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.
–Matthew 11:28-29 NRSV
In the gospel reading for this coming Sunday, Jesus is clearly frustrated by the people’s inability to understand who he is and what his ministry is about, and he compares them to children mimicking adults, filled with childish banter and lack of understanding. Perhaps if William Shakespeare had attempted a paraphrase of the gospels, this is where he would have inserted something resembling Macbeth’s famous lines “full of sound and fury signifying nothing” (V.v).
Do you ever wonder what Jesus would have to say to us if he came to our towns to teach? Would he be as frustrated with our inability to grasp his life-giving message? Would he find our differences and divisions as petty as those of the religious leaders of his day? With what would he compare our generation? I wonder if it would have anything to do with sound and fury or hot air.
Here’s something to ponder: what would Jesus have to say about many church council or congregational meetings? Would he applaud congregations who have impressive financial portfolios, yet whose mission allocation is a paltry 1 to 5 percent of the total operating budget? Do you think he’d have a whole lot of patience with individuals dropping a few dollars in the offering plate without trying to understand the complex needs of this broken and hurting world?
Now I’m not trying to come down hard on God’s people who take very seriously their callings within the body of Christ. What I am questioning is whether sometimes we do start sounding like children on the playground–whimsical, selfish, and, well, childish in our interactions. It’s easy to “play at the issues,” reducing real people to pet projects and the biblical concept of stewardship to slick pledge campaigns or painful once-a-year sermons. When we fall into this trap, when we reduce the real to the abstract and the troubling to the trivial, then we risk the kind of behavior with which Jesus is so disgusted.
Maybe you’re wondering where the stewardship message is lurking in this text. Fast forward to verses 25-30, where Jesus gives thanks to God that his purpose and ministry on earth are revealed not to the elite and the urbane but to the “infants,” the innocent ones, the seekers, and the ones willing to be taught. Power, wisdom, the right connections, and cutting edge ministry programs are not required of those who seek God.
What’s needed is to come to Jesus with all our weariness, putting aside our stresses and posturing, and yoking ourselves to the only one who can bring us peace. In doing so, we will experience the “good” burden of compassion and mercy, and our eyes will be opened to view the world as Jesus sees it. I guarantee you that stewardship suddenly looks a whole lot different. No longer is it simply concept or program; it becomes your way of being and doing life–life in Christ, that is.
Note: Looking for a good book that explores the biblical metaphor of the steward? Lay hands on a copy of Douglas John Hall’s thorough exploration entitled The Steward: A Biblical Symbol Come of Age (Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990). If you read it more than a decade ago, it’s worth rereading in light of current events.
Copyright (c) 2008, The Rev. Sharron Lucas, all rights reserved. Used by permission.