Invitation for the Heavy-laden - Matthew 11:28-30

Robert Brow    (

A meditation at St. Thomas Church, Kingston, Ontario, July 4, 1999

Yesterday I was invited to a wedding. The day before I was invited to sign up for some magazines. And the day before that I was asked to take a new credit card. I also got an invitation from St. Paul's Church to attend a Strawberry social. Every television commercial is an invitation. And of course I keep getting invitations to give more money.

But Jesus' invitation is quite different. It is an invitation to the heavy laden. "Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will refresh you." (Matthew 11:28. Here "refreshment" is a better translation than "resting").

So we begin with any heavy burden that is weighing us down. Some people face terrible financial problems. Others have handicapped children to care for. Aging parents need our attention. And some of you have cancer wearing you down. Huge numbers of people are loaded with feelings of guilt and failure. Cruel nagging loneliness is very hard to bear. In Jesus's day people found the dozens of rules of Pharisee religion very burdensome (Matthew 23:4).

Whatever the heavy burden you are carrying, the first thing to do is to name it honestly in a personal conversation with Jesus the Son of God. Tell him exactly how it feels, and what you find so frustrating about it. We all know from experience that even our best friends do not want to listen to the chronicle of our burdens. But the Son of God makes an astonishing claim: "I am gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29). Which means that he will never ignore you or shut you up; rather he will take your burden to heart.

"Take my yoke upon you, ad learn from me, and you will find refreshment for your life" (Matthew 28:29) Whatever our particular burden, Jesus invites us to come and learn from him. He does not offer to remove the burden, but promises to teach us the secret of carrying it creatively, and eventually joyfully. When a disciple came to a rabbi to begin learning, it was called taking the yoke, as if the disciple and the teacher were going to pull together.

Later in the Gospel Jesus explains that we can learn the way little children learn. "Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:2). And we know that children learn more skills in the first seven years than the rest of their life put together. And of course children who want to learn a new skill are never blah and bored. They can put their mind to learning several languages at once, and they will speak the right language and dialect to a visitor in their home.

With Jesus, the Messiah, the first lesson is learning the language of love. It is quite different from the language of self-pity, or complaining, or doubting the love of God. Learning Jesus' language, and the heart language of the people we are in contact with, is a first sign of making progress.

How do we start launching out in new directions? Right now if you go down to the Kingston waterfront you will see dozens of people learning to wind surf. The instructor does not lecture them for hours about the theory of windsurfing. The first thing is to "get on that board, and don't worry if you fall in." Nobody will learn if they are going to get embarrassed as they fall again and again. And by the end of a few hours every muscle will be aching. But already you are beginning to find yourself moved by the wind on the water. Learning to love is just the same.

So as you take communion this morning use it as an opportunity to open your heart to him. Begin by naming the heaviest burden that is loading you down, and describe it in a heart to heart conversation with Jesus your teacher. Then tell him you want to learn the language of love needed for your particular burden and the situation you are facing. And as you walk out to face your burden in a new way, set your sail to the wind of the Spirit, and see what happens.

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