Scriptures: Psalm 23 and Matthew 11:25-30
As I returned to my office this week, I spent a lot of time reflecting on what I wanted to say this morning, as I prepare for my first time in the pulpit in three months. Which led me to thinking about our journey since March of 2020. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to describe what this journey has been like so far, especially when some days it feels like there is no end in sight. I know that in August many of you were likely surprised by the news of my medical leave. In many ways, I was too. It’s not always easy to see burnout when you’re in the midst of it, trying to get through each day. Which is why it can be so important to step back when needed to gain insight and renewal. This is what the past three months has been for me- an opportunity to step back and not just rest, but to see where things had changed. Because the truth is, the pandemic has been difficult for all of us. It has created new fears and stresses. It has taken what was once safe and comfortable- church, grocery shopping, visits with friends-and left us calculating risk and worrying if we should or not. It has also led to changes in the way we cope and take care of ourselves.
Some of which have been healthy, and some less so. For myself, there is the constant awareness of how my choices affect so many others: my son, our church community, vulnerable people I might connect with through ministry. Is a playdate for my son going against Jesus’ commandment to love others, because three year olds just can’t do physical distancing? What if travelling to see family for mental health increases risk to others? Do we go to the restaurant or family get together? I suspect I’m not the only one
who has asked similar questions! And although they can help us pause and make the best choices for ourselves and others, they can also lead us to over-think and become too hyper aware. Where one’s own wellness becomes lost in the midst of the overwhelming needs of others. Which leads me to our scriptures for this morning, both of which speak to how important rest is,
but also how our faith in Christ can help us release our burdens. For as we are reminded in Matthew, Christ seeks not just to walk with us, but to help carry our worries and concerns so that we do not become lost in them. Yet this isn’t as easy to do as it sounds!
Sometimes those burdens weigh us down so much that we don’t even realize how much we are carrying. And when we can’t seem them, it becomes hard to release them. Which is something I continue to work on each day, but find inspiration and reminders
in so many places. For example, on my first day back in the office, I turned to one of my favourite blogs: RevGalBlog to start my day. The prayer for that day was a beautiful fall prayer entitled “Letting Go.” This prayer used the beautiful image of a tree in Fall as it “lets go” of dying leaves in order to find rest during winter and prepare for Spring and new growth. That prayer stayed with me all week, and I found it to be a beautiful image that I wanted to share with all of you. It spoke to the scriptures I had chosen
for today as well. It reminds us that we too, are called to let go of what is no longer needed in order to rest and blossom once more.
But we are also called to make sure we don’t let go of those things that we need to grow. A tree lets the dying leaves fall to the
earth so it can rest. But a tree still needs it’s roots firmly planted in the earth, to nourish it over the winter. Which is what I see as the message of Matthew 11. On one hand it reminds us that Christ calls us to let go of what burdens us, but it also reminds us that it is Christ who roots or grounds us. We release our burdens, our fears to Christ, trusting that when we do so, we can find what we need to rest, renew and hold on as we continue whatever journey we are on. For Christ seeks to walk with us and share this life with us, just as we are called to share our life with him. This is the beauty of the incarnation, that in becoming human, God can be found within us but also all around us, always. And that in Christ, we know that God understands all we experience and seeks to love us through it. In a few weeks we will begin the season of Advent. The time of year in which we prepare to celebrate this beautiful gift by undertaking a journey of reflecting on what it means for God to come to us in such a beautiful, vulnerable package. A tiny baby who needs care and protection from the world. A tiny baby that must grow and learn in order to become who he is called to be, for our sakes. So perhaps as we undertake the journey of Advent, it can be an opportunity for us to reflect
on the gift that is offered to us at Christmas. The gift of God entering our messy world in the most vulnerable of ways. The gift of God choosing to be one of us, for the sake of us. The gift of knowing that in Christ comes love that seeks to shine into all the moments of our lives. Those moments of joy and elation but also those moments of fear and despair where we do not know where we are going and if we will get there. To close, I want to share with you that beautiful prayer that greeted me on Monday morning and has stayed with me. This prayer was written by Alicia Hager of West Michigan who is a Postulant to the Sacred Order of Priests in the Episcopal Church. This prayer was offered on the RevGalBlog.
Prayer “Letting Go”
But God, though it may be beautiful,
it is not always easy.
It is hard to let go of old wounds,
hard to let go of relationships
that aren’t healthy,
where boundaries are crossed again and again.
It is hard to let go of our expectations of others,
to stop counting all the ways we have
been failed by the people
who should love us the most.
It is hard for us to be enough, just for ourselves.
It is hard for us to stop doing the things
we know we ought not to do,
hard to let go of old habits and to
establish new ones.
Strengthen us then.
Show us, through the wonder of your creation,
that the trees stripped bare are
beautiful in an expectant way.
Help us to open our hands,
to unlock the secret doors in our hearts,
to empty our pockets and spill out all that
is old and painful,
all that is not of you.
Help us to be empty for a season,
as we wait to be filled again with the kind of beauty only you can create.
Help us to let go. Amen.
Sermon was written by Rev. Tara Ann Gourson, November 2021.
“Letting Go” can be found at: https://revgalblogpals.org/2021/11/08/monday-prayer-letting-go/