Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light (Mt 11:28-30).
A yoke brings two animals (oxen) together to share the burden of the work that is before them. God knows, African Americans these days have, for four hundred years, been burdened by the laws and policies, the customs and practices, the unseen and unspoken evils that makeup life in the US. These days, the front-and-center images of police brutality, the surge of the coronavirus through our communities, the “revelations” of systemic wage and health care inequities along the lines of race and gender… It’s all too much, if you ask me.
Which is why Jesus’ message this Sunday is right on time. These days, we probably have a few burdens in common, including fear, anxiety, anger, grief. I think that this period of isolation has brought to the surface of my mind a feeling of utter bone-weariness. As Fannie Lou Hamer testified before Congress, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Which, as I’ve said, makes Jesus’ message right on time.
I don’t believe that Jesus is dismissing the personal or historical significance of the burdens that African Americans have been carrying for so long. We can’t ignore them any more than we can ignore the heaviness of the times we are living in. What Jesus seems to be asking is that we trust him enough to set them aside, at least for a while. Can’t you feel the compassion in his voice? Come to me, he says. Let me do that with you, he says. What does it feel like, carrying a load that is also shouldered by him? What is easy about his yoke? What makes his burden so light? I don’t have the answers. All I know is that I’m more than ready for his promise of rest. Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Author: Angela Redmond-Theodore