My Yoke Is Easy.
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
Ten years I went to my first real yoga class
It was power yoga, a more athletic form of the discipline than some other styles.
I struggled to hold the poses, my arms and legs shaking
And near the end of practice when we got into a deep hip stretch called Sleeping Pigeon,
I honestly thought my legs were going to crack off.
But amid all the strenuousness, I noticed something else:
Every so often in the practice, we were invited to come into Child’s pose, a posture of rest like a deep bow.
And at the end of practice, we lay on our backs in Savasana, or Corpse pose, and simply rested.
It was complete relaxation—I was at ease and at peace.
Afterward, I couldn’t stop talking about yoga—it was a form of exercise that actually included rest!
I knew right then that I was hooked.
Jesus offers rest in our gospel lesson today:
Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
This must have been a welcome invitation to Jesus’ listeners.
The crowds were full of people looking for healing, for a lucky break, for a better life.
They lived under the weight of poverty and hopelessness every day, and it took its toll.
They hoped Jesus would be a ticket out of their misery.
But Jesus wasn’t promising an escape from their struggles.
Instead he was inviting them to a way of life that sustained through their struggles.
He used the image of the yoke to describe it.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… and you’ll find rest for your souls.
Jesus’ listeners knew the yoke was a harness placed on an ox to maximize its labor.
They also knew that the rabbis talked about Moses’ teaching as a yoke.
Moses’ teaching was a gift from God, meant to guide people to live well with God and neighbor.
Learning it required intentionality and effort.
Together the image is one of meaningful labor—
Work that harnesses your restless energy, trains and guides you, and leads you to a productive end.
The rest that Jesus invited his listeners into was therefore not the absence of effort
but effort of a different kind
Jesus invited his listeners into a way of carrying burdens that is manageable, even enjoyable—
or as Jesus says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
It is a paradoxical statement in some ways, ‘make yourself into a beast of burden, but don’t work too hard.’
As I think about it, though, yoga provides a good comparison to what Jesus is getting at.
Yoga, literally means ‘yoked’ or ‘united,’
And not only does each class have a balance of rest and exercise,
Every pose contains some effort and some repose.
Activity and rest are yoked, united in the practice.
So the question in a strenuous pose is not,
How can I hold on til this is over?
But instead, Where can I find ease within this pose?
I think it is an important question to apply to our lives right now.
It’s been four months with this pandemic.
We worked really hard to flatten the curve, stay at home, stay safe.
But nonetheless it seems there is no end in sight.
We carry deep concerns for our families, for businesses and communities, for our nation.
Moving forward demands sustained attention, difficult choices, and soul searching.
It is easy to become weary.
How do we sustain ourselves for the long haul?
Where can we find ease in the pose?
When I was a young preacher, I was pretty driven.
I felt the need to prove myself as a young woman pastor.
I set impossibly high standards for myself, making every molehill into a mountain
And after a couple of years under so much pressure, I was burned out.
But one night I had a significant dream.
I dreamed I was hiking the Appalachian Trail, and that I had been at it for months.
In my dream I was bone tired, just putting one foot in front of the other
When suddenly I realized I knew where I was.
I was in a wood that was close to where I grew up!
In my dream I thought, “I know the way back home!”
I woke with the realization that the way back to balance and joy was not far away, but very near to me.
I understood then that it wasn’t about trying so hard, but rather about letting myself be led.
Where can we find ease in the pose?
Where can we find rest for our souls?
Jesus gives us the answer. He says,
Come to me.
Learn from me.
Take on my yoke upon you.
These words occur as imperative verbs, as commands,
And yet Jesus presents them as an invitation that requires our assent.
Jesus does not force us to come to him, to learn from him, to take on the gift of his teaching.
We have the capacity to reject Jesus’ invitation.
In fact, our passage today begins with rejection—
Jesus explaining how people resisted God’s message no matter the messenger:
John spoke it with austerity, Jesus spoke it with welcome, but either way, some people rejected it.
And so the key for finding rest for our souls is simple acceptance,
To accept Jesus in the yoke with us, to allow him to teach us and lead us.
It is a posture of surrender.
Not surrender as in wave a white flag, I give up—
But rather as one surrenders into the arms of a lover, in perfect trust.
When we surrender and step into the yoke with Jesus
We can finally stop the striving
We can stop resisting, and instead place our efforts in the same direction as Jesus’
Instead of going it alone, we can let Jesus pull with and for us
Trusting that he will lead us
provide us what we need
and give us rest.
Where can you find some ease in your life?
Make these words of Jesus yours today.
Come to me, all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Allow them to change your perspective and guide you.
Join your efforts to Jesus.
Surrender to the one who has loved you forever
Find ease and rest in Jesus.