OK, nearly all translations will say His yoke is easy and His burden is light. And if you know your Handel then you’re probably hearing that tune in your head right now. But I prefer the gender-neutral language for God. And this isn’t really about gender language in the Bible. This is about taking on the yoke of God. I was ordained on Sunday!
I was ordained, and for the first time ever, I had a stole placed around my shoulders. I’ve never worn a stole until now because, in my view, this particular clerical vestment is reserved for ordained clergy. Which I now am.
So let me tell you about my stole. And my stole-maker. My stole-maker was the chair of my internship committee at my internship church. She’s also a fabric artist. She offered to make an ordination stole for me when that congregation voted to ordain me jointly along with my home congregation. Such a wonderful gift!
She asked for some of my husband’s clothes. Her plan was to shred his clothes and weave that cloth into the fabric of the new stole. All right. I gave her some of his clothes and a couple of things that he’d given to me that no longer fit. I had no idea what the finished product would look like.
Now, this isn’t my first stole. You should know that Twenty-Two-Year-Old gave me a chaplain length stole (what is that, you ask? It’s a shorter stole suitable for wearing out in chaplain-type settings) for Christmas several years ago. This was her way of saying, “I know you’re going to finish this, Mom. I have faith in you.” I was speechless. And it’s beautiful. During my ordination, it was decorating the lectern in the church, and I wore it over my dress during the reception. And I will wear it when I go out to do public witness.
But Stole-Maker wanted to do this for me, and I did need a regular-length stole. So she did this. When she presented it, she told me and the congregation that she thought of me as she wove the fabric. She explained how she wove Don’s clothing into the very fabric of the stole, and especially near the heart, so that he would always be with me. And she showed it to the congregation in all it’s vivid colors. As the sunlight came through the clerestory windows, it positively shone.
My colleague who also helped to stole me, talked about the meaning of a stole. How it is descended from the tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl, and from the towel that Jesus used to wash the disciples’ feet, and how it represents the yoke of God.
Then they placed it on my shoulders and tugged it a bit – it is, after all, a yoke. But God’s yoke is easy, and God’s burden is light. And I stood before the congregation in my glorious new stole. It’s cotton and soft. And there are buttons from Don’s shirts. And I keep finding bits of ties that I recognize. And Don’s favorite shirt.
And as I wore it, it felt like a giant hug. A hug from God, and a hug from Don, and a hug from the Stole-Maker and the congregations that assembled to ordain me.
Now every time I wear it, I’ll remember this day. When I put it on, I will say a short prayer for my colleagues who are also preparing for worship and putting on their own vestments. I’ll remember that I’m not alone in this work, for the burden is shared by many.
This is a burden I gladly take up. It feels like a big hug.
That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.