One of my favourite stories when my girls were tiny was the story of a ‘plump little prince’…
The plump little prince was in a hump… a terrible hump… a heffalump’s GRUMP.
“Oh dear!” cried his mum.
“Oh dear!” cried his dad. “Whatever could ever be quite this bad?”
“BAAAAH!” Went the prince. And the GRUMP got worse.
Hiawyn Oram and Lindsey Gardiner
No matter what the plump little prince’s parents do to try and appease his grump, it just gets worse. Until they fetch Gran.
“Aha!” said his gran. “In the case of a GRUMP…. as big as a heffalump’s heffa-sized hump…I’ll choose him one toy, this raged old bear, with buttons for eyes and a chewed left ear. Then I’ll sit him down in my warm safe lap. The perfect place for a GRUMPLESS nap.
And I’ll sing him a song of all being right, as I rock him gently and hold him tight.
And, as any GRUMP will, if you know how to treat it…the GRUMP disappeared, it vanished , it beat it.
In this week’s gospel passage everyone seems to be in a grump. Read it here. The Israelites are acting like children in a heffalump grump, and nothing can appease them from their grump. They are grumpy when John is serious and they are grumpy when Jesus parties. It seems to me as though these ‘children’ simply need a nap.
The burden put on the Israelites of Jesus time were cumbersome, and they were not from God. The Pharisees and religious leaders had reinterpreted the rules of Moses in order to clarify them – what does it mean, for example, not to work on a Sabbath? The essence of Sabbath is to find rest, to be restored spiritually by spending time in worship, to be restored socially by spending time with family, and to be restored physically by refraining from the everyday chores and duties and burdens. These extra rules though have become yokes of slavery defining for example, how far one can walk outside before it is deemed as work and as breaking the Sabbath. This was true of each of the commandments which ended up being multiplied into a burden of regulations that were impossible to keep.
When Jesus and John turn up, both devoutly religious but expressing their faith in such contrasting ways the Israelites are confused.
Jesus is frustrated that the Israelites cannot see beyond this, that they accuse John of being a demon and Jesus of being a glutton. But he also sees why. He sees the burdens they carry, and he does not recognise them: these burdens do not belong to God or his people, no matter what those in authority say.
So he seeks to lift the burdens from them, to replace the yoke of slavery to the law, to a yoke of guidance, walking in tandem with Jesus himself. And he sets an example of grace, not caring when his hungry disciples pluck heads of grain to eat as they walk through a field, despite it being the Sabbath: he knows that they aren’t farming, they are restoring their bodies with food (Matthew 12:1-2); And when he is presented with a man with a withered hand, he heals it: this is what Sabbath is for – restoration and recreation (Matthew 12:9-13).
If we are feeling burdened in our journey of faith, then perhaps we need to check out what it is that we are carrying. Who has placed the burden upon our shoulders? What does the burden consist of? Or maybe we need to reconsider who we have yoked ourselves to? A yoke (not to be confused with a yolk), was the instrument by which oxen were harnessed together to increase their strength. A skillful driver would know how to harness the right oxen together, and would know how steer them to enable them to perform to the best of their abilities.
It is the same with us. When we are burdened and driven hard, when we are weary and in need of rest we become blinded to the good that God is and has for us. We become grumpy and miserable and unable to praise God. When we find ourselves in a spiritual hump, when we recognise our behaviour as being like that of children whining, we need to stop. We need to take our Sabbath breaks, our time for rest. And once we have rested, we need to be sure not to pick up the same burdens, or to allow ourselves to be yoked to godless strivings. We need to have the courage and the confidence to break free.
Something to listen to:
Something to think about:
Before engaging too hard with the thinking cells, spend tome time ‘holy dozing’: find a quiet place, make yourself comfortable, and be quiet for as long as you can….. rest.
- How weary do you feel right now?
- What are the things that burden you? Can you name them and lay them down?
- How many burdens are good for you to carry, and how many are too heavy for you?
- How can you get rid of these burdens?
- How would it feel to live without these burdens weighing you down?
- Which burdens do you need to carry?
- Can you yoke yourself to Jesus to help carry them?
- Are there others who could hep you carry these burdens?
- Are there others who need your help with their burdens?
Something to pray:
God of our life there are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down: when the road seems dreary and endless, the skies grey and threatening: when our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely and our souls have lost their courage. Flood the path with light, we beseech you, tune our hearts to brave music; give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age; and so quicken our spirits that we may be able to encourage the souls of all who journey with us n the road of life to your honour and glory. Amen
Giles and Melville Harcourt