Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
July 9, 2017
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
About two months ago, on a Saturday morning, a young man came to the front door at Ascension and wanted to know if he could use our restroom and get a drink of water. I gave him my pastoral approval. I then returned to my office to work on that week’s sermon. But, sometime later, when I came out of the office he was sitting on the steps that go from the office area to the narthex. Usually folks use the restroom, get a drink, and leave, but he hadn’t done that – so I began a conversation.
His name was Thomas and he was from Florida. He had been in Denver for just a week and he was going door to door selling stuff. But it wasn’t going well. I don’t think he wanted to go back out there and knock on the next door. He said that some people were just plain mean. They cursed at him. Hollered at him. Slammed the door in his face. No one wanted what he wanted to sell them. I don’t think Thomas from Florida was long for a career as a door-to-door salesman.
I could tell in the few minutes that we spoke that he was weary and burdened. In one of the most inviting, compassionate and caring images of Jesus, our Lord says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
We’ll take Him up on the offer!! Weary? Burdened? That’s us. Too many times we lie about how we are doing. We want people to think that we have life all figured out and that everything is just fine. But there are times when we know that we have lost control and though we have been told by many people not to worry, we worry. We are overwhelmed. Things aren’t that rosy.
What is your burden? What makes you weary? Maybe life is just hard. Physically you hurt and you don’t know if you can do what you want to do. Maybe demands have been placed upon you that are more than you can handle. Or, for many of us, the burden isn’t our life, it is in the life of the folks that we treasure – they have challenges that we shoulder. You are weary because of the choices of your children or grandchildren. You bear the pain of a friend, or a spouse, or your parents. Your burden for them never goes away.
This burden can be something even deeper – it goes to the soul. We feel that we have disappointed others – we have let them down. They counted on us and we didn’t do what we should have done. And not only have we disappointed them, we disappointed ourselves. We were better than that, at least we thought we were, but maybe we were just deceiving ourselves. Or, being religious people, we didn’t keep our pledge to God, the promise of faithfulness to Him, and it is just eating us up.
In the middle of May there was a man who got bitten by a rattlesnake down in Florida. That probably isn’t unusual – rattlesnakes bite a few folks every day. It is how this guy got bitten that made it newsworthy. He was trying to kiss the rattlesnake when the snake gave him its own “kiss”. The man was handling an Eastern Diamondback and bent over to give him a smooch when the Diamondback struck. The article goes on to say that the man had been drinking. You think??
The burdens that we have can be self-inflicted. In the classic word that we heard from today’s epistle, the burdens that we have are deep-seeded. “In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work within the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:22-24)
To all of this, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus’ work is in lifting our burdens. Jesus is the cure for us when we are weary and burdened.
This cure that Jesus offers first comes by His invitation. He is the one that says, “Come to me!!” His arms are open. His heart has compassion. You can usually tell if someone really wants to help you, or not. If they start looking at the clock when you are bearing your soul to them, they might not really care about what you are saying. If they have to answer their phone, or can’t stop texting, when you are crying, you might want to find someone else to speak to. But Jesus is different. Eyes are on you. Ears are open. You are His priority. In the Revelation, John gives this picture of the inviting Christ, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20 KJV)
The cure that Jesus offers is “rest”, or “peace”. But not everyone receives such good things. Not everyone receives God’s cure. Just three verses prior to these words Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” (Matthew 11:25)
Jesus has nothing against people who are smart or intelligent. But for those who are filled with intellectual pride or spiritual pride, they have no place in God’s kingdom. Arrogance in matters of the soul brings great displeasure from Jesus. “You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” I don’t believe it is the innocence of little children that Jesus is accenting, but their need. They come empty, they have nothing to offer, they are the ones who are “poor in spirit.” (Matthew 5:3) Later in Matthew we hear, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) They simply receive, in faith, God’s cure. They simply trust His invitation to bring all burdens and weariness to Him. It is a deadly thing to be self-sufficient in matters of our soul. Can we have a childlike faith in Jesus?
The cure is Jesus. Jesus says this about Himself, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27)
Burdened by life? Jesus says, “Come to Me.” “Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares about you.” (I Peter 5:7)
Burdened by worries? Jesus says, “Come to Me.” “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)
Burdened by sin? Jesus says, “Come to Me.” “The blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” (I John 1:7b) “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19)
Burdened or worried by the future? Jesus says, “Come to Me.” “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
The cure is Jesus. In our Matthew 11 section Jesus says, “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.” (Matthew 11:29-30)
Yoke easy? Burden light? If I have this right most times the horses, the oxen, the donkeys, were yoked together. Two animals are put together to pull something and to work. Now we are yoked to Christ and He is yoked to us. The yoke is easy and the burden is light because He is pulling the weight, He is doing the work. We are yoked to Him and He is yoked to us. We are not all alone to fight the devil and receive grace. We are not alone to face life’s challenges and the worries that we have. He is always by our side. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is always faithful. To this verse a few translators said, “My yoke is pleasant and my burden is slight.” (Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs, Dr. Jeffrey Kloha) It can only be pleasant and slight if Jesus is coming with His salvation to make us His. It can only be pleasant and slight if we know the friendship of the One who is always beside us.
Yoke easy? Burden light? We are called to do some hard things in life. We are called to stand for those who can’t stand and speak for those with no voice. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who would mistreat us. We are called to be patient and long suffering. That doesn’t sound so easy or light, pleasant or slight, to me. But we don’t do it alone. He calls us to do great things all because we are His and He is ours. What a wonderful marriage – we are bound to the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings and He to us!!
Jesus says, “Come to Me.” Lord, there is no other place where we could ever go!! Amen !!