Yoke and Unburden

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 97; 147:12-20, Proverbs 7:1-27, 1 John 5:13-21, Matthew 11:25-30


A yoke, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals (as oxen) are joined at the heads or necks for working together.” When Jesus began his ministry, the people of Israel were still yoked to the Mosaic law and its heavy-handed application. Not only was this law burdensome on its own, the leaders had come to use it as a tool for oppressing the poor and the downtrodden.

When Jesus told his disciples, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” he was inviting them to hitch themselves instead to the divine love of God he brought to earth. Instead of being tethered to an unyielding law that dragged them along mercilessly to the inevitable grave, they could be partnered with forgiveness and mercy.

Note that Jesus did not offer to unyoke them entirely. Ultimately we are all yoked to something, and that something helps determine the direction we travel and how heavy our burden. What are you yoked to? Maybe it’s a career that drags you along at breakneck pace. Or maybe it’s an addiction that grows heavier and heavier with each step. It could be something as beautiful as a family, but even that can take us where we’d rather not be, and the burden can be heavy. If we are yoked to self-interest, the burden may seem light but pivoting on only one point leads us to travel a tight and pointless circle.

Whatever you’re yoked to, do you like the direction it pulls you? Does the burden it places on you wear you down or build you up? When we yoke ourselves to Christ, he will steer us toward faith, but never force us. A gentle tug of conscience is all that’s needed to pull us back on the path.

No matter what ties us down, Christ offers something better. We can still have a career and a family and many other pleasant and meaningful things in our lives, but Christ will guide us through them, rather than let them steer us. We’re all tilling the same field; how we’re yoked determines whether it is killing or sustaining us.

Comfort: Following Jesus does not limit us, but frees us.

Challenge:  Meditate on what you are yoked to. As yourself whether it’s the right thing.

Prayer: God of hope, I will follow where you lead me. Amen.

Discussion: What are you yoked to? Is it something you should free yourself from?

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Made Well

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 104; 149, Judges 16:1-14, Acts 7:30-43, John 5:1-18


If today’s reading from John had happened in the twenty-first century, someone would have captured it on smart-phone video and posted it to the internet with a click-bait title like: “Hundreds of people stepped right over this disabled man, but when a wandering stranger stopped you won’t believe what happened next!”

After arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus encountered a man who had been ill for 38 years. The man was waiting for a chance to immerse himself in a miraculous fountain. When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made well, the man talked about all the people who had obstructed him. This wasn’t exactly what he’d been asked, but in the end Jesus commanded him to take up his mat and walk away healed. Even though the man didn’t answer directly, the specifics of the question are important: “Do you want to be made well?”

Circumstances made it obvious the man desired healing. Jesus could easily have made some assumptions and healed him without asking. Instead, Jesus respected the dignity of his ability to choose — possibly the only dignity remaining to him. Only then did he intercede.

Sometimes we want God to just fix someone already. Maybe it’s someone else, or maybe that someone is us. When God doesn’t act on our schedule, we start thinking of ways to fix it ourselves. If Jesus gives us insight to the character of God, it seems God does not impose himself on us, but respects our ability to choose. People have to be willing to change – and that’s not always the same as wanting to. If we want to be made well — physically, emotionally, spiritually — God seems less interested in who we blame than in getting us on our feet. People step over us because they need healing too. Let’s not be so busy pointing fingers at the co-worker who wronged us or the parent who failed us that we don’t get around to saying “yes” to God. We may need God’s coaxing to rise up from our mat, but that first step is all on us.

Comfort: God respects your ability to choose.

Challenge: Say the serenity prayer.

Prayer: Loving God, open my eyes to the possibilities, and my feet will follow. Amen.

Discussion: What do you want to change about yourself? What do you want to change about someone else?

For further thoughts on today’s reading from John 5, visit Stepping Stone.

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