We are on the doorstep of summer, it’s a summer that doesn’t look like any in recent memory. As a congregation we should have just finished up with our booth at the Cobourg Waterfront Festival, but of course due to Covid-19 the festival and many others like it have been cancelled. We are living in a new tie of social distancing and it is hard. We bump into friends at the grocery store, we want to embrace or shake hands, but we can’t. We are allowed to gather in larger groups, up to ten, but we still need to maintain our distance. The daily reporting shows the number of new cases is declining, but we can’t be complacent. All of this is heavy, it is a lot to bear.
Mixed into our uncertainty and anxiety over Covid-19 has been a renewed wave of conversation and protest about racial equity. Many new and old conversations have been raised about how we live with one another as a society. How some people of colour are judged and prejudiced by others and by many of the laws that exist have been brought to the forefront of our minds. Police violence and care for the most vulnerable within our society has also been a part of this discussion. All of this is heavy, it is a lot to bear.
Throughout all of this there has been death. People have died from Covid-19. Many of those who have become sick and died are among our most vulnerable, seniors living care centers. We have begun to ask many questions about how we care for our elders. Still others are migrant workers, who come to work in our agricultural industry, who are responsible for helping to put food on our plates. Others have worked in food processing plants, where the conditions make it difficult to socially distance. Those who work these jobs face precarious employment, easily replaced if they don’t show up for work. While all of this has been happening, the vulnerable who live on our streets have suffered. There have been twelve reported deaths from Opioids in the city of Peterborough in the past two months, far more than there have been Covid-19 deaths in the same jurisdiction. All of this is heavy, it is a lot to bear.
How wonderful are the words of Jesus to us this morning, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Those words wash over me this morning, they lift up some of the pain, the burden that I have been carrying and they provide for me a sense of renewed hope. The reminder that I can take a breath and rest, that I do not labour alone because Jesus walks with me. I am a partner with God in all things that I do. I find solace in the rest that Jesus offers.
Jesus is often misunderstood, by us and by his contemporaries. Those who were present when Jesus lived didn’t get him. They didn’t like the way he challenged things, the were annoyed by the authority that was vested in him. He challenged the power of the powerful, he disrupted the status quo and it is interesting to see how they viewed him and judged him.
Jesus himself says, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking.” Bread and wine. Social time together, a meal shared with friends. But his generation said, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” They judged Jesus by the company he kept.
Growing up I had this image of Jesus as stately and serene. Very quiet and reserved, like the pictures that would hang on the wall of the a church parlour or a Sunday school classroom. Of Jesus gently knocking on the gate. That the only words Jesus ever spoke are the ones we have written down in the gospels. Then I read our passage today, “the Son of Man came eating and drinking…” and I get a very different picture of Jesus. I see someone who may have been loud and boisterous, who enjoyed good food and drink and the company of friends and I suspect that company might have been rowdy. The type of gatherings we might knit our eyebrows in frustration at, because we’ve made a judgment about those people.
Jesus is identified by the company he keep, not by the content of his character or the message which he came to proclaim. Though they’d eventually come to judge him harshly for that too.
Prof. Jennifer Kaalund asks, “How many times have we been misunderstood? Characterized in ways that do not truly describe who we are? How frustrating is it for someone to assume they know something about you based on where you grew up or where you went to school, your gender identity or the color of your skin, a number of factors that simply do not capture the complexity of who you really are. While we often generalize based on a minimum amount of information, these characterizations can be inaccurate for an individual. This is called a stereotype.” (Jennifer Kaalund) It’s a heavy burden to be misunderstood, to carry the guilt inflicted by society and the shame we often force upon ourselves, it is a lot to bear.
Jesus offers us rest. He says come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Last week we talked about rewards and I spent a far amount of time talking about the prophet’s reward, which isn’t really something any of us want. This week we hear a bit of a different side from Jesus, when he says come and rest. Let me shoulder some of that burden for you. We forget that we walk with God, that God walks with us. We forget that when situations become difficult we can offer them up in prayer. For some reason we think we have to do it alone, as if we can’t offer a situation to God in prayer because somehow that might burden God. And so we get on with the busyness of life, we shoulder our burden and we get weighed down. We forget to rest, we forget what we were created for.
Dr. Barbara Holmes writes, “Although we have a fascination with space and the possibility of life in other realms, we steadfastly refuse to respond when the universe invites us to broaden our lines of sight. We are beckoned by blazing sunsets and the pictures returned by powerful telescopic lenses, yet, on any given day, we court a busyness that beguiles us into focusing on the limited perspectives in our immediate space.” (Dr. Barbara Holmes – Center for Action and Contemplation Devotional) It gets so heavy, our day to day burdens, we forget to turn to God and rest. The best part is we don’t need to ask for rest, the rest is granted to us. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus offers us rest.
If you’ve been finding things heavy this past little while, as we have dealt and continue to deal with Covid-19. As this present situation has torn back the curtain on how our elder care and social security system operate, it’s been heavy. Our hearts are heavy, but I would encourage you to remember the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.