Every week as Up Town Church gathers for worship is a Red Letter Day. We share about our lives and how God is working in them and we pray real heartfelt and often inarticulate prayers. We have to finish at a certain time so those who need to can attend the Meeting which follows, so the time I have to speak may vary from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. Lately I have been sharing from the words of Jesus (thus the Red Letters). Last week we looked at Matthew 11:20 – 28. I like to use Eugene Petersen’s “The Message”. I didn’t have time to expound on all of this passage so I rushed through the first seven verses. Jesus had been critically addressing the religious centres of his time about their unbelief. In verse 28 Petersen writes “Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly.” You sense a real shift as he begins to address those who come to him not out of a place of self-sufficiency but out of genuine need. “Blessed are the poor in spirit!” Jesus goes on to invite them “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 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.” Now I have read and heard this passage countless numbers of times and I have loved this idea of coming “weary worn and sad” to a Saviour who offers me rest. But this passage invites us not to laze but to work!
In the past I have felt like the gerbil caught on a religious wheel. I was running furiously but not making any measurable progress. Jesus calls us away from the futility of religion and calls us into the “unforced rhythms” of relationship. But if we want to hang out with Jesus then we must walk with Him. This is a highly counter-cultural walk! Perhaps you have heard the expression “Any dead fish can float down stream.” Jesus calls us to stop letting the currents of culture carry us but to walk with Him in upstream. To be ‘yoked’ with Jesus is ‘to pick up our cross’. It is a death to self which involves a repudiation of our consumerist culture and a following after Jesus who said He came to serve and not be served and to lay down His life for many. In this passage Jesus says this yoke is light and our burden (the cross) is light! What a strange and wonderful economy! This is not a call to an eternal vacation but an invitation to join our creator in the work of seeing His world reconciled to Him.