I will give you rest

By Rev Elizabeth Raine

To assist you in this worship, you may wish to light a candle, and gather some symbols that might help you to worship, reflect and pray. As well as a green cloth for the current church season, something that inspires your imagination, a cross or an icon, you may also like to include a wrapped box to help you reflect on today’s theme. A pen and paper will be useful if you want to complete the reflective exercise.

Opening Prayer

(from Spill the Beans Iss.35 and based on Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30)
Whose baptism do you want?
John or Jesus?
Fire or water? Refining or refreshing?
Ah, you want neither.
What message do you want?
That the world is terrible? That the world is beautiful?
That you should weep or dance?
Feast or fast?
The sound of music or the sound of wailing?
Ah, you want none of these.
What kind of life do you want?
Friendship with sinners or frowning upon sinners?
Burdens and duties light or heavy?
Ah, you do not want either.
Are you not weary of all this?
Don’t you want rest from all this?

All this arguing and picking fault;
all this complaining and finding everything unacceptable.
What do you want?
Take my yoke, will you, my easy yoke.
Learn from me, will you, from my gentle heart.
Here is rest from all this weariness and unwanting.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (CEB)

16 “To what will I compare this generation? It is like a child sitting in the marketplaces calling out to others, 17 ‘We played the flute for you and you didn’t dance. We sang a funeral song and you didn’t mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 Yet the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved to be right by her works.”37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you’ve hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have shown them to babies. 26 Indeed, Father, this brings you happiness.

27 “My Father has handed all things over to me. No one knows the Son except the Father. And nobody knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wants to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. 30 My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”

Reflecting on the Word: “I will give you rest”

Wherever Meredith went, the boxes went with her. There were big boxes, medium boxes and small boxes. They were different shapes, and each one was individually wrapped.

Some in simple brown-paper packaging, while others were wrapped in more elaborate paper and tied with colourful ribbons.

Wherever Meredith went, the boxes went with her. All of the boxes. All of the time.

What was in the boxes? Each box, no matter how it was wrapped, essentially contained the same thing.

There were cans of worms, that she could not face opening. There were odd shaped piles of anxiety and fear. There was tiredness and insecurity and sadness, all sitting in the wrapped up boxes that she could not bear to open.

There was also guilt and shame, and a whole bundle of small boxed regrets, in purple wrap.

There was anger, wrapped in red, and envy whose box was a poisonous green colour. There was a big, black box, that held all the hurts that had happened that Meredith and that she could not let go off.

Wherever Meredith went, the boxes went with her. Over the course of time Meredith had gathered many of these boxes, and she added to her collection to the point where she could hardly walk under the soul-crushing weight of them.

And right at the top of the pile there was a small box, plain wrapped, where only emptiness was found, symbolising her lack of forgiveness for herself. For do we not judge ourselves more harshly than others?

Wherever Meredith went, the boxes went with her. And she is exhausted from carrying them. They were heavy and burdened her, her back became bent, and she could no longer see the sky.

In her bone-weary tiredness, she almost missed the invitation, and the outstretched hand that was extended to her hand:

“Come to me, all you that are weary, and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

For the first time, Meredith stopped. And listened. She heard the word ‘all’ and thinks “Does this mean me? Does this offer really include me?”

“But I have so many, many boxes. There are so many things that weigh me down.”

But she thinks about the invitation and the word ‘rest’ carefully. It sounded so sweet, so alluring. Surely this is what she needs?

Instinctively, her mind and her heart reached out to the extended hand. Her back began to straighten, and the boxes started fall off all around her.

Wherever Meredith went, the boxes went with her. Until the day she chose the gifts of compassion and grace.

Now wherever she goes there is a lightness about Meredith, a spring in her step… and she never tires of seeing the sky. Though some of the boxes do  come back from time to time, but they no longer they pile upon her and weigh her down, as Meredith knows she can always share her burdens with the One who helped her find life again.

Reflecting on the passage: what can we learn from this story?

Do you have boxes of things like Meredith that are weighing you down? Imagine them falling off your back to the ground. What does that feel like?

Reflect on the word “rest.” What does it mean for you?

Think of each letter: R. E. S. T.

Can you think of a word to associate with each letter that helps you to understand what Jesus means in giving rest for the weary?

Write those words down and, if you wish, share your thoughts with someone close to you. Think about what you want to ‘hand over’ to Jesus.

Imagine setting down the heavy burdens that life has given you before the cross.

Meditate on Jesus’ words: “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.”

Prayer for ourselves and others (adapted from Spill the Beans, Iss.35)

It’s hard to understand healing
when so many are sick.
It’s hard to understand blessing
when so many are in need.
It’s hard to trust
when trust is so often broken.

In silence, make your own prayer for the world.

Yet you come to us
in the midst of sickness, in the midst of need, in the midst of brokenness.
And you see us— you see to our very hearts.
And you love us— you love us to our core.
Take these gifts and use them for the healing of the nations.
Take our lives and use them as blessings for brokenness.
Take our hearts and fill them with your love that never ends.

Blessing (adapted from Spill the Beans, Iss.35)

In our weariness we come before you, God:
carrying our burdens.
We come before you, God:
anxious and uncertain, fragile and shaky.
In you we find what we need.
Support us and make us strong, Lord.
Unite us as a church community and make the bonds between us stable.
For it is you that holds us together.
It is you that wraps us in your love.

Photo of Rev Elizabeth Raine

Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine

Elizabeth was minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, between 2018 and 2023. Elizabeth retired in December 2023 and has moved to Dungog in the Hunter valley, with her husband Rev Dr John Squires.

Over the years, Elizabeth has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister. 

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