For as long as kids have been playing pick-up baseball, the same trick for deciding who goes first has been used. A player from one team grabs and holds a bat and then a player from the other team grabs the bat just above the hand already on the bat. The players alternate grabbing the bat, ever higher, and whoever is last able to grab the bat at the end wins. I’m guessing you might have used this or a similar version too.
I think about these hands piling on top of each other trying to be the last on top, trying to win, when I consider the pile of big things going on, all seemingly competing for attention, all trying to “win” the moment. Today it’s renewed threats of nuclear weapons pointed at the U.S. Last week it was gun violence and school shootings. Just before that the #MeToo movement around sexual harassment and before that worsening race relations, North Korean aggression, growing economic disparity, election tampering… the list seems to go on and on. Truthfully, I don’t want any of them to “win.” I’d like my attention to be anywhere else but on these big and awful things.
The olympics were a nice distraction. This was mostly true until a troubled young man decided to fire his gun in the hallways of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th. That day was Ash Wednesday and I was busy preparing for our two worship services that day and finding a last-minute Valentine’s Day present for my wife. I learned about the tragedy in Florida, just before the start of our 7pm service. Something else had now reach the top of the pile.
Ash Wednesday launched us on our Lenten journey and I’ll confess that this year’s journey has started in a particularly dark place for me. I’m guessing that you might be feeling this way too. I’m especially anxious to get through these forty days as I’m more than ready to experience to joy of Easter morning. This cross is already too heavy, the burdens this world keeps piling on are adding weight that I’m struggling to bear. Suffocating in bad news, the good news is getting harder and harder to hear. But Lent is about listening and if we open our ears, this journey we’re on may just reveal something to ease our way.
“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.” – Matthew 11:28-30
That God might know these burdens are great and offers to share the load with us suggest to us something really important. God is aware of our troubles and God has a limitless capacity to carry more weight on our behalf. To go on struggling alone is foolish. Alone, our crosses will always be too great. But in sharing this weight with God gives us a chance at life once more. Of course, this doesn’t mean God alone will take care of gun violence, aggressive foreign powers, sexual harassment or any of the other big awful problems facing us, like a fairy godmother waving a magic wand. No, it means that God is with us, prepared to shoulder some real weight so that we have something left to see these challenges through. With God’s help and with God’s wisdom, we will start to solve some of these big awful problems that keep rising to the top of the pile.
This year, during Lent, I invite you to join me in answering Jesus’ call. Bring the burdens of this world to God. Be reminded that you’re not alone and that the one who loves has an unlimited capacity to make that love shine into the darkest of places, calling forth life. No burden is too great that, with God’s help, we can’t carry it. Thanks be to God.