Hi friends! Here is this week’s worship service. I moved back in to the sanctuary and had my Music Director lead worship with me. It felt good to take a step back towards some semblance of normal. We still have some kinks to work out, but it was nice to be in a space I love so much.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
July 5, 2020
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Giving Our Collective Burdens To Jesus
I saw a tweet going around the internet this week that said, “Those who have stayed inside, wore masks in public, and socially distanced during this entire pandemic are the same people who are used to doing the whole group project by themselves.”
If there is one thing I think we have all learned and realized throughout this pandemic, it is that we are so much more connected than perhaps we thought we were – not only with the people around us, but also on a national and global scale. Our actions have consequences – not just for us, but also for other people. And the actions of others directly affect us, as well. We are seeing this very clearly as people choose to follow or not follow the recommendations for social distancing. For many of us, it is very frustrating, because we are doing everything that we can, but we cannot control what other people do.
And we are connected to other people – whether we want to be or not.
There is a South African philosophy called Ubuntu. The term means, “humanity” – it is often translated more broadly to say, “I am because you are” or, “I am because we are”. Ubuntu describes our connectedness to one another; this truth that our humanity is universally tied up in one another. Ubuntu explains that we are not simply individuals living in our own separate silos, but that who we are is affected by others and who they are is affected by us.
I have always loved this philosophy, but I do not think I fully understood the depth of its impact until we found ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. Because I do think, to some extent, I enjoyed doing life in my own little right-to-farm small-town New England bubble, but the truth is that I am – we all are – connected to others in our state, throughout around country and even in the far corners of the world.
Ubuntu: I am because you are. I am because we are.
We are not just individuals on a journey – for better or worse, we are in this together.
This morning’s scripture reading comes from the Gospel according to Matthew. It addresses the inextricable link we have to one another right away when Jesus begins the passage by talking not about individuals, but about the society, as a whole.
But to what will I compare this generation?
Generation. Not individuals. Not small groups of people. “To what will I compare this generation?” In other words, Jesus is looking at what the collective society does, not necessarily the specific actions of individuals. And what this means is that it is not just what we do in our own lives and along our own journeys. Not only do our actions have consequences for other people, but the choices and actions of other people reflect who we are, as well.
For better or worse, right?
Let’s go back to he group project metaphor: If you are doing that group project and you have a go-getter in the group who is taking the lead and making sure the end result is worthy of an A+, then you are probably feeling pretty good about our connectedness to one another.
But if you are that go-getter and you have one person in the group that does not submit their work and brings your grade down, you realize that sometimes our connectedness can have negative consequences.
We are connected to one another – and those connections run deep.
I think many of us our realizing just how true this is as we continue to read and educate ourselves about systemic racism in our country. While we may think that, as individuals, we are loving and accepting of all people, the reality is that we are part of this society – this generation, as Jesus refers to people in today’s passage – with a deeply rooted and complicated history of racism. And that does affect who we are.
The same is true as we try to mitigate the coronavirus. We, as individuals, can do everything that public health officials are telling us to do, but the reality is that we are part of a society where not everyone is complying with these recommendations and where are leaders do no even necessarily agree on what the recommendations should be and that also affects us .
Ubuntu: I am because you are. I am because we are. Jesus says, “But to what will I compare this generation,” knowing that the Body of Christ does not function as individual parts, but as a collective whole working together. For better or worse.
Like I said, I do not think I fully understood the depth of Ubuntu until we found ourselves in the midst of this global pandemic. I always understood this philosophy in a mostly positive light, in terms of how my actions could help others and not necessary in a negative one, where a society could negatively impact me or I could carry societal burdens and not just my own.
But I do think, now more than ever, it is important to recognize that side of our connectedness.
In today’s passage, Jesus compares the generation he is addressing to children sitting in the marketplaces, calling to one another, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.” While individuals might be listening to Jesus that day saying, wait a minute, I did not do those things, the problem is, they are part of a greater group of people who do. And Jesus is saying that we have to carry the burdens of the generation we are a part of.
Because we are connected to one another.
Jesus says at the end of today’s passage, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” And while I do love the image this scripture creates of Jesus carrying our individual burdens, Jesus is not necessarily talking about our own personal and individual burdens. If you look at this passage within the broader context of what he is saying, as he speaks to the whole of the generation, he is talking about the collective burdens of society. Jesus is inviting not just individuals, but an entire generation to give their collective burdens to him.
I actually really like this idea, because I don’t know about you all, but sometimes I look at the collective burdens of our society and I am not really sure how I can make a difference.
But Jesus says he will give us rest. He invites us to take his yoke upon us and learn from him. And friends, right now we not only have so many burdens to give to Jesus, but we also have so much to learn from him. We have so much to learn from this Gospel he proclaimed; this narrative of light, love and grace that still needs to be written.
We are carrying heavy burdens right now – as a community, as a nation, as a world – the realities of this virus, political division, systemic racism and economic injustice. And as members of this generation, we are still responsible for our collective actions. We are the Body of Christ – we do not work alone.
And so we have to bring these collective burdens to Jesus.
I know there is a lot going on right now and it came seem overwhelming and, at times, impossible. But now is not the time to give up; now is the time to lean into our faith and act like the Christians Jesus is calling us to be and the Church that Jesus is calling us into. I believe that the work of the Church is absolutely critical right now, because Jesus says in this passage that Gospel is not revealed through the rich and powerful, but through the humble and faithful, not through the work of those who have achieved a high level of status, but through the work of those who are willing to learn.
And I believe there is so much that we can do. I believe that, together, we can mitigate this virus. I believe that, together, we can bridge our political divides. I believe that, together we can move towards a place of racial reconciliation.
But the work starts with us – with us, as a Church, the Rehoboth Congregational Church – our beloved Church in the Village. The work starts with our willingness to acknowledge, take responsibility for and then give our collective societal burdens to Jesus so we can continue to learn and grow in our faith and leave this world a little better than how we found it.
I think, in so many ways at the church, we have seen how our connectedness is a gift. We love one another and love ON one another and we know that, even in this time of social distancing, we are never alone. As a church community, we have done such a wonderful job of using our connections to care for one another and to serve the community.
But I do think now we are also seeing the burdens of our connectedness, as well – and our role in this is just as critical. As a church, we have to ground ourselves in our faith, humble ourselves, learn from Jesus and do the hard work that is required the release some of these burdens and see the true capacity of the Gospel to change the world.
Our work continues, my friends. Let us find rest for our souls.
Thanks be to God!