Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am happy to report to you that the contactless communions we have been doing over the past few weeks have been very well received. One person said afterwards that it was like a ray of sunshine had come into their room to have the sacrament again. Another commented how connected they felt to both the altar and the community of Emmanuel to take communion. Our prayer book has a short service that is used for these types of “special” circumstances, including familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer, scripture, confession and absolution. Please contact me if you would like to receive in this way.
In hearing today’s gospel I was reminded of a time I was on the receiving end of this sacrament. It happened some years ago when I was taking much longer than expected, to recover from a surgery. I experienced a lot of pain and was unable to be still in the bed. After a week in hospital Bishop Beckwith came to what is now called OSF to anoint me and give me Holy Communion. Bishop Beckwith was trained under the 1928 prayer book rather than the 1979 and so he began the service a little differently. He said, “Hear the word of God to all who truly turn to him.”
I paid attention.
“Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Immediately I became still and calm. I won’t say the pain lessened, but I did not notice it. My limbs quit thrashing.
I did not hear anything else in that room but these words, words that if you are a frequenter of Rite I you recognize. These are the beginning of the “Comfortable Words”, recited by the priest in the Eucharist just after the confession and absolution. “Come unto me …and I will give you rest”; words from the last paragraph of today’s gospel.
This lesson follows several weeks of Gospel passages where Jesus has been talking about being a disciple—a learner, a student of his way of life. He has spoken about the difficult costs of being a disciple. He said his followers will most definitely face conflict, persecution and suffering. They will give up everything to follow him including their position in society, their livelihood, and even division from their own families. Jesus told them plainly what life would be like to choose him.
In today’s passage Jesus is still talking about discipleship. He is speaking to those who seek God and a relationship with God, but his tone has changed. We hear the gentle words, “Come to me.”
These words, “come to ME”, are personal. The invitation Jesus issues is to him, to a person, and to a relationship with Him.
And this is where we enter into the story. Jesus does not just call those original disciples but all who have become his follower in the years since. Jesus does not call them or us to a new set of rules, or to a new book, or to new podcasts. Jesus says, “Come to me.” He will take our burdens, our concerns, our worries, our pain and He will give us rest. He will be our teacher, if we let him. Jesus invites us into the story with these words. We are the ones now being offered a new way of life and the opportunity to rely on the ongoing presence of Jesus.
And how will we learn this? How will we be that disciple? How will we be able to integrate our faith into our daily lives?
Jesus uses the image of a yoke. It was a familiar image to his original audience, but perhaps, not so much to us in the 21st century. Two animals wear a yoke so that they can better work together. Pulling a heavy plow is easier with the two going in the same direction and at the same rate. When animals are yoked usually one is more experienced and so can lead the other to do the work more efficiently.
Jesus invites us to join with him, to walk with him in the same direction, at the same rate, to take his yoke. He invites us to a relationship and fellowship with him. We do not do this work on our own but rather in partnership with him. It is there, in his presence, where we will find our rest and be able to learn and grow in his way.
When we accept Jesus’ invitation we are able to grow deeper in love, not just receiving peace and rest but also to be better able to love as Jesus does, to help others to experience this same grace and joy. We go in partnership with him side by side, allowing him to direct the way.
My prayer today is that we each continue to listen to Jesus’ words and to accept his invitation.
Hear the word of God to all who truly turn to 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.”
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you Lord Christ. Amen.