The word that rises up in today’s texts is YIELD.
- YIELD may be a verb that means to submit or surrender.
- YIELD can also be a noun. It is the material outcome of a process, such as the result of a mathematical equation, or in more practical terms, the quantity of grain or other produce harvested at the end of a growing season.
In its active, verb form, YIELD suggests giving oneself into another’s power or authority. In daily use, we YIELD when operating a motor vehicle, giving right of way to someone who is already in in traffic.
Yet it has much deeper connotations. It implies an unequal relationship. We need to be cautious about how we read and use the word YIELD in this context.
We can YEILD when we are seeking mercy, either from the threat of death, or when we are seeking a form of forgiveness for a transgression we may have committed. It can be an act of sheer survival, or a renewing spiritual practice. The event, the experience, determines what YIELDING means to us.
YIELD may mean surrendering to a greater physical, political, or military power. This might be an authority, a person or a system, that is unjust. In this sense, to YIELD is to be coerced or forced into an act of submission that is not of our own volition. Such power, such hands, do not wish us well.
When YIELDING is done without consent, this does not mean that our human dignity is gone or our capacity for resistance is over. If we yield to an aggressor or an oppressor who will harm or damage us … then to find a way to survive and endure becomes the act of resistance, when that is possible.
Through social examples of resistance, we see that YIELDING can mean to submit to powers that overwhelm us, and yet endure. Such stories can be found in the reflections of Jews who lived through the Holocaust. And we can find it in the stories of marginalized people who have been oppressed in United States history, such as the lives of Civil Rights activitist. Yet this legacy is not limited to African Americans with histories shaped by slavery and racism. It also involves Native Americans (First Peoples) whose homes and ways of living were systematically wiped out. And this story isn’t limited to the USA, it can also be found in societies which have confronted their recent violent and oppressive histories, such as South African or Rwanda. More examples find their way to our attention survivors of regimes which continue to be oppressive, such as North Korea.
When used by people of faith in a more holistic context, YIELDING to Godself can mean to place oneself into the care and keeping of a just and compassionate Creator. In this relationship, we can expect that God hopes and works toward the best for us. Our YIELDING is a form of vulnerability and reciprocity in a relationship that leads us toward more healthy, holistic, integrated ways of being human.
YIELD, as the harvest, is the valuable outcome of our labor and nurturing over many seasons. It is the result of our efforts. And such YIELDS are ever empowered by our relationship with God, and how God blesses our lives.
Sometimes YIELD means a literal harvest. It arrives as forms of nourishment and sustenance for people’s bodies: crops from fields, picks of orchards and vineyards, herds of livestock, catches of fish.
Sometimes YIELD is the metaphorical harvest of our beliefs and practices: the virtues and characteristics we cultivate in our lives. We call these the fruits of the spirit, such as kindness, patience, wisdom, mercy, and hope.
At its best, to YIELD is to be in relationship. And YIELD is also the tangible benefit from how we live our lives as people of faith.
Excerpts from today’s lectionary passages from the Bible:
- Psalm 53: 6 — O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
- Leviticus 25: 3 — You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your unpruned vine: it shall be a year of complete rest for the land.
- Leviticus 25: 6 — You may eat what the land yields during its Sabbath.
- Revelation 19: 10a — Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus.”