devozine

For Youth Workers Post

WEIGHT OF THE WORLD

Steve Matthews

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for June 20–26, 2016.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“When I was in graduate school, I had my first experience with depression. During those months, I didn’t think about hurting myself, but I was apathetic and had no energy or will to build momentum for my life. I was weighted down. I could feel it in my body and my spirit. Day-to-day life was all about getting through the next moment.

“None of the reasons for the depression came from life threatening situations. I, and those I loved, had health, food, and shelter. I was depressed because something was going on physiologically in my body and because I was telling myself deeply entrenched stories about how I thought life should be. Nothing was turning out as it should. I soon discovered that I could make the weight lighter if I stopped the narrative about what life was supposed to be and trusted God with the life that was.

“We experience the ‘weight of the world’ because we live in a world where we are not insulated from suffering. While we cannot avoid suffering, we are empowered to choose the way we carry the weight. We do not walk alone, and God litters our path with invitations to mercy and grace in times of trouble, if only we have eyes to see them.” —Steve

MEET THE WRITER

devozine Steve Matthews IMG_0433Steve Matthews was a youth minister for more than fifteen years. He lives in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and is the Executive Director of the South Coast Mission Hub, a collaborative of churches sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. Steve is also a spiritual director and a consultant, working to systematically redevelop parish ministries struggling with decline.  He was a writer for The Way of Pilgrimage: An Adventure in Spiritual Formation for the Next Generation.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

PLUGGED IN

  • In this scene from The Mission, the character played by Robert DeNiro experiences redemption from the weight he has been carrying. As a former slave trader, he is journeying with a priest to work alongside the people he once enslaved. As part of his self-imposed penance, he travels through the jungles of Brazil carrying a heavy bag of soldier’s uniforms (signifying his former life).
  • Hillsong Young and Free’s song “Back to Life” reminds us that we don’t have to carry our burdens alone.
  • This video shows that simple acts of kindness and tenderness will not only ease the weight on our shoulders, but will also make the world a better place.

CHECKING IN

Begin this time with an opening ritual: a moment of silence, a short prayer that the group says together, or candle lighting to symbolize Christ’s presence. Take a moment to claim this space and time as holy.

Ask group members to tell about a time when they recently felt that they carried the weight of the world, either because of a hardship they personally experienced or a situation in which they felt the weight of someone else’s struggles. Encourage group members to listen prayerfully without comment.

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Matthew 11:28–30

Invite group members to read the passage aloud twice, with a couple minutes of silence between readings. Ask them to name the word or words that stand out for them. Take a few minutes to talk about how yokes are used with animals on a farm.
       What does the scripture mean by assuming that life will always involve a yoke and a burden?
       How might God make a burden light?

Show the clip from The Mission. Invite group members to reflect:
       How does the scene from The Mission illustrate or explain the scripture?

Finally, ask one of the youth to volunteer to put on the book bag. Ask the other youth to put canned goods in the backpack. As the book bag gets increasingly heavy, ask the person wearing it to describe what it feels like. Then ask:
       Using all the same cans, how might we make this weight feel lighter?
If someone suggests sharing the burden, ask other people to wear the other backpacks. Then ask:
       What are other ways to make the weight lighter?

SHARING IN PRAYER

Invite two or three group members to alternate reading lines of “A Prayer for Letting Go,” by Jackie Trottmann:

Dear God,
In this moment, I let go of all thoughts and concerns.
When I let go, I am able to receive.
When my hands are formed into tight fists,
     I cannot open my hands to receive anything.
When I hang onto tight control,
When I close off my heart and my spirit,
I cannot receive your blessings for me.
I let go to receive your blessings.
Letting go in this moment,
     I receive your loving presence around me and within me.
Help me to let go when I am feeling overwhelmed,
     so that I may receive your peace.
Help me to let go when I feel fear
     so that in fear’s place I may receive love and courage.
I let go of problems and challenges
     in order to receive your guidance and clarity.
I let go and trust you.
I will not fall.
You will catch me.
I let go and trust in the still, small voice inside of me.
Help me not to struggle but to surrender my struggle to you.
I gladly receive this gift of letting go and letting you lead me and guide me.
     Amen.

TAKING IT FURTHER

We all have burdens we carry. Suffering is unavoidable, but we can help carry one another’s burdens. Distribute paper and pens. Ask group members to write the name or a brief description of a weight they are carrying now. Encourage them to think of a person or people who might help them carry the weight and to write their names on the paper. Then invite group members to discuss these questions:
       What is your attitude toward the weight you are carrying?
       How are your stories or attitudes toward the weight making it worse?
       How could Jesus and the Christian community lighten the burden?

—from devozine In the Habit (May/June 2016). Copyright © 2016 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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