One of my Bible Studies and a Sunday School class have both done Adam Hamilton’s The Christian Family Tree. I have done this study three times and I think Hamilton does a good job laying out the differences between denominations without condoning each of them for not being United Methodist.
One particular fact that comes out of the study that seems to stick in people’s head is from the Orthodox tradition. In Hamilton’s study, the Orthodox Priest states that for them worship is the true ‘real world.’ Many people think that we come to worship and then go out into the ‘real world.’ For the Orthodox tradition it is exactly the opposite. Our daily life is the one that is in the shadow and it is in the act of worship and partaking of the sacraments that we get a taste of the real world.
I love that image and it is something that has stuck with the people of my congregation. That image of the ‘real world’ being what happens in a sanctuary on Sunday mornings translates well to the text this week. In the 10th chapter of Matthew, Jesus has painted a real grim picture of what being a disciple looks like. He tells them that they should hate their parents and kids, and lose their lives. Not many people are signing up to be disciples according to Matthew 10. Jesus still doesn’t back down in chapter 11 but for us preachers we are love to preach the final verses over the 10th chapter.
“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.” Christ seems to be contradicting himself in this passage but our Lord is one of compassion, not contradiction.
We are called to lose our lives for Christ. We are called to put Christ first and not our families and everything else he calls his disciples to in chapter 10. What he tells us in the last verses of chapter 11 is that we aren’t alone in this hard journey. Many of the yokes in Jesus’ time were made for two animals and Christ’s yoke is the same. We, as disciples, are asked to carry a heavy load but Christ is right there by our side helping us to do so.
When we enter worship and open our hearts and souls to God, we find rest from our heavy load. Christ takes over and the yoke becomes light. In those ‘real world’ moments of worship we are refueled and rejuvenated for our work in the shadows. Christ is not contradicting or hypocritical here, he is simply offering his all to those who follow. Giving to all the assurance that they are not alone on this journey which demands a lot but nothing we have to do alone.