Come unto me all that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. St. Matthew 11.28
In the Communion Service in the Book of Common Prayer, as we come near to the Communion prayer itself, I turn to the congregation and say: “hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all that truly turn to him”. Now, it is important to understand what is meant by “comfortable” in the prayer book, as the meaning has changed over time. Now we think about a worn in pair of shoes, but the original meaning of the word was to strengthen, to fortify. These are fortifying words, or in fact four verses from the Bible, and they are read to encourage and strengthen us as we come to communion. This week I will run through all four verses, beginning with the first: “come unto me all that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you”.
There are three parts to this phrase. First of all we hear an invitation: “come unto me”. Christ stands and invites people to come to him, but the question follows: who can come? Who receives this offer? The answer follows: “all that travail and are heavy laden”. What a telling description of all those who struggle through life, worn down by drudgery and a knowledge of our own shortcomings. We are weighed down, trudging onwards, and Jesus says:”come unto me”. Note, he does not call the perfect or say, “sort yourself out, and then come to me”. No. Come as you are, come when you are low, come when you are broken.
So we have the invitation (“come”), and then the recipients (“all”). Thirdly, we have the promise: “and I will give you rest”. This is all gift! The imagery is rest after a struggle, a cold drink of water on a hot day. This is deep soul-rest which only God can give. This is a promise of relief from the struggle.
These words strengthen us as we realise that there is a better way, and an offer of rest. Christ says come to those who are heavy-laden. Will you respond?