Last Tuesday, on my visit to your school assembly I asked you the question: “What kind of person do you want to become?”.
I gave you the example of someone whose life was shaped by their decision to be obedient to the words of Jesus.
I suggested to you that- although the word `Obedience` might be thought a little old fashioned nowadays- the root of that word is the same as the word `Audio`. In other words what`s really at stake is a matter of hearing. What ultimately shapes us are the `voices` that we listen to. The voices that tell us who we are and what our life is for. For good or ill, we act on these words- and the values and assumptions which lie behind them.
I emphasised the point that today we are surrounded by a whole multitude of voices and I asked you to consider which ones you are listening to? What is forming the person you are becoming? Indeed, I would ask the same question of the older persons here today. I would also ask you to think about `what voices you are glad that you listened to in the past?` and `what voices proved false or misleading to you on your life`s journey?`
Today we heard the voice of Jesus. These words are among some of the most famous things he said. And again, I want to suggest that it is particularly important that we listen to them- for they have the power to shape us and the life that we lead.
Jesus said: ‘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 11:29-30
So as we listen to Jesus` voice, what do we get?
Well, we are given two things to DO and one promise.
Jesus says: `Come to me`.`Take my Yoke upon you` and `You will find rest for your souls`.
Firstly, Jesus says: `Come to me`. And straight away we realise that the Christian Faith is not a matter of ideas, principles or indeed values. It is a relationship. In short we have a God who says `Come to me`. And Jesus singles out particular people who are to come to him. He says, ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest`. What does he mean?
Well, faith in Jesus`s day had been turned into a matter of rules to be followed. It was religion `with strings attached`. There was a constant anxiety to keep on the right side of God.And we know what this is like. Let me ask you, `How many people love you without strings? How many love you for who you are? How many can be said to love you without demanding that you achieve, make the grade, behave in a particular way (that they approve of) or fit in with their expectations?
When Jesus says, ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest` it is WE that he is talking to. And it`s Good News- because he`s calling us into a relationship where we don`t have to prove ourselves; or compete, or live with the anxiety that he will change his view of us because we haven`t kept to the required standard.
His promise is: `I will give you rest`. This is what we call Grace. And again, it`s Good News, because he knows how very grace-less much of our life experience can be.
So, firstly, you have a loving Lord who says `Come to me`. Who invites you to come and know him and his love for you: a love without strings attached.
Secondly, Jesus says `Take my Yoke upon you`. The Yoke he has in mind is of course the piece of wood which links two Oxen for the purpose of ploughing. It`s possible that Jesus is harking back to his experience as a Carpenter- advertising `the best fitting yoke in town`(!) But more specifically he`s probably referring to the `yoke of the Law`- the way of life to which the Jewish people were called which had become so burdensome and ill-fitting for humanity to bear.
In contrast, Jesus says, `Take MY yoke upon you- and learn from ME`. In other words, let me lead you into a way of life that is truly living. Again, we find ourselves surrounded by a whole host of voices telling us this and that and pointing us towards a variety of enticing `lifestyles` to choose from. But this passage in Mathew`s Gospel tells us that it is only His way, the way of Jesus, that will truly fit. And this is his promise- `You will find rest for your souls- for my yoke is easy and my burden is light`.
Thirdly, a wise man once said: “Remember your creator in the days of your youth” Ecclesiastes 12.1 In other words, `draw close to God while you are young`. Why? Well, let me suggest that there are a few older people here today- myself included- who wish that they had followed that advice. There are a few older people here- myself included- who know what it`s like to spend far too much time worrying about things that never happened.
There are a few older people here who have fussed and fretted over things that have little real value. And a good few of us who have now got all the `stuff`, achieved all the targets, got the grades and the promotions and all the rest- only to sit back and ask what it was all for anyway. And, young people, what we fallible adults have done, we are now teaching you. We are passing on to you the same foolish fretfulness; all the while forgetting that all the anxiety and the disillusionment come from the attempt to DO life our own way. It`s the result of the failure to be (as Jesus put it) `rich towards God`. It`s the consequence of neglecting to found our lives on a close and growing relationship with Jesus; learning from him and resting in him.
There are some who say that it is important for the young to go their own way and learn from their mistakes. There is much truth in this. Perhaps only by going your own way will you learn what Jesus means by `rest for your souls`. But in the end you must still decide how much folly you can take and which voices you will listen to.
Today Jesus tells you of your loving Heavenly Father who says “Come to me”- you don`t have to prove anything. He calls you to a better way of living- `Take my yoke upon you and learn from me`. He promises you `rest for your soul`- and an end to the striving. So, what kind of person do you want to become? Why not let Jesus`s words and his promise shape and form that person you are becoming?
28.04.13 at Jesus Church Troutbeck (In the company of pupils from Windermere School)