“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Even if somehow this is the first time you’ve ever heard these words from Jesus, you can find comfort in the very hearing of them. Like a pleasant melody or a beautiful landscape you happen upon, these words sooth us right as we hear them.
When I was a young priest in Memphis, I was assigned from a parish I really, really enjoyed, to one where I had some anxiety and I knew would be much more complicated. When I went to visit that church before the assignment took effect, I sat in a pew, looked around the church, and above the altar there it was in big letters: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Immediate comfort. Even though it took me a while to fully settle in there, it turned out to be as good of an assignment as the previous one, and seeing those words was the first moment when I began to have some hope.
And the deeper we dig into these words and this wisdom teaching of Jesus, the better it gets. “Come to me” – Jesus invites us to his very self. “All you who labor and are burdened” – we all appreciate being recognized, especially if we are hurting and a bit broken down. “And I will give you rest” – a promise of a refreshing path. Invitation, recognition and a pathway are all part of that simple statement.
That refreshing path is spelled out in the next line: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” So there’s no free ride, in religion or life, we all know that. There is a yoke, there is a burden. But with meekness and humility, there’s a restful way through. That’s the wisdom here.
Humility gets a bad name. Maybe because humility and humiliation sound a lot alike. Maybe because we don’t want our sports team to get humbled by an opponent. But Christian humility is something we want to live. When we are humble, we are not burdened by our ego, our ambition, our striving, our controlling behavior, our fears, our attachments, none of that junk; we’ve let that all go, and instead, we’re open to our true self, we’re open to the mystery of God, we’re open to the Christ we meet in others. We live with a spaciousness of heart, a poise, an openness, and yes, that is refreshing.
So don’t be a jokester with your faith, be a “yokester” – take on that joyous and restful yoke of living as humbly as you can in Christ.