The Shared Burden of Discipleship

Text: Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30

A final recap of this discipleship “mini-series”:
Discipleship is our participation in the Triune God’s dance.
Discipleship has the unpleasant reality of risks, including opposition, isolation, and conflict.
Discipleship demands that we feed, tend, and love the entire creation, including all people.

This picture of discipleship is not glamorous and has not been shown in the best light. However, I want each of us to pause and take a deep breath. I want you to breath in the gospel and hear Christ’s words again:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and 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.” 

He opens with the invitation, “come to me”. He is inviting us all to come, to be gathered, and to enter into the Triune God’s dance.
Are you tired of hearing this yet?

“All you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”.
This invitation is especially for those weary and weighed down by worldly pressures, troubles, and expectations.
Are you weary? Carrying heavy burdens? Listen!

Christ has the weight of judgment and unmet expectations upon his shoulders in this text. It is a burden that we all have unfortunately been privileged to experience at one point or another in our lives. The worldly expectations are often unrealistic and weigh heavily upon us and wear us down mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.

Can you relate? I can.

We are being called (today) to unload and “lay down” those pressures, troubles, and expectations that are weighing heavily upon us. We are being called to place these at the foot of the cross and the feet of the Triune God.

Once we are freed from these expectations, we are freed to rest in the knowledge that we belong to God. A God that we can be confident is shaping and transforming us. It is this knowledge, this peace that we can be re-charged and restored for our true vocation…. discipleship rooted in love.

We are asked to take Christ’s yoke upon us, this is the yoke of discipleship. Discipleship has its own risks and burdens, but Christ also says “learn from me”. Christ is able and willing to teach us discipleship through his teachings, his actions, and his life lived in sacrifice by example. He was humble, gentle, and compassionate.

Christ teaches us to feed, to tend, to heal, and to love others while being true to ourselves and freed these expectations. We can even have fun, maybe celebrate, dance, and drink with fellow sinners. I was reminded of this on Facebook, which I re-posted. It was advice for the Fourth of July, straight from Martin Luther. It read “Some times we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles”. After all, if people are going to talk, give them something to talk about. Jesus did that, he gave the people something to talk about and responded to it. His response was “you had a problem with my cousin John because he didn’t celebrate, dance, or drink; in fact, you said he had a demon. You call me a glutton and a drunkard, so I ask what is it that you want?”

Jesus was Jesus. He knew himself and his mission. He reminds us that he was humble and gentle in heart, which we are to be as well. We are not to position, or envision, ourselves as “above” those in need or the needed acts of service: feeding, sheltering, tending to, and/or simply being lovingly present with those in need. Christ did these acts with humble presence and service, we should do the same.

This yoke is easy and the burden is light, I know… the real question this morning is “how can discipleship be easy and light?

First, discipleship is rooted not in obligation but an over-whelming sense of “puppy love” (see The Burdens of Discipleship). If you are engulfed with this over-whelming desire to serve, to participate in the Triune God’s dance of discipleship, then it really isn’t “work”.

The Second reason is spiritual physics. Did you think you would hear those words together?
Well, it is physics over sociology today.

Sociologists have conducted research and social experiments about human response to need. If there is a person in need, the person is less likely to have their needs fulfilled the larger the crowd grows. The people in the crowd are also less likely to feel a sense of guilt, because it is more easily rationalized as “I thought someone else would help” or “there were plenty of other people to help”.

Yet, physics holds a truth. The truth is the more oxen (people) that share a yoke (discipleship) the “lighter” its weight. The weight is disturbed between the oxen, thus the yoke more easily managed and lighter for each oxen. Similarly, the more disciples actively engaging discipleship, the easier its yoke and the lighter its burden for each.

But, do not stress! We each have differing abilities, talents, and energy levels to participate in this shared discipleship. (I have confessed to some that I appreciate music, although I lack musical talent). During this week, I had three songs remind me of differing level, which vary from person to person and day to day.

On ideal days, we may feel empowered and able to sacrificially love. Matt Kennon, a “Country Rock” artist, sings “That’s Love”. He speaks of the a single mother-to-be and an elderly man visiting his wife with Alzheimer’s. Here is the chorus and third verse:

When you sacrifice for someone else
and you put them before yourself
and you don’t think about what you are giving up
that’s love

a lonely son hanging from a cross
you know he died for all of us.
that’s love.

But, let’s be honest. How often are we willing to sacrifice (let alone our lives) for another?
How often are we paralyzed by the demands to feed, tend, and love the entire creation?
How often are we weary, carrying heavy burdens, and wondering if we are able to meet this demand?

Perhaps, these days are more similar to a Brad Paisley’s “I Can’t Change the World”. He opens with lyrics about a gun shot and sirens. Although it is about a girl, it cam speak to us all. Here is the second verse followed by the chorus:

So let Jesus look down on this mess
and let the powers that be just fuss and fight
cause everyone needs to pick their battles
and we all realized

that I cant change the world
baby, that’s for sure
but if you let me, girl
I can change yours
I bet I can change yours

We may feel empowered and able to change the world for an individual or a few people, but not all the issues of the entire world. It might be through providing shelter, clothing, food, or satisfying another need they have.

But, there are days when we lack that empowerment and ability, especially with the polarization of our society religiously and politically. Perhaps, these are similar to Kid Rock’s song “Care”. (Yes, I am quoting kid rock in a sermon). Here is the second verse and chorus:

I pray and pray for life’s salvation
faith is tried and true in tribulation
love is lost and lonely, check the news
and with these open arms I’ll wait for you

Cuz I hear screaming on the left
yellin on the right
I’m sitting in the middle trying to live my life

cuz I cant stop the war
shelter homeless, feed the poor
I cant walk on water
I cant save your sons and daughters
I cant change the world and make things fair
the least I can do 
the least I can do
the least I can do is care

So, whether it is a Matt Kennon, Brad Paisley, or Kid Rock kind of day… May we all share (as able) in the weight of discipleship, strengthened by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit; in order that the yoke is easy and the burden is light. Amen.

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