In the novel “The Shack” by William P. Young and in the recent movie made from the book, God the Father, or Papa is depicted as a chunky, middle aged, African-American woman. The Holy Spirit is depicted as a young Asian woman, and Jesus is of course, an early thirties middle eastern man. The Jesus one was no shocker, but
The Papa and Holy Spirit depictions made a lot of people uncomfortable, including the Main character of the story. The message being driven across is that our pre-conceived ideas and notions about God are probably inaccurate and way too small. We like God to fit in our neat, tidy, little box.
Take a moment to picture God in your mind. What did God look like? Was it the person of Jesus… dressed in a white gown, maybe riding on a colt like in our first reading? Was it some white bearded older man, perhaps in flowing robes? Was it a George Burns or Morgan Freeman type guy like in the movies? Maybe it was some maternal or motherly figure. Was it something totally undefinable and indescribable? Maybe more of a feeling of energy, heat, light, love, or power? Maybe you never thought of it before… never tried to put together a picture of God.
The Jews of old sure had their preconceptions. They particularly pictured the coming Messiah as a mighty warrior who would overthrow the injustices of the Roman occupation… or depending on the time period, whatever oppression they were currently under… because the Middle East has always been a mess, particularly for the Jews. You can well imagine a leather and chain breastplate, a protective helmet, arm and leg protectors, along with a great sword in a sheath and a lance and shield in his hands… reigns in hand while riding in a Chariot or on a large powerful horse. He was coming to save… mighty, powerful, victorious!
For those Jews, God had always been the Law-giver and Judge, the Thunderous Voice and Lightning from the clouds, the Pillar of Mighty Fire or the Enveloping Cloud of Darkness. His Anointed One, His Son, had to be powerful and mighty, with supreme authority also. For Zechariah to prophesy in our first reading, that He would be “meek and riding on a colt” was insane! For Isaiah to later prophesy that He would come as a “suffering servant” and “a bruised reed he will not break” was way off their radar screen! That He would actually take on the sins and transgressions of others… Holy Cow! And yet, that’s the Jesus we know and love. That’s the God we worship and serve.
That’s because Jesus is the fullest Revelation of God the Father. Jesus said “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” The Father wanted to and still wants us to see Him as approachable, not aloof. He want us to see Him as loving, merciful and forgiving, not as being full of rules, wrath and vengeance. He wants us to see Him as meek, humble, gentle of heart, not demanding, arrogant or tough. He wants us to be in loving relationship with Him, as His children, as Jesus’ brother, sister and friend. He wants us to follow and obey Him out of love…not fear or obligation.
God wants us to know that we don’t have to fully understand Him to love Him or to be loved by Him. The Jews didn’t have to be Pharisees, Sadducees or scribes. We don’t have to be theologians or doctors of divinity. We don’t have to be priests, deacons or religious. We can be regular working stiffs, retired, disabled, homemakers, students, children even…
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.”
That’s us…His little ones.
God wants us to know that we are not in this alone. He wants us to know that He cares for us and loves us. He wants us to know that He will help us and work with us to get through all the stuff this life can throw at us. He knows life can be very hard, that we get worn down, tired, frustrated and hurt…
Do you know what a yoke for oxen or horses is? It’s a wooden beam, carved to smoothly & gently fit the chest and shoulders. of the particular animals that will be then yoked together, to work together to pull a plow or a wagon or cart. The better it is shaped to fit the animal, the more comfortably and easily the animal can pull the load. They then work together, in unison, neither straining or hurting to get the job done. Jesus surely carved many of these in His work as a carpenter in Galilee. Jesus now invites us to put on a perfect fitting yoke with Him, to get through life…together.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
During these long hot days of summer, when real rest is difficult to find, it’s often helpful to focus on these words… and know that in whatever circumstances we’re going through, troubled by or working on, whether in our marriages, families, jobs, finances or health issues, WE ARE NOT ALONE, Jesus can and will help carry the load… IF we let Him. Our Gospel message today is let Him… to partner up with Him, for His yoke is easy and His burden light.