Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Come to Me and I will give you rest. . . .

 Sermon for Pentecost 5, Proper 9A, preached on Sunday, July 5, 2020.

    It is a holiday weekend and America uses holidays for just about anything and everything but rest.  We take the time off to clean the house, do the laundry, shop for groceries, do yard work, gather with friends and family, cook up great eats, drink up something to cool us down, and shoot off some fireworks.  It will be a diversion from the ordinary routine, a distraction from the things waiting for us during our time on, and even a chance to catch up on things put off.  But how much of it will be rest?

    Doctors tell us we do not sleep enough.  Psychologists tell us the stress is killing us.  Our bodies tell us that we need time off.  Our minds tell us that we cannot even think straight anymore.  Our memories are clogged with too much stuff and so we do not remember what we should and we cannot forget what we shouldn’t remember.  We need rest.  We need a regular routine of rest.  Maybe there is something to the idea of a Sabbath Day in which rules prevent you from anything that might pass as work.  If we cannot force ourselves to take time off for rest, who can convince us that this is what we need.  I am as guilty as anyone in this.  My busiest day usually falls on the day we assume to be time off.

    But what is the rest we need?  Jesus insists that the rest we need cannot be found in a more stress free life or an easier schedule or a more relaxed pace to thing.  No, Jesus insists that the rest we need cannot be found in long nights of sleep or power naps at work or recreational time for play.  Come to Me, says Jesus.  Here Jesus is claiming to be the rest we need and the peace we long for.

    Jesus offers us real rest – rest from the pain of life and loss, rest from the labor of weary muscles and minds, rest from sickness and affliction, rest from fear and anxiety.  But this is not found in some magical pill or miracle elixir.  He is the rest we need and the peace we seek.  We can find this rest in no one and no where but Jesus.  He is not a sign post or advertisement for the cure to what ails us, He is that cure.  He is the great physician of body and soul.

    TV was invented to bring the family together.  For years it seemed to work, until we got our own devices and retreated to watch our own things in our own spaces.  The same is true of technology.  It was created to make our lives easier.  The sad result has been more complicated lives, higher expectations to be disappointed, and now we are so in touch with all the troubles around the world that we have no escape from it all, no refuge in which to hide from bad news, and no hiding place to run away from all the news that is so menacing and troubling to our souls.
    Jesus has come for just this – for dreams that became disappointments, for sin that could not be hidden, for guilt that could not be denied, for shame that could not be put away, for illness that would not heal, and for death that could not be postponed.  He has come for just this – for all that technology has failed to improve and only made worse, for death that does not honor any friendship, and for conflict that does not end.  His gift is not some secret plan or magic bullet but taking from us our destiny due to sin and giving to us His righteousness, life, and hope.

    Jesus was born to quiet the desperate hearts of a people who long for rest but do not find it.  Jesus lived for people whose good intentions are too few and whose sins are too many.  Jesus died for a people who would do anything not to die.  Jesus rose for a people who might even choose death rather than keep on living in the pain of this moment.  Jesus is our rest.  All around us the world is pushing us and only Jesus takes from us all the burdens of this life and sin and death and makes them His own.  All around us the world is pressuring us to play harder, work harder, love harder, and live harder but only Jesus can give real release and peace to a people who know nothing but the relentless push to define our lives by what we have or what we do.

    The Sabbath was always Jesus.  It was never a day without an agenda or the dream of time off from the old routine.  The Sabbath was always Jesus.  He healed on the Sabbath, gathered grain with His disciples on the Sabbath, and ate and drank on the Sabbath.  He was not breaking the rules but embracing all that the Sabbath was meant to give.  And in exchange, He offers to you and to me rest.  A clear conscience through Holy Absolution.  A new identity in baptism in which the past we want to forget is forgiven.  A new direction for our live in commandments that no longer impose upon us but have become our delight.  And a new end for our days in the eternal day which we enter through His own resurrection to everlasting life.

    The Church is not that rest.  But it is the place where we meet it.  Because Christ is here in His Word and in His Sacraments.  Christ is here still claiming all our failures and failings.  Christ is here still offering hope to those who have none and a family to those who are all alone.  Here is where Christ is.  Here is where the water of life bubbles up to receive its newest newborn by Water and the Word.  Here is where a food without much symbolism but with great substance feeds us in bread Christ’s body and in wine His blood.  Here is rest not because the pastor is a great preacher or has a voice that puts you to sleep but because He proclaims Christ crucified and risen.  Here is rest, not because we can sit back and do nothing but because Christ has done everything and all we have to do is to give Him thanks for all that He has done and still does.

    Come to Me, all you laborers so broken and wounded by the heavy lifting of sin and its death.  Come to Me, all you who wake up to work and sleep to work again.  Come to Me all you whose minds are unsettled by the news around you.  Come to Me, all you who are afraid of losing a loved one to death or dying your own death.  Come to Me, all you who argue and debate with words that should not be spoken and bitterness that leaves enemies in your wake.  Come to Me, all you who play so hard you are more tired that ever and more in debt to what others think and what it costs to make ends meet.  Come to Me, all you who have tried so hard and still it seems like you only screw things up even more.  And I will give you rest.  That is the promise of Jesus.

    So will you come?  Will you come and lend Your voice to the song of praise that comes forth from this place?  Will you come and find hope planted in the suffering and death of the Savior for all who are redeemed by His blood.  Will you come and eat at His table and drink from His cup the heavenly bread and wine of His flesh for the life of the world?  His yoke is easy.  His burden light.  Because He has done the hard part and carried all the weight of our sin and its death.  Will you come?  God grant me a willing heart that I may know Christ as my rest and live in Him all my days.  Amen.

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