Letter to a child

Daily Reading for July 8

My Dear Child,

Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. Something about the prospect of battle moves me to write you a letter. I’m sitting here in the tent. The flaps are rolled up on the sides, and I can see out across the desert to where the sun is sliding down into the sand. . . . I suppose war has a way of helping a person see what is really important in life. . . . It makes me think of you. . . .

I have my Bible here. As I have grown older it has become more precious to me. There is one passage in particular that I ask you always to remember. I guess I don’t really ask you to remember it as much as to live by it. I have found it true for my life. Jesus is teaching the crowds, and he invites them to come to him and learn from him. The words are, as Matthew recalls them, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This is Jesus’ promise to nurture all those who come to him. You will need that promise. Put it into your backpack with the other treasures you carry.

Of course, Jesus isn’t only offering rest. Immature faith looks to God just for relief from burdens. I pray that you will move beyond that stage into the maturity of faith that will make you a productive worker in God’s work force. There is no discipleship without a task. Don’t settle for welfare and let someone else do your work for you. Don’t be a Christian consumer, like the world teaches us to be. You have more in you than that, and you will miss the greatest joy of your faith. . . .

Besides that, Jesus said you have to take his yoke to have his rest. Here is the hard part that may make you stumble. The yoke is something that you work with. It helps you bear burdens. Jesus puts it on his followers, if they come to him and ask for it. But that is really no different from the desires of our lives, because they put yokes on us and work us in their service. The difference is that Jesus said his yoke fits and is light, and strangely enough, this yoke and this work don’t tire a person out; they refresh. . . .

But enough of this. You can’t learn about rest and joy from me and my journey of faith, only from this mysterious one who says, “Come and learn of me.” It’s your call, but I trust you will find in him what I also have found. That is why I don’t have to give you much advice about your life.

Well, the sun has long since set. You know I love you and want the best for you. You are a joy to me. Forever. Choose your teachers well. I will see you when the sun rises.

From “Letter to a Child” by Stuart G. Collier, quoted in Best Sermons 6, edited by James W. Cox (Harper & Row, 1993).

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