15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
-- Romans 7:15-25
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
-- Matt. 11:25-30
Those were the readings we had in church this past Sunday. I worked Saturday night and I did my best to make sure I wouldn't get out of bed on Sunday morning. I stayed up a late after I got home and I didn't turn on my alarm clock. I knew I would only be able to go to the early service because I had to work on Sunday afternoon so I couldn't go to the late service. I tried to worship at St. Mattress. I knew that I had to wake by at least 0700 so that I could eat, dress, and get to church on time. I planned not to go. I tried really hard.
I woke up at 0630 and I couldn't fall back to sleep. Believe me I tried, but it has been my experience that those days I really don't want to go to church are the days I really need to be there, ironic how that happens. Maybe its God tugging at my heart, or maybe its my conscience saying "Karl, you need this today, really bad." I was fully awake, which in and of its self is strange. I don't do well at 0800 (be it church anything else). But I was cogniscent and all the lights were on in the olde braine pan.
I sat where I could be alone to a certain extent. On the right side of the church (the pulpit side).
As the readings were read I listened closely. The Romans passage is an all time Karl-edifying passage (right up there with Paul's Thorn in 2 Cor). Romans had some resonance with me (as it usually does-- I think Paul wrote Romans to me). The Matthew passage was interesting to me because I had just read that a few days before.
I found myself concentrating real hard on both passages and a sudden image came to my mind, a connection if you will. Roman passage is pretty self-explanatory (once you get through the crazy sentence structure). Basically to me here is what Paul means in Romans: "I want the cookie, but I'm not allowed to have the cookie. I want the cookie but you tell me I can't have the cookie. I want the cookie so I'm going to eat the cookie. I wanted the cookie, so I at the cookie, now I feel guilty, but I wanted the cookie even though you said I couldn't have the cookie. Now tomorrow I'll want the cookie again, but you won't let me have the cookie, but I'll eat the cookie any way even though I know its wrong." Over simplified, perhaps, but the meaning is there. As I live in the world I find myself tempted and tested. And sadly, I often fall for the temptation and fail the tests (see why the Paul's Thorn is so important to me?) I fall for the same things over and over again, my stumbling blocks, if you will.
Its hard work fighting those temptations and being tested. So, along comes Jesus saying telling me to give him my yoke and he'll take my burden (that Matthew passage). Here's the thing I got: the yoke is the thing that is put over and around the neck and shoulders of oxen. Its a heavy thing, bulky and wooden. Lets take this a step further. When I look at a yoke what am I reminded of?
The short piece of the cross. I have read that the condemned that were sentenced to death by crucifixion had to carry the short piece of the cross to the place of death. So, as a result, the popular image of Christ carrying his whole cross is I believe fiction. This fact, though, helps with the connection I made.
Because I am a sinner and I do the things I shouldn't even though I know I shouldn't (I eat the cookie even though my mom told me I couldn't-- in other words) I am saddled with this yoke called Death. What does Jesus tell me: "Give me your yoke, I'll carry it for you and make your burden lighter," or perhaps better said "Give me your Cross I'll carry it for you and I'll even hang from it for you..."
That thought just rocked my world. I had never really thought about it like that. He tells me to give it to Him. He'll take it. He wants it, but he knows I'm going to fail and fall and I'm not up the task. But its not just me. Its everyone. All the world, all creation. In short, US! You, Me, the guy on the train next to you, the woman in the booth in the restaraunt, that kid on the skateboard... all... of... us. He wants our burdens, our yokes. He wants our Burden, He wants our Yoke.