The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
The Very Reverend Torey Lightcap

“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.”

Thank you, Jesus, for these words. Thank you, St. Matthew, for capturing them.
Thank you, pilgrims and defenders and teachers of the faith, for preserving them for our benefit.
Thank you, blessed Lord, for sending Christ to give them breath.

In the great genius of the planners of our Prayer Book,
These words may be spoken at the announcement of absolution of sins in the Rite I liturgy:
The congregation, having confessed, is spoken to by the Minister, who says to them,
“Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins
To all those who with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him,
Have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
Confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and bring you to everlasting life;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And then the echo back, Amen.
And then the Minister says,
“Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him …
Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.”

I have learned, through a deepening weekly repetition over the past 15 years,
That whenever I speak or hear these words, they are always arriving right on time.

How badly do we need the promise of Christ today –
That he will welcome us in, relieve of us our exhaustion;
Will take the heavy burdens from our backs and our hands;
Will offer the gentlest and most humble way about himself that we can imitate;
And that all the way down at the marrow-bone, our souls might finally have rest.
How badly do we need to know
That this isn’t some imagined future scenario we can only achieve after we have died?
– But is, in fact, available in this and every moment?
How badly do we need to hear God’s peace prayed over us, into this broken life?

The world has had more than enough sickness, death, oppression, violence, and injustice.
Most are feeling exhausted beyond the core, having long past hit the proverbial wall.

We see today an old sickness raging,
And we must relearn its name: the sin of systemic racism.
We are not terribly naïve in the face of it any longer; we are accustomed to its ways,
Having learned to accommodate and compensate.
Unlike with Coronavirus, the solution is already here, in these words of Christ:
Saying to his followers,
Emulate me; hallow and sanctify life; make the burdens lighter for members of the human family.

And we see a new sickness rampaging–“novel, we call it”–and we do feel helpless and naïve,
Even with all our tools and knowledge.
COVID is having its day, but not forever.
We know that somewhere – in fact many “somewheres” – there are people
Who labor without ceasing to bring this situation to its end;
My prayer for them is more of an act of imagination and hope, casting bread upon the water,
But is profoundly meant all the same.

Meanwhile, of necessity, in the face of all these things, life is profoundly upended and disrupted,
Only we are still in the middle of it, and we aren’t quite sure for how long.
Some things must permanently change if justice be done.
It is something like folly to cast one’s gaze upward, in a moment of quiet,
Only to find the eye of the hurricane,
And to ask how much longer.

Jesus, I think, is a realist, especially when it comes to illness.
He is not promising an end of suffering through cheap grace;
He does not propose a painless path for the righteous whose prayers are just right.
And in truth, I have little patience these days for those who try to hold Jesus hostage
To promote that kind of transactional religion.
His love easily excels and includes them.
If anything, Jesus simply encounters us on the path of our life
Regardless of where it takes us.
That is his promise:
That wherever we go, we will find him;
And that where we find him, we will know rest and unburdening and gentleness.

Flesh may remain frail and subject to sickness, aging, and death; a heavy yoke;
Nevertheless, Jesus is there, sign and symbol of the love of God.
Proof of “the peace that surpasses all understanding.”

What joy! What simple, overwhelming joy
In the face of all these burdens we carry.
A joy that beds down, like a seed, and starts something like a revolution inside of us.
Though the day grow dark
And ravenous disease come to steal and destroy,
Jesus remains.
The love of God the Creator remains. Let us come, then, to him, that he might give rest.
And may we learn to imitate the One who brings us peace.