Give Me Your Tired

The Statue of Liberty is one of the best loved and most enduring symbols of our country and our highest ideals.

As you know, the French wanted to give the United States a memorable gift, an expression of the two nations’ friendship, in honor of our centennial in 1876, but things got a little bogged down and the Statue of Liberty wasn’t officially dedicated until Oct. 1886, 10 years later.

The statue is of a woman, derived from Libertas, ancient Rome’s goddess of freedom from slavery, oppression, and tyranny. Her raised right foot is on the move, not standing still. Her torch signifies enlightenment.

The tablet in Lady Liberty’s hand represents knowledge and shows the date of the United States Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. We all know those familiar opening words of the Declaration….”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty are some other familiar words. It is Emma Lazuras’s poem entitled “The New Colussus.” None of our nation’s founders ever saw the Statue of Liberty or heard Lazarus’ defining poem, of course, but I think most of us would agree that the spirit of the poem goes hand in hand with what Jefferson was trying to capture in the Declaration of Independence that has inspired so many around the world.

Have you ever read the full text of Emma Lazarus’s poem? I must confess that while the last stanza is familiar, the first part was not. Here it is in its entirety:
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Back in the 1880s, waves of immigrants found their way here and literally helped to build America—
the roads,
the railroads,
the high-rise buildings,
the subway tunnels,
the bridges,
the infra-structure.

The prejudice and cruelty that they often encountered after arriving are well-documented. Conflict was inevitable–they competed for jobs. Their culture and religion were often different than the mainstream in this country at that time. Their sheer numbers added stress to housing, sanitation, food and water systems.

But eventually most of them won a place in this society that ensured the health, safety and survival of their families. And they made our nation stronger.

Emma Lazarus, who wrote the poem, was the daughter of a wealthy Jewish family living in New York City. Although moving in elevated social circles, she became aware of the thousands of Jewish refugees arriving in New York, escaping from the waves of vicious anti-Semitism that were sweeping Europe during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

There were far more than could possibly be absorbed by the city, and they were located in various miserable housing stations that offered very little to their exhausted and starving occupants. Emma involved herself, doing what she could to alleviate their suffering. Her famous sonnet came into being as part of a collection of writings, published in 1883, that was successfully sold to raise money for the installation of the Statue of Liberty.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

When I read those words, I can’t help but think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Just as Emma Lazuras, in her poem, was rejecting the goddess of power and storied pomp for one who would welcome
the tired,
the poor,
the huddled masses,
the homeless…
Jesus, in this passage, is rebuking
the powerful,
the wise,
the intelligent ones,
the leaders of the Pharisees, the religious
establishment.
Instead he is focusing his attention and promise of help on what he calls earlier in the passage the “infants,” those who are far from the places of power and influence.

Most of us spend our lives seeking wisdom and intelligence, and now it seems that those are the very attributes Jesus dismisses. In fact, Jesus says that the blessings of God are intentionally hidden from those who are filled with the wisdom and intelligence of this world.

Instead it is
the infants of this world,
the innocent and naïve,
the tired,
the poor,
the huddled masses,
the weary and heavy burdened,
the ones who can’t stand on their own two feet—
it is the infants of this world—the innocent and naïve— who somehow best understand the ways of God.

I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that the goal is to be strong, self-sufficient. To
show how good we are,
to impress,
to get important people, notable people, to be
impressed and to tell other people how good we
are.
And that God would be pleased, because we are so impressive.

But then I encounter the gospel for rea againl, the authentic gospel, when I encounter the infants of the world—
the tired,
the poor,
the huddled masses,
the forgotten,
the helpless,
the weary,
the heavy laden.
And sometimes, honestly, it is looking in my own mirror when I encounter the infants of the world.

And I remembered that Jesus’ promise was to such as these, that we had just experienced Jesus’ promise:
“Jesus said, “I thank you, Father…, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants….
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.”

There are two basic kinds of yokes that can be used to bear burdens: single ones and shared ones. A shared yoke requires two creatures, but if they are a well-matched pair they can work all day, because under a shared yoke one can rest a little while the other pulls.

They can take turns bearing the brunt of the load; the stronger one can cover for the weaker one without ever laying down their burden because their yoke is a shared one. They have company all day long, and they may get tired, but not totally exhausted, because they are a team.

Plenty of us labor under the illusion that our yokes are single ones, that we have to and can go it alone, stand on our own two feet, that the only way to be is to load ourselves and others down with heavy requirements—
good deeds,
pure thoughts,
blameless lives,
perfect obedience,
impressive performances.
All those rules we make and break, all those burdens we put on ourselves and on each other, while all the time
Jesus is standing right there in front of us,
half a shared yoke across his own shoulders,
the other half wide open and waiting for us,
a yoke that requires no more than that we step into it and share the burden with Jesus. Share the burden with Jesus.
[Barbara Brown Taylor, The Seeds of Heaven: Sermons on the Gospel of Matthew, “The Open Yoke,” pp. 15-22]

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

It’s no wonder those words are so well known and speak so deeply to our hearts. They remind us, as I need to be reminded from time to time, and as I’m sure you need to be reminded from time to time, that those who please God are not those who
can carry the heaviest load alone or
offer the most impressive solo performance.

Those who please God are the ones
who share their loads,
who are willing to share their yokes
by entering into a relationship with the one
whose invitation stands open:

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

One thought on “Give Me Your Tired

  1. Brent, while you were growing up at Cliff Temple, I was there. I knew your mother, but I never met you. I have been noticing your messages even at Broadway, and I find them to be such a challenge, as well as blessing now. I pray for the work you are doing in Fort Worth. Claudia Swain, Tyler First Baptist

    Liked by 1 person

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