The path of the upright man is straight,
you smooth the way of the upright.
Following the path of your judgements,
we hoped in you, O Lord,
your name, your memory are all my soul desires.
At night my soul longs for you
and my spirit in me seeks for you;
when your judgements appear on earth
the inhabitants of the world learn the meaning of integrity.
O Lord, you are giving us peace,
since you treat us
as our deeds deserve.
Distressed, we search for you, O Lord;
the misery of oppression was your punishment for us.
As a woman with child near her time
writhes and cries out in her pangs,
so are we, O Lord, in your presence:
we have conceived, we writhe
as if we were giving birth;
we have not given the spirit of salvation to the earth,
no more inhabitants of the world are born.
Your dead will come to life,
their corpses will rise;
all you who lie in the dust,
for your dew is a radiant dew
and the land of ghosts will give birth.
Jesus exclaimed, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’
“… for I am meek and humble of heart…”
There was a heatwave here in California last week. Temperatures soared through previous highs in many cities. My yard fought the weather shock valiantly, but everywhere I look now, there are clear signs of heat damage. My roses are withered on their canes, my lawn has been scorched a dirty brown, my trees are parched and stressed. It’s a sorry state! There is a silver lining to all this though. Dead chaff will be cleared to make way for new shoots, and the cycle of life will go on.
I’ve never had a garden before, never mind one with so much plant life in it. The simple truths of death and rebirth, sickness and health, struggle and plenty, are played out daily here. There is much wisdom in Nature, if you bother to look. We’ve noticed for instance that our bougainvillea and rose bushes, when starved of water and pruned, grow roots that are deep and strong, and shed leaves to bring forth an abundance of blooms.
The same cycle of regeneration can be applied to our spiritual lives. In today’s gospel text, Christ says that we are to learn from him, to adopt his humility and lack of pride – “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart”. So often, the things that weigh us down are self-manufactured. We covet what we don’t have. We are slaves to our vanity, greed and ambition. We are envious, easily jealous, always reaching for more, always hoarding stuff. If we took on a more Christ-like approach to life, how many of those worldly pursuits would become unnecessary? Meaningless even? We don’t need to go on yet another fancy holiday just so we can keep up on Instagram. We don’t need this season’s ‘It’ bag (and we’ll save a pretty penny without it!). We don’t need to be the envy of our friends, to be seen to be doing things that, in all honesty, don’t matter all that much. We don’t need friends who love us just because of our material things. All of that is fleeting and meaningless. Like the roses in my yard, who rejuvenate when they’ve been pruned back, there is freedom and beauty in a more simple kind of living, in a life that isn’t bogged down by stuff, that is less about showing off than it is about showing up.
There is much wisdom in Nature. Maybe that’s the way God intended it?
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the self-awareness and discipline to prune our lives back so that only the things that matter occupy our hearts and minds. So much is superfluous, burdensome, unnecessary and exhausting. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the many examples of how to live a beautiful life, both in Scripture as well as in Nature.