Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Beasts for the Kingdom: A prayer

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Beasts of burden, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia
This morning for a final-year seminary class, my fellow seminarians and I were led through a time of guided retreat. In the seminary chapel there were set up four stations, each asking a different question. One about how we conduct our closest relationships, another about our public ministry, and yet another about how we take care of ourselves personally. The final question was this: Who am I and what do I do in my relationship with God?

On the page facing these questions in the handout was printed two Bible verses: Matthew 11:28-30 and Philippians 1:9-11. Here's some quick exegesis and a prayer which arose from my journaling this morning...

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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.” (Mt. 11:28-30, NIV)
The Matthew text speaks of finding rest from heavy burdens. This text has been used by our seminary associate dean recently to talk about "restful rest" and the importance of discipline. The rest offered by Jesus comes from dawning his yoke, which is easy, and his burden, which is light. These imply work, responsibility, submission, and obedience. Working "in the field" for Jesus entails a journey that takes time and occupies public space in a watching world.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Ph. 1:9-11, NIV)
The agricultural metaphor is carried on in the Philippians text, when, having been found pure and blameless in the day of Christ, that quality has come from producing "the harvest of righteousness." But this is not our own doing alone, but the work that "comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God."

So who am I and what do I do in my relationship with God?

My prayer is that I am - or am becoming - yoked easily to Jesus, working in the worlds to help him produce a harvest of righteousness for the glory and praise of God. I am a beast of a light burden, carrying the open secret of the gospel which Jesus proclaimed and embodied in his life, death, and resurrection. I am carrying that gospel through the fields in this world, on the ground which I walk and lay my head.

Harvester Jesus, gardener Jesus, Lord Jesus, by your Spirit lead me to fertile fields to toil for the continual emergence of your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Until the day when the city of God stands in new heavens, new earth, or my body go into the earth before that day, keep me safely yoked to you, gentle servant-master. Amen.

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