The Rev. Sara Cosca-Warfield
Scripture: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
This gospel got me thinking about what it means to surrender to Jesus. I’m willing to bet that a lot of us don’t really love the idea of surrendering. Giving up control. Admitting that we don’t know. Recognizing that we can’t do everything ourselves. It’s not a very American idea. Americans value self-sufficiency. We value knowing. We love certainty. We have what seems to be an innate desire to believe people who make bold and confident and definitive statements about things.
What I find interesting, though, is that Americans are kind of all or nothing. Either we’re completely self-sufficient—everything depends on how hard we work, on how much we know, on how we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Dependence is not an option. To surrender is to fail. We might say that God is our copilot, but the truth is that we’re not handing over that steering wheel unless we have no other option.
So we believe either in total self-sufficiency OR we decide that Jesus will take care of everything. Give it all to him, let it go, it’ll work itself out by the grace of God. We let go of the steering wheel completely. In fact, we go lay down in the backseat, abdicating our responsibility for whatever happens.
But that’s not how the gospel goes.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus isn’t taking away the yoke. He’s not making the burden magically disappear. Nor does he just stand there, testing your strength, watching you stumble under the weight of your struggles, waiting for you to do it all yourself.
No. With Jesus there’s always a third way. Jesus asks you to surrender your burden, yes, but then he asks you to take on his burden.
When I think about the burden Jesus gives us, I don’t think of it so much as a weight on our shoulders but as a stance we take. I think of it as finding our center.
Those of you who have played soccer or basketball or football might know what I’m talking about. I played a lot of team sports growing up, mostly soccer, but they all shared this one stance—slightly bent at the knees and hips, chest slightly forward, light on the balls of your feet. In that position, you found your center. It takes some strengthening to really feel comfortable in this stance, but with training and practice, this position starts to feel like, well, home.
In this stance, you’re grounded firmly in your center of gravity, and from there you can do anything you’re called to do. Spring into a sprint. Absorb a blow without falling. And when you’re tired, it’s a position of rest.
The burden Jesus asks us to take on is to find our center in him, to find both our readiness and rest in his gospel. Always. No matter what.
To me, that yoke is easy, that burden is light. When I surrender myself to Jesus, when I find my center in the gospel, things become simpler. Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s what Jesus boiled it all down to. That’s what Jesus himself did. Whatever we do, whatever decisions we make, we move from that place. That is our center.
And did you ever notice that all those things are connected? Loving your neighbor well requires loving yourself well first. Because if you don’t, it doesn’t do your neighbor any good to love them as yourself. And when you love your neighbor well, you’re loving God.
That’s it. That’s the center. Simple. But let’s be really honest, simple doesn’t always mean easy.
Some of us are finding it hard to summon much love for our neighbors who refuse to wear a mask. Some of us are struggling to understand what it takes to love our Black neighbors. And some of us, well, we’ve never quite learned how to love ourselves, and it has kept us from fully loving the people around us.
Sometimes deep, authentic love is hard. But what I think Jesus is saying is, it doesn’t have to be. Like the stance I mentioned above, it might take a little strengthening and practice to settle into letting love be what centers us.
But once we do, once we learn to adopt that stance, we will find both our readiness and rest in it. Not only that, but we’ll get to set down the things that weigh so heavily on us. Our need to control everything, our desire to be right, our belief that we have to do it all on our own.
Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. That is our center. And when we find our center, the yoke is easy and the burden is light.