14TH SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME
If you had a very old and valuable gold watch handed down to you from your Great Grandfather, and it stopped working, would you open the back and tinker with it yourself? Of course not, you would want an expert craftsman to examine the watch and fix it professionally. Similarly, if someone in your family was ill and needed surgery, you would take them to the best doctor you can find in the hopes of restoring their health.
But when something goes wrong with our personal lives, when we are emotionally drained and weary of soul, who do we turn to? When our spirits are damaged or broken and we are left lonely, depressed, bitter, or afraid, to whom do we go? Do we go to a specialist, or a professional, like a psychologist, or psychiatrist? Probably, if the problem is big enough, and if we can afford it. Most of us deal with the stresses and anxieties that come from modern busy lives, by turning to our friends, or co workers, or the nice lady who lives next door. Some of us may even seek out a palm reader, or a television psychic, or newspaper columnist who writes about social relationships.
In our gospel today Jesus gives us a better option; he says, “Come to me! Come to me all you who weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” If your life is broken, if you are hurting and in need of repair, bring your life to Jesus. He is the divine physician who can heal. He is the master repairman who has been sent by the one who created you. He will fix your hurts, and heal your brokenness. Others may give us encouragement, or lend a sympathetic ear, but it is to Jesus, to the Master, that we should go when our burdens become too much to bear.
We all have burdens to carry and we all grow weary under the weight. Whenever I greet someone, I often ask them, “How are you?” Most people reply with, “I am tired!” People work hard to give their family the best things, all the “extras,” the world says are important to the “good” life. They come home at the end of the working day tired and stressed out. Their weariness can cause miscommunication, arguments and abuse. Their life begins to deteriorate, they become more distant, relationships end, inappropriate ones begin, children act out, rebel, run away. Are these the extras we have planned and slaved for? Is our reward for hard work, nothing more than guilt and fear, ulcers and divorce? The burdens we carry are destroying thousands of homes a day as marriages that began with passion and romance, end in hate or indifference.
The steady rise in substance abuse also reveals how tired we are. Vodka and orange juice “Pick–me–ups” are a morning habit, a few “cocktails” in the afternoon to keep us going, and, of course, the “tension reliever” martini at night. Canadians take over 10 million sleeping pills to help them sleep each night. We are so tired of coping with our burdens that we rely on drugs to see us through. We are so worn out by the reality of modern life that we use marijuana, or cocaine to escape.
We worked hard to build a healthy, affluent society so that our children will have more opportunities and less hardships than we did. Yet suicide is the number three killer of those under twenty-five years of age. Listen to the words in this suicide note from a young college student, “I’m tired. Tired of people with green hair and pierced tongues, rave parties and casual sex… I’m tired of people who only play with others…I’m tired of cynics who label themselves realists…I’m tired of people who are afraid to care…I’m tired of people who look for kicks with a bottle in one hand and a condom in the other… I’m tired of people whose understanding of something goes no deeper than what they read on Facebook or Twitter… I’m tired of people who say they hate injustice and prejudice, but do nothing about it… I’m tired of people embarrassed at honesty, love, knowledge… I’m tired…so very tired of living.”
Yes, we are weary. We have tried everything to make our lives better, everything but God. We are too proud. We want to be self–sufficient. We don’t want anyone to see that we are weak and trembling. Jesus is offering us another way, but first we must admit we are in need. Jesus did not say, “Come to me all who are self–sufficient.” He did not say, “Come to me all who are getting along quite well without me.” He says, “Come to me all who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Are you weary? Do you need help with your burdens? Then come to him; take His yoke upon you; learn from him, and you will find rest for your souls. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.
Maybe it’s that work “yoke” that frightens us. It conjures up images of being tied down, harnessed to something that takes away our freedom. We can’t go where we want, do what we want. But that is not what Jesus intends when he says take up my yoke. Remember that Jesus was a carpenter, he probably made many yokes with his father Joseph. A yoke is made with great care, it is specially fitted to each individual oxen, so that it will not cause chaffing or pain from movement.
The yoke that Christ offers is specially made by him for you. He takes into consideration your strengths and weaknesses and it will fit so well that it will not under–challenge you, nor will it be overbearing. To carry this yoke means to carry out God’s divine plan for your life. When you carry the yoke of Christ upon your shoulders, you will achieve your maximum capability, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. You will also find peace and joy and freedom. But most importantly, a yoke is made for two oxen to share, it enables them to work together, to move as one. The yoke you take on is shared with Christ, you are tethered to him and he will work with you and help you bear the many burdens this life throws at you.
When I look out at this congregation I see so many tired people. People who are under–challenged or overburdened by their way of life. Sexual confusion, financial stress, self–contempt, and divorce are but a few of the symptoms that show the yokes we have made for ourselves do not fit well and are causing suffering and pain. We need to come to Jesus! We need to take up his yoke, and discover just how much we are loved. Then maybe we will be able to love ourselves and others. We will no longer be tired. We will have the strength for every task.
I once heard a story about a young dog. He was spinning round and round in circles when an older dog sauntered up and asked, “What are you doing?” “I’m chasing my tail,” the young dog replied. “When it wags, I’m happy. When it droops, I’m sad. So happiness must be in my tail. If I catch it, I will always be happy!” So he continued to spin round and round trying to get hold of his elusive tail. Finally, all out of energy, he fell to the ground, tired out. The old dog, watching all this, said, “You know, I used to chase my tail. But one day I found that if I just went on about my business, happiness followed right along behind.”
Today, God’s Word calls out to all tail-chasing, happiness-seeking, tired-out people. Jesus says, “Come… and I will give you rest.” Jesus can deliver us from the all those things that make us tired, all those things we are chasing which we think will make us happy. Take up the yoke of Christ, bind your life to his, and as you go forward in life, happiness will follow.