unforced rhythms of grace in the images (especially in the haphazard elegance of the free-flowing tower my friends and I built).
Breathe. Rest. Steady your soul. I invite you into a minute of silent prayer.
Let us be in the presence of God’s life-giving grace…
~ Pastor Kris
Reflection on Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 offered July 5, 2020
 Jennifer T. Kaalund , “Commentary on Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 by Jennifer T. Kaalund,” Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 Commentary by Jennifer T. Kaalund – Working Preacher – Preaching This Week (RCL), accessed July 3, 2020, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=4502.