“Let’s Walk Together!”
I want to start with something funny I found on an internet site: Mrs. Smith was fumbling in her purse for her offering when a large television remote fell out and clattered into the aisle. The curious usher bent over to retrieve it for her and whispered, “Do you always carry your TV remote to church?” “No,” she replied, “but my husband refused to come with me this morning, and I figured this was the most evil thing I could do to him legally.”
Is this story familiar to you? It is very familiar to me because my mom used to hide the TV remote from my dad so that he might come to church. As my mom expected, my dad, who was intoxicated, used to come to church to ask my mom where she had put the TV remote. My siblings were ashamed when my dad came to church drunk, but my mom thought it was the only way my dad would attend church. My mom faithfully prayed and expected that my dad would someday come to church and become a faithful Christian, and he finally did. What would you do if you have loved one who would not attend church?
Last Sunday, I talked about how we are all different. The differences include our faith, understanding, perspective, and knowledge backgrounds. Even though we learn the same things simultaneously, our growing faith also differs. We know that in a society, there are the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, the wise and the silly. Let’s think about who the weak or the strong, the rich or the poor are, and who the wise or the silly are. However, don’t judge them because nobody always stands the same way. Let’s walk together whether we are weak or strong, rich or poor, wise or silly.
Today’s scripture gives us parable imagery about this generation: “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’” It is a parable about having no compassion and no empathetic or sympathetic mind for another. How much do you care about social or global burdens? We have sympathetic minds when we hear about global disasters, poverty, social violence, injustice, or even looking at our weak neighbors. However, we have to behave with empathetic deeds. In other words, we not only think of them as ‘they are poor,’ or ‘how can this be?’ but also, we should practice helping others out by our acts. “Her deeds vindicate wisdom!” Even though we have wisdom, we don’t apply it in our daily life; it is nothing; even though we have faith, if we don’t practice our faith daily, it is dead faith (James 2:17).
Today, I want to talk about “walking together” to act in faith. Jesus invites us, “Come to me, all you weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” Do you know what a yoke is? How many of you have seen one? According to the dictionary, a yoke is “a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.” A pair of oxen usually carries the yoke. Therefore, if two oxen are under the same yoke, they cannot move independently. If one of them does not work sincerely, the other will feel a heavy burden. However, in contrast, if one is sincere in their work, the other feels an easier load.
In Israelite’s tradition, when people choose one pair of oxen for the yoke, they choose one that is weaker; the other is stronger. When they make the oxen carry burdens, they give the stronger one the heavy burden and give the weaker one a smaller, lighter burden. The reason they do it this way, which is unequal, is that it makes the stronger ox work sincerely. Interestingly, if one makes the stronger work alone, the stronger would not work or carry burdens because they feel it’s too difficult to carry them alone. Therefore, even though the weaker does not work as hard, or just carries smaller burdens walking beside the stronger ox, the stronger ox works hard and carries the heavy burdens easily.
Our Lord invites us to take the yoke together in today’s scripture. We have burdens such as taking care of family, handling our life, working hard every day, health concerns, and so on. As I mentioned, there are the strong and the weak, the rich and poor, the wise and the silly in any society, even in our family and with our neighbors. People sometimes are weak physically, spiritually, or emotionally. Therefore, we should walk with family, friends, and loved ones who may be in need. If someone comes to your mind at this moment, God invites you to walk with them. If you have weaker companions, that, perhaps, is God’s invitation to walk with them.
Jesus Christ, our Lord, who knows our weakness, would work for us as does the stronger oxen, because our Lord is “gentle and humble in heart.” If we learn “gentle and humble” from the Lord, we will find rest for our souls. To be under the yoke of Jesus, we should be gentle and humble. “Gentleness” is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The truly meek person is one whose life has been empowered by the Holy Spirit, which comes from faith that the Words of God have energized. The word gentle has been used for wild horses, which we trained to behave in a certain acceptable manner. Gentleness and meekness are not put downs but instead, they are tough, free, and confident characteristics to have. Gentleness is a very desirable and compassionate inner mind. If you walk with the weak, you are gentle in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Nobody ignores you when you walk with the weak because the Holy Spirit empowers you.
We know some of the gentle and humble figures in the bible. In Number, “the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Number 12:3). Moses’ leadership was challenged by his siblings, Aaron and Miriam because he married a Cushite woman. However, Moses was not angry with them. How could Moses get this kind of recognition by being gentle and meek? He could be gentle and humble for God because he has walked with God in the wilderness for 40 years. As you know, Moses killed a person in Egypt because he could not control his anger by himself, and he escaped from Egypt. He met God in the burning bush when he became a shepherd in the Midian wilderness. After that, he walked with God throughout the wilderness. Moses was gentle and humble toward God only by the grace of God.
Let us walk with our Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus promised to carry our burdens so that we could rest. Jesus carried our heavy burdens out already through the cross. We just need to walk beside Jesus as a pair of oxen walk together. Also, look at our neighbors who appear weaker than us and walk with them. Walking along with the weak is walking with the Lord.
Jesus said, “If you give a cup of cold water to the little one, you never lose your reward” (Matthew 10:42). Thanks be to God! Amen!