31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
June 18, 2017
I Run To You by Lady Antebellum
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
There are lots of good reasons to run: You can run a 5K to raise money for charity like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure or the Shamrock Run for St. Vincent DePaul. You can run because it is good for your heart, your waistline, your bones, your complexion, and your overall health. You might run because you love the Runner’s High, when your brain releases all of those happy chemicals like serotonin.
There are lots of good reasons to run, and there are also not good reasons to run. Running to the grocery store. Running to pick up children from school, parents for doctor appointments. Running around the house in the morning to find your keys, pack your lunch, find your cell phone, find the right bag of stuff, and find your keys again.
We run through life, or to quote Lady Antebellum, are our lives running us? And it can leave us feeling stressed, frazzled, reactive instead of pro-active, totally off-center, and wondering who is in charge.
We have two choices when we feel like this– we can run to Dunkin Donuts and fill ourselves up with caffeine and sugar as the way to handle our busyness and stress, or we can run to God and Jesus.
In Proverbs 18:10, we hear, “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” God is a mighty sanctuary; we run to God and are safe.
Jesus does not say, “run to me”, but close enough. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Can you picture yourself carrying your worries – your money worries, your loved ones worries, your work worries, your health worries, your fears about how your life and the world are changing. Can you picture yourself bringing those burdens to Jesus and getting to put them all down – forever?!
That is a really comforting idea to me, but it is not what Jesus says. “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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus isn’t talking about laying down our burdens. Jesus is talking about trading our burdens. Trading our burdens for Christ’s yoke.
In Jesus’ time, the people would have been familiar with the yoke as a symbol of service. In the fields, they would have placed a yoke over their ox to plow the fields. In the synagogue, they would have heard their leaders speak about the “Yoke of the Torah”, a metaphor for how God’s people should be obedient to the laws in the Hebrew Bible.
Unfortunately, sometimes those laws felt like a heavy burden, an impossible burden, that the more you ran, the farther away your destination.
Jesus is saying to them, put down that yoke, and take up my yoke. Stop worrying about being obedient to the rules, and be obedient to the Father, who is known through the Son.
I can imagine that Jesus’ yoke did feel easy; his burden was light, in comparison to the yoke of the Torah. However, that’s not a “yoke” we wear or perhaps are even familiar with anymore. I’m going to guess that sometime this summer, you are going to wear clothes made of a poly blend. You might enjoy a fine meal of lobster or a more casual meal of pulled pork or bacon cheeseburgers. All of those things violate the rules of the Torah.
Most Christians do not think about being obedient servants to the yoke of the Torah, but how about being enslaved to the yoke of technology? Or the yoke of perfectionism? Or the yoke of consumerism? Or the yoke of individualism? Are you a servant to any of those?
If you were asked to use your smart phone as only a phone for 24 hours, would you be able to do it?
When other parents speak about scrapbooking every day of their children’s lives, do you simply say “How nice” instead of feeling guilty or pressured to do it, too?
How often do you buy something new just because you want it?
And are you more likely to think about how others can serve you, than to think about how you can serve?
Whose yoke are you wearing? Who do you serve? Technology? Perfectionism? Consumerism? The self?
How about the yoke of prejudice, pessimists, and hate?
Last Monday, six of us gathered to ring our church bell 49 times for all of the men and women who died in the Pulse Nightclub shooting a year ago. The youngest victim was 18 years old. The oldest only 50.
And then Wednesday, five were injured as a shooter let loose 50 rounds during a charity baseball game practice, injuring sitting members of Congress and others, simply because they were Republicans.
It is too easy to lay the responsibility for all of this violence and loss of life on the shooters. Sadly, we all wear the yoke of prejudice, pessimism, and hate. We wear it every time we run from it. We serve it every time we shake our heads and say “what a tragedy” and then do nothing.
Whose yoke are you wearing? Who do you serve? And how does it make you feel? Calm, centered, filled with love and purpose? Or frazzled, stressed, pulled in too many directions, helpless, unfulfilled, off centered, over burdened?
Whose yoke are you wearing? Who do you serve?
Jesus says, “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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus does not promise us that when we run to God, we will find a life of ease, a life of pure restful bliss, a life without worry or work.
But when we choose to run to God, run with Jesus, instead of being run around by our burdens or by life, we gain focus. We gain clarity of purpose. We are able to follow God’s call for our lives; focusing on what is truly important; focusing on our ministries of kindness, acceptance, and love, ministries that are desperately needed in our world.
When the world keeps spinning faster, into a new disaster, when it all starts coming undone, run to God, run with Jesus, and gain comfort, gain purpose, gain peace, gain love – for Christ’s yoke is easy and his burden is light.