For the past two days, we've been looking at some of the rules and regulations for the Levites and the priests, specifically those that required them to carry the holy things and the human things on their own shoulders, yoking these burdens to themselves the way that other tribes might yoke their burdens to their oxen. And there's a good reason for this.
Holy things and human things can never simply be toted; they must always be carried. We must always feel the full weight of them.
This is hard for us as a people who are used to streamlining everything, who are used to finding the best and most efficient and easiest way to do whatever it is that we're required to do. This is hard for us as a people who have built apparatuses and robots and machines to do our heavy lifting for us. This is hard for us as a people who have figured out how to outsource just about everything and very rarely take up even our own burdens ourselves. We have somewhere, somehow become so concerned about growing callouses on our hands that we've shifted them to our hearts and called it good when it is no such thing.
Human things and holy things cannot be streamlined, mechanized, technologized, or outsourced. We cannot do the work of bearing the image of God if we are not willing to bear Him with our own hands. We cannot do the work of being human if we are not willing to bear human burdens on our own shoulders.
It's what it means to be the people of God - bearing the burden of the holy things and the human things.
Nobody said it was easy. In fact, it's hard. It requires something of us. To bear the burden of holy things requires more of us than just showing up on Sunday mornings and consuming our church services; it requires us taking the Lord's name into the world with us, bearing the marks of His holiness on our lives. If we try to put holy things on a cart or contain them in Sunday mornings, we forget what it's like to feel the full weight of our God. We forget what it's like to know how real and tangible and heavy He is. We're likely to think He's just one more of our possessions, rather than remembering that we are His special one. Do you remember that? We are His special possession. It's why we take Him on our shoulders, so that we never forget that.
To bear the burden of human things requires more of us than mere gossip, than just talking about one another as though that's enough. It's an exercise in humility and in community, reminding us that our feet all touch the same ground, our bodies are formed from the same dirt. We are, in fact, the least of these, and we never feel that more than when we take on the burdens of one another and feel the full weight of fallen humanity. We are reminded of the grind, of the pain, of the labor that it is to be human when we carry this burden ourselves. There is no putting human things in a cart; they are uniquely ours...all of ours...for we are all human together.
This is one of the greatest problems in our world today, let alone in the church: we have forgotten how to truly bear burdens. We have forgotten how to feel the full weight of things. We're so comfortable putting things in boxes or in carts or on the backs of beasts of burden (what we now call pastors or ministers or counselors, those "designed" to carry such things for us) that we don't know what they feel like any more. We don't know how real they are. And we aren't humbled by them.
Yes, I will say it - one of the greatest failings in today's church is a lack of humility, and it is precisely because we have stopped bearing holy things and human things on our own shoulders. We have forgotten what it feels like to belong to God and to one another.
And I think that's why the Scriptures tell us so much about these things, so many of these details that we're prone to read right past. They're there to remind us that the lives we live stand in stark contrast to mere things of the world. You can put a lot of things on an ox cart, and that's great, but there are some things you can't. Never confuse the two.