Today, we look at a Day 2 text from this year’s summer curriculum, “Holy Trinity, Wholly Love.”
Reading: Matthew 11:25-30
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; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 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.
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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.’
Wednesday evening my wife and I were chatting about the dawning of the Lenten season. We were trying to decide what practices we might adopt or what things we might fast from during Lent. I ran down the usual list in my mind: fast from chocolate, coffee, TV; take on a meditative practice like contemplative prayer or writing. The whole thing left me feeling burdened. You gotta do something, Jim! Or at least give something up! It’s Lent! You’re a pastor! my conscience chided me.
Our current season of life is jam packed. We have two young children. We have jobs. We have school commitments and church commitments. And we, like most people, have been fighting off one stomach bug, influenza virus, common cold, or infection after another since September. We’re tired: mentally, emotionally, spiritually. So the thought of adding one more commitment to my schedule, the thought of removing one of the few creature comforts I have time for—it felt like too much.
Enter Jesus: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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.” Sometimes I feel that we have reduced discipleship—following Jesus—down to a to-do list: go to church, participate in the sacraments, pray, preach, evangelize, stand up for justice, give to the poor. No doubt those are all good things that we are called to do! But who can keep up with all that? Most of us struggle just to get to a pew on Sunday morning, let alone all the other things. So this reading from Matthew makes me wonder: maybe following Jesus is not so much about doing as it is about letting go. Maybe following Jesus isn’t about packing your life with as many holy practices as possible; maybe it’s about setting down your burdens, letting go of the things that keep you so weighed down you can barely move, handing all that stuff over to the one who gladly carried it to the cross for us.
This Lent I’m fasting from perfectionism and schedule-related anxiety. If this devotion has a typo (and surely it does sumwhhere), I’m not going to sweat it. If I’m late to a meeting because my kids needed extra attention, I’m not going to stress. If I get hit with another week-long illness, I’m not going to torture myself thinking about all the stuff I’m supposed to be doing. Jesus doesn’t want any of that and it’s not doing me any good. Maybe the best thing we can do for Lent is simply to allow ourselves to experience God’s grace… After all—that’s what following Jesus is all about.
So, is this going to be the Lenten season where my prayer life leads me into a state of ecstatic rapture causing me to levitate off the floor in a moment of saintly bliss? Heck no! But it might be the Lenten season where I learn to love myself a little more, learn to cut myself a little more slack, learn to be more present with my kiddos, more forgiving toward my wife.
Wherever your Lenten journey takes you, may it take you to a place of grace, and may you know that you are beloved not because of what you do but because of who you are—a child of God.
We give you thanks, O God of grace, that you do not present us with holy to-do lists but rather invite us to come and rest. May we find peace, rest, and rejuvenation in you this Lenten season.