For a few weeks now we have been considering discipleship of being sent the challenges , taking up our cross, the sustenance that will be received on the journey and now we have that reassuring passage of the comfort that will be provided to the weary, for those who need rest for their souls. But Jesus is not just addressing this to those who have the normal struggles of life like sickness too many bills. He is addressing his remarks to those who are on a religious quest seeking God and a relationship with God,those who are spiritually tired from using the regular ways of finding peace and are tired out from doing that He is telling his hearers that the religious leaders have missed the point the yoke of the Pharisees of trying to get it right by following the law leads to labor of being heavy laden (The Rev’d James Liggert on this texta) It is the less demanding approach of coming to Christ without pretense being are simple and childlike in that approach that can rest. And as I was thinking about this the clear modern example that comes to mind is the witness of the Taize community in a small village in France. It started very simply and thought its numbers have grown that core of simplicity and being a place of rest renewal and reconciliation remain.
Back in 1940 when he was only 25 the man who became known as Brother Roger left Switzerland where he grew up and moved to France He had been ill for a long time with TB long recovery had a sense he was to create a community He settled in small village of Taize What arose out of his prayerful reflection was a call to provide shelter to those effected by the war He got a loan bought an abandoned house that had some other buildings with it. He asked one of his sisters to come and help him offer hospitality to people. They didn’t have much Many that came were Jews fleeing from the Nazis. They had no running water. Food was simple soups made from corn flour. Brother Roger’s simple goal was to care for those that came to the small community to live the witness of the gospel without trying to coax anyone into believing what he believed in any overt way. Out of discretion to those he was sheltering he went off alone to pray so Jews and those not religious would not feel uncomfortable It was found out they were sheltering Jews and because their lives were threatened because of it The community had to flee for a while to Geneva. Brother Roger began a small group of common life of prayer and work. 4 years later they returned to Taize. His sister, Genevieve worked with them to be a mother figure as they welcomed children who had lost parents in the war. The brothers also welcomed German POWs gradually other young men of all denominations came to join them as part of a committed Christian community. In 1952-53 Brother Roger wrote rule of Taize Over time they had to move from the small village church because more and more pilgrims began to come from around the world searching for meaning, peace and reconciliation. People from differing denominations, opposing views, various cultures, races and languages came together to eat pray and work together mostly young people. One person (Olivier Clement) has said that “Young people today are tired of talk, tired of scoffing they want authenticity” It is no use talking about communion if we cannot show them a place where communion is being worked out. Taize has become a place of reconciliation and peace a community where people can seek come with their questions and truly rest.
Back in 2004 I had the blessing of being able to visit the Taize community with my friend Virginia. She told me I had to go , that it would resonate with my soul. I am grateful for that encouragement. I wouldn’t have thought of it myself. The village is pretty simple. We went there to go on retreat, flying to paris taking the train to Lyon and then the bus to Taize. It really did feel like a pilgrimage as we hauled our suitcases and our sleeping bags The accommodations were simple and sparse you had to bring plenty of warm clothes the end of March We were assigned to a bunk house 4 beds. That’s it. You didn’t know who else would be there One night it was two members from a german choir There was a language barrier. The bathrooms were in another building outside and down the road. And then there was the dining experience. A huge dining hall tables and the utensils. One big plastic bowl and One soup spoon that’s it. No knives or forks and the food – One word – horrible but no one cared. It didn’t matter. Sitting across from people didn’t know from all over the world and many we couldn’t speak with because of the language but somehow we connected. We were all there for a common purpose we were seeking the rest that only God can provide. It was peaceful and grounding in the best possible way. There was worship service 3 times a day… in the large church of the reconciliation The brothers would file in, with their white robes. up at the front red and yellow ribbons It looked like a huge sail reminding us that we are all in the same boat. The schedule for the day was simple the services simple the songs simple usually emphasizing a line from a psalm or scripture repeated over and over again more like a chant. The repetition allowing the phrase to really get into your soul.
One fellow pilgrim has said that three main things impressed him. 1. The life and simplicity of the brothers through their prayer work and communion. 2. Making contact with thousands of visitors bringing their struggles and faith 3. The spirit of pilgrimage all coming from different perspectives but all seeking to seek justice, love mercy and live humbly with God. There is no “pretense about being an example to others rather the community seeks to be a parable that makes the Gospels call to reconciliation a reality Today there is a sign in front of the church in many languages “You who enter here be reconciled and discover in the gospel the spirit of the beatitudes – joy, simplicity and mercy.” Simple but profound I found rest for my soul there in that place and I will never forget the outward or the inward journeys that took place. Taize is an example of all that can be and how God longs to give us rest and peace. But we don’t need to leave the country to receive the spirit of the beatitudes joy, simplicity peace. We have many beautiful places in our own country our own city our own church. For us it might mean sitting in this sanctuary, the beautiful garden and listening to the flow of the fountain or walking the labyrinth in the practice of meditation. Where are your places where your soul can be refreshed and you can discover the spirit of the beatitudes of joy, simplicity and peace? Go there. Accept the invitation. He is gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls.
sermon written by: the Rev. Joy A. Daley
July 6, 2014 | Proper 9A
Zechariah 9: 9-12 | Psalm 145 | Romans 7: 15-25a | Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30