Thursday 10 March: Lent 2011

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You are encouraged to pray the prayer, pause, read the scripture, pause, read the reflection, and then pray the prayer again.

This prayer comes from Fursa (died 650), an Irish monk who did much to establish Christianity in East Anglia [more].

The Breastplate Prayer

May the yoke of the Law of God be upon this shoulder,
The coming of the Holy Spirit on this head,
The sign of Christ on this forehead,
The hearing of the Holy Spirit in these ears,
The smelling of the Holy Spirit in this nose.
The vision that the people of heaven have be in these eyes,
The speech of the people of heaven in this mouth,
The work of the Church of God in these hands
The good of God and of neighbour in these feet.
May God dwell in this heart,
And this person belong entirely to God the Father.

‘May the yoke of the Law of God be upon this shoulder’

John 4:34-37

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true.

The rigid strength of a two-oxen yoke ensures that the power of both animals is harnessed for, if one beast outpaces the other, the faster ox soon realises that it is bearing the burden of the whole load. The ox-master also quickly senses it too because his machine loses power. This inequality of labour is painful too to the slower ox, for its shoulder become chafed and bruised by the heaving of the heavy yoke continually yanking its shoulders forwards.

That is why Paul warns us not to be ‘unequally yoked’ ourselves. The simple bovine brains learn that if they walked the same way and worked at equal speed the labour would seem only half as heavy – not burdensome but easy and light.

Likewise, when Jesus calls to us, saying ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me . . . my yoke is easy and my burden light’, he is calling us to walk his way and to walk at his pace. If we heed his call, choosing his way and pace, then the farrow we plough will be a journey heavenwards and the burden shared with our mighty Saviour.

The connection Jesus calls for is also a strong and a rigid one. Our link with Christ is through the ‘Law of God’ – the gift of Christ’s teaching and commands: ‘No-one who sets his shoulder to the plough and looks back is worthy of me’.

This is a relationship intended not to add demands to the burdens of life but rather to define the direction, lessen the burden and increase the fruit.

If you feel weary and fruitless in your ‘toilsome labour under the sun’, whatever it is your work may be; if you long for that sense of finding your groove and taking all life in your stride, then simply pray and ask for the divine technology of the yoke of the law of God, inviting it now to rest upon your own shoulder. Ask that you might lead your life at walking pace, unhurried yet effective and always in close tandem with the Lord.

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