“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.” Matthew 11:29

In our overcommitted and overextended lives, our spiritual passions can drain. We can easily become trapped in weariness and exhaustion. Our souls suffer from what some have called “compassion fatigue”. It is easy to be overloaded and weighted down with demands, to feel we are “beasts of burden”. Where’s a good soul to find rest?

In Matthew 11, we are told “all who labor and are heavy ladened … come to me (Jesus) and gain rest”!

Jesus requests us to take his “yoke” and a “gentle, humble heart” and find rest for our souls. I can hear some people say, “If I take on even one more thing, I’ll collapse!” Jesus often speaks of being humble. One commentator says- – “He gave all the credit to his dad!” Jesus’ humbleness is more than giving credit to God; he is humble because he never thinks of himself as better than anyone else – – whether a prostitute, tax collector, foreign army general, someone poor, or someone simple – – he is never superior in his attitude or lacking in his attention. Jesus never doles out his love; he loves everyone abundantly.

Being free from all sense of judgement and superiority, Jesus reaches out to each person on their own terms; his generous nature, his ability to accept things with grace, allows him to have what some call “Soft Strength”, a strength that waits for new life to evolve, with patient understanding. Jesus transforms others because he helps them claim their God-given grace.

As I look back over 35 years of joint ministry with First Parish Church, Congregational, I realize we are “yoked” together in God’s work. We build shelters for people with nowhere to go – – building their dignity. We create affordable housing – – to give others the pride of ownership and sense of community. We equip chaplains to be the healing presence of God. We organize our local community to buy a van to transport the elderly to their appointments, shopping, and community events. Our members study in foreign cultures with different religious traditions, sharing God’s glory while gaining a deeper understanding of faith. We host youth and families from South America, orphans from the South, give computers to poor children in Georgia. We send supplies to our sister – church, South Down Church, Tamandai, Zimbabwe. We pray for the paralyzed, those unjustly incarcerated, young adults in Desert Storm, victims of terrorism, and those who marry, give birth, and celebrate the memory of lives well-lived, as well as hosting 10 years of Baccalaureate prayers. We create ecumenical celebrations.

We look to the Word of God in scripture, abide in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and prosper while creatively redeeming others. We allow our members (and those we help) to affirm their unique faith journeys, with honesty of thought and expression. Thank you all for your generous, humble, and gentle hearts.

All Glory and Praise to God, Rev. John G. Hughes