So, what are you “giving up” for Lent? What is the focus of your spiritual attention for the rest of this season of Easter preparation? Are you giving up chocolate, fasting from television, repenting of your tendency to gossip? Are you giving up alcohol or swearing or golf? What is the “fast” that you are choosing for lent? What are you giving up in order to have more space for the Spirit, more attention to Christ, more awareness of God’s presence.
Let me suggest something pretty radical. Let me offer you an invitation and a challenge that will literally re-orient your entire life. Give up the yoke of you. Give up the burden of walking through this world alone, trying to follow Jesus on your own terms or trying to live as an “individual”. Instead accept Jesus invitation to walk alongside him, yoked to him, and receiving—surprised?—rest of our souls.
When we consider all of the potential Lenten scriptures, I am going to guess that many have never considered this one passage of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30:
“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.” (NRSV)
Yesterday we began Lent as a season of repentance, a season of “reconsidering our strategies for living based on the good news of God’s available Kingdom in Jesus Christ.” (Dallas Willard)
And as we take our first steps of “reconsidering our lives”, I want to suggest that what most of us need to reconsider is how much of our lives, especially our spiritual lives, we attempt on our own steam, with only our inner reserves, resources and wisdom for assistance. We believe that to seek God is a solo striving for sainthood. We think of Christianity as an individual sport. And many of us are growing weary under the weight.
So, here is where I want to encourage you to begin: Repent. Repent of individualism and independence, repent of the burden of carrying your yoke yourself. Instead take on the yoke of Jesus, whose Spirit is within you and whose “body” of companions are around you and find rest. Instead of carrying the burdens of life yourself, be yoked to the spirit of Jesus found in the body of Christ. Yes, like all new yokes, it will chafe a bit at first. It will likely feel awkward and even constricting. We have become used to the yokes of our own making, the burdens we have long borne. But there is an invitation to a life for which many of us long: a life of true refreshment and spiritual depth.
Repent of the yoke of you, dear friends. Let others who are yoked to Jesus with you know of the burdens that weigh you down. Learn from Jesus how this life is meant to be lived as part of his “body”, his “kingdom”. What would that mean for you?