Feria, Ember Day (Peace) Matthew 11.28-end
Often when today’s Gospel passage is read, I get grumpy with Jesus. I don’t quite call him a liar in my prayers, but close. ‘Really, Jesus? It doesn’t feel easy or light to follow you, lots of the time. It doesn’t feel peaceful.’ I get quite whingey, and I don’t think that I’m alone in this tendency towards self-pity. It’s only when I sit with that self-pity that I realise how much of it, how much of what I perceive as the struggle of following Jesus, is struggle created by myself.
I convince myself I need to achieve things to deserve God’s love.
I convince myself that prayer needs to be difficult work to be real prayer.
I convince myself that to follow Christ, I will be constantly suffering.
I convince myself that the peace that passes all understanding is always passing me by.
None of this is true, of course. The grace we are all offered in Christ nullifies any need to achieve God’s love. Prayer can be difficult, but it is not its difficulty which makes is real, true or effective. Reckoning with suffering and pain is essential for spiritual maturity, but God also desires to meet us in our deepest joy and deepest wellness. And the peace that the Spirit brings may be beyond understanding, but that does not mean it is out of reach.
For the activists among us, this is hard. It afflicts our already grumpy-with-Jesus hearts. But restful prayer, dwelling in peace, has a way of soothing the affliction, of untying the self-pitying knots, of making clear what is ours to do, and what we must leave up to God.
May each of us have a moment of this stillness in our lives today, and may we have the wisdom to pause there, and be at peace.
The Rev’d Erin Clark