Posted: January 8, 2023
Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, 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. (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus’ message in this passage is so relevant and necessary today since, one way or another, we all suffer from pain, death and consternation. This message from our Lord is true and generous for all of us who are carrying sorrow, pain, anxiety, fear, guilt and so many other accusations. Now more than ever, life circumstances exhaust us as they weigh on our hearts and prevent us from living the abundant life that Christ offers us in his Word.
This is a universal promise of rest, full of grace and open to all who approach the well that is Jesus Christ, the one who is able to free us from the unbearableness of our situations. The rest Jesus offers is hidden from the wise and intelligent, and revealed to infants, according to Matthew 11:25, to those who are like children in their ability to hope, who are innocent and vulnerable. It is for those who have understood the good news, redemption, reconciliation with God, ourselves and others. We are expected to share this charismatic gift of rest composed of comfort, restoration and rebirth with others as a sign of God’s protection.
The passage invites us to put on Christ’s yoke, a crossbar that joins us to Jesus but also to those who need support to make their burden light and easy to bear. This yoke unites us in love that is free of pretense, showing a true interest, empathy and willingness to share with others, thus becoming God-made-flesh once again.
Bring healing and relief
As a church, we are called to present to the Lord those who have been surprised by fear, guilt and shame so that they might receive healing and relief. We are not to be like those who were filled with rage and took the sinful woman before Jesus that he might condemn her to death by stoning in which they planned to gleefully participate (John 8:1-11). Jesus makes them face their own sin and recall their fallen human nature and they withdraw, overcome.
Today, we are not to be informants who judge and exclude; we are to be therapists who bring rest and relief to those who are trapped in spiritual prisons, recalling the moments in our own lives when we traversed the valley of the shadow of death, trapped by yokes of various kinds of slavery that were destroying us. However, Jesus stood before us, looked us in the eyes with understanding, stooped down and untied our shame, thus releasing us to salvation.
That historic salvation offered to us at that precise moment is the same salvation that starts here with Jesus’ Word and Spirit. That presence is alive and well among us, and all who are part of the body of Christ, as a tangible sign of the kingdom of God and God’s shalom.
Following two years of pandemic, spiced with wars, ethnic and racial conflict, mass migrations and human protests, there are many survivors (some less scathed than others), but many of whom have lost almost all their material possessions in the fight for survival. They walk in grief for their lost fathers, mothers, siblings and children. They have lost their stability – mental, emotional and even spiritual. Entire towns have been razed and destroyed. Human greed incessantly consumes, sowing hopelessness wherever it goes.
The church was also shaken to the core, jolted out of its passivity that kept it at a distance from many sad and painful truths; it was forced to redefine its mission, re-read the Word of God through new eyes, and work beyond its walls.
Break the paradigms
Now continues to be a perfect moment and opportunity to break the paradigms that accuse, build walls and keep us apart. May we allow the God of patience and consolation to give us this same sentiment of Christ so that we may unanimously give the glory to God (Romans 15:5-13) knowing that it means nothing more and nothing less than loving our brothers and sisters, receiving them as Christ received us.
Through friendship, hospitality and applying a balm to the wounds, shifting the gravestone where death once lay and untying the bandages, we can stabilize and affirm all those whom we should receive with open arms filled with the hope and promises of long ago that are made manifest here and now through men and women who do the will of God.
May we rejoice with praise, singing out God’s name in the midst of all the people present, that we may be filled with joy and peace while we wait.
Clothed with new energy
Yes, it is time for rest to be restored. We should proclaim this today in spite of what we see and experience because for a long while now we do not walk by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) but by faith in what Jesus, our Sabbath, has proclaimed. Jesus calls us to stop, surrender our anxiety and pain to him, knowing that Jesus is able to care for us. Let us not continue wearily along our way; rather, let us be clothed with new energy so that we may also offer relief to those who have no idea how to continue. Let us pray that the Lord’s peace reign in our heart (Colossians 3:15-17), being one body that is grateful for the presence Jesus left with us.
May we not abandon the little ones, the most vulnerable, those who have been left along the wayside. Oh Lord, may your Word abundantly abide in us, that we may be motivated to wisely care for one another while giving thanks, because we can say “Ebenezer, you have helped us.”
In this beautiful country and this meeting of brothers and sisters from so many different backgrounds, let us celebrate life, our faith, our Anabaptist and Mennonite traditions, while not forgetting the point of this meeting: crossing barriers means going out to meet the other, discover who they are, and meet them in their otherness with love, just like the father who waited full of hope, day and night, for his son to return no matter his condition when he arrived home.
To conclude, in this Assembly, more than ever, may we stop and examine our faith and how we live. May God help us to promote life, justice, mercy and lots of compassion. May our faith communities, our ministries and our own lives provide rest to those who are weary and burdened so that their burdens may be light and bearable. Amen.
— Cindy Alpízar Alpízar serves as a pastor and administrator at Discípulos de Jesús los Lagos, Heredia, Costa Rica, and with the national church (Asociación de Iglesias Cristianas Menonitas). She is passionate about serving people who live on the streets.