Scripture: Matthew 11:28-30
When we are born, we enter the world light and free. We’re curious, soaking everything in, learning the world around us. And as we grow up, things change. We soak in some of the heaviness of the world.
Things happen around us, to our friends and family members.
Things happen to us.
We do things.
Until one day, we find ourselves carrying fear, anxiety, bitterness, rage, shame, depression, embedded sorrow, hate. We find ourselves carrying heavy burdens, in need of respite, support, relief. And to our weary souls, God says, lay your burdens down. If you’re going to carry something, here, carry this, carry these gifts I made just for you to bring you life. Gifts of peace, joy, forgiveness, grace, patience, hope, love. Hold and carry these things close. This is what you were made for, these are what frees you to be the person you were meant to be.
““Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””
Christ gave a powerful message to the earliest disciples 2000 years ago. They were trying to make their way through a world of violence and injustice, their country under Roman occupation, their political and religious leaders making decisions based on fear, greed, power. It was a powerful message 2000 years ago and is a powerful message to us today. The things we carry may be different than back then, but they are no less heavy and no less harmful. In this passage from Matthew we encounter tangible hope, tangible relief, tangible rest. We can trade what we carry. It may take therapy, it may take medication, it may take time and setting boundaries. It may take dealing with past trauma and current coping mechanisms but God gifts us with grace and journeys with us as we lay our heavy burdens down and pick up a lighter load. In this passage from Matthew we encounter tangible hope, tangible relief, tangible rest, you can feel it in your bones. In this passage from Matthew, we also encounter a mission, a purpose, a calling.
If we are the body of Christ, if we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be Christ’s physical presence here on earth then we, the church, are called to help people live lightly and freely. We are called to share that good news, to be a part of burden releasing and hope giving. And the church is, it does that. Unfortunately, the church has also been really good at doing the opposite.
For so many people, the church has added to this weight, not relieved it.
Based on scriptural misinterpretations and harmful theology the church has: counseled women to stay with their abusers, it has blocked women from being in ministry, some seminaries have expelled students if they got a divorce, and the church has called queer and trans folks incompatible with christian teaching. Even the Message version of the Bible knows how much the church has gotten it wrong. How does it’s version of our passage today open, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.” The church is meant to be one of those getaway spaces with God, where we can recover and discover our life. It was never meant to be a place that people had to get away from in order to live.
Which is why it is so important that churches like ours are here. Where everyone is welcome and everyone knows it. Where we embrace all people, where we share the good news of God’s love that does challenges us and transforms us and also welcomes us and comforts us. Where we talk about hard things, where we recognize our humanity and that we’re all going to mess up but we’re also intentionally growing together trying to do better together.
Church was never meant to be a place that people had to get away from, which is why churches participating in and acknowledging pride month is so important. We have LGBTQ+ pride month because religion has unloaded shame on our community. It is a tragic reality that misinterpretations of scripture have been the rationale for almost every harmful policy and every blocking of rights for the queer and trans community. And while you as an individual or our church in particular may not have added to this burden we are a part of a system that has. You and I, we may not have created this burden but it is our responsibility as the body of Christ to help alleviate it. Pride is not the, pride cometh before the fall type pride, it is not arrogance or hubris. Pride is about taking a brick of shame and replacing it with love. Pride is an avenue of grace, rainbow covered glitter grace in fabulous shoes, it is an avenue of grace that doesn’t eliminate all the burden but makes it easier and lighter.
Life and the things we go through give us heavy burdens to carry. As the body of Christ the church was made to offer respite and a space for God to lighten our loads. Pride month, is simply one way we do that. So, I want us to listen to the scripture one more time. As you listen, ask yourself: what good news does this scripture have for me? What burden in my life can I lay down and what from Christ can I take up? How is God calling our church to help alleviate the burdens of others?
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. 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. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Let us pray.