“A Time of Rest”
Matthew 11: 28-30, July 5th, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words from the gospel of Matthew, chapter eleven, verses twenty-eight thru thirty.”
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
29 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.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
“Having heard this reading, let us reflect on Jesus’ words of reassurance and his offer to give us a time of rest.”
“A Time of Rest”
Are you tired and worn down? I know a lot of folks who are. I am sure you do as well. Our exhaustion might be physical, surely there are a lot of folks that are out there sweating profusely in this July heat! I did a small project, took me two hours, and it was outside. I was really worn down and tired, exhausted actually! I cannot even imagine what it is like for the men and women who are called upon to labor all day outside at this time of year here in Florida. God bless each and every one who does this on a regular basis. There are crews working around my community, I presume they are working for FPL, they have been putting up new cement telephone poles, then there are crews to redo the wiring and such. Hot working conditions to be sure. I see crews building houses and those crews that put the roof on! Some get there at first daylight and will work as long as there is enough light to work! So, clearly there are a great many that understand the phrase ‘tired and worn out!”
Been in a restaurant recently? The waiters, the cooks in the kitchen and the bus boys, they often look like they have been working hard, really hard. We could go down a list of different jobs, outdoor workers, indoor workers with air-conditioned environments even, and we will encounter hard working folks at every level of our social structure with in our society working hard and could appreciate the terms tired and worn out! I think most of us know what it is like to physically push ourselves till we are hot and tired! Likewise, most folks have felt what it is like to be exhausted and totally worn out! But we also need to look at other human realities that can wear us down; there are other heavy burdens, that weigh people like you and me, down!
Stress, stress is a big problem for a great many people. Take your pet to the veterinarian for a simple procedure and then you are informed they need to take out some baby teeth that did not fall out naturally! Finally, the call comes in and everything is ok! Your precious pet is doing well, “go ahead” they say and “come get her in a couple hours after she recovers from the procedure.” Stress is when you are trying to do one thing and you are being pulled to do another thing at the same time! Stress is when your doctor tells you that you are the one who needs a surgical procedure or someone you love has a medical condition that has no cure! Yes, we all know what stress is about!
What about that emotional drain that is dragging on virtually everyone in the United States, this pandemic thing! It is one thing to have the flu raging through our communities, and tens of thousands of people die of complications because of it. But this COVID-19 thing! No cure, no shot to take that will lessons is effect on you and possible protect you from it. No, this thing has no cure and folks around the globe are fighting it and dealing with it! That’s bad enough, but then there is the conflicting information, the political element that has gotten involved. Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. God have mercy on us humans! I’m ready for the tender mercy and comforting works of Christ! Aren’t you?
The message from Jesus, certainly applies to our human weariness, both physical and emotional. It is reasonable for us to turn to the words of Christ and cry out to our God for some relief! “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” /Matthew 11:28/ Our common prayer might sound like this: “Come to me Lord and give me rest! Take this burden from me, I cannot bear it!” It is OK if you want to say those words. It is alright if you do. Being human is not always easy, joyful and pain free! The older we get the more we mature adults understand this!
Now what about that next verse, let’s break it down and look at the first phrase which Jesus spoke. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;” /Matthew 11:29a/ Sure, Jesus understands our human burdens, he lived here amongst us, he understands human pain. And clearly, the compassionate, kind, and loving Spirit of Christ will be with us during our human trials and tribulations. Yet, Jesus’ reference to taking on his yoke, his burden, brings in another level of this conversation. The ancient use of the work ‘yoke’ speaks to the harness strapped onto beasts of burden. Clearly, Jesus is acknowledging that at times putting on the ‘mantle,’ the ‘yoke’ of ministry will come with some burdens. The word mantle is often used to express the act of taking on the responsibility that goes with a given task when one takes on a new position or responsibility. Such as a young man taking on the mantle of his father’s trade, or a woman taking on the responsibilities of motherhood. In this case, Jesus is clearly telling us, those of us whom follow Christ, he is telling us that we will need to take on the mantle, the role of ministry which God calls us to. Before we go forward with our reading lets us consider some of the roles, the responsibilities the followers of the teachings of Christ may take on.
Elisabeth Johnson, a respected theologian helps us get into the conversation of our roles as disciples of Christ. “It is not that Jesus invites us to a life of ease. Following him will be full of risks and challenges, as he has made abundantly clear. He calls us to a life of humble service, but it is “also” a life of freedom and joy instead of slavery.” Her words ring true and give us a lot to discuss. No, following the teachings of Jesus is not easy nor is it highly rewarding if we measure reward at or on a monetary level. As a part-time pastor in retirement, I feel I am well paid. More concerning is the viability of being a young woman or man entering formal ministry. The cost of a bachelor’s degree and add to that the cost of a Master of Divinity degree in today’s economics. Add to this: It takes seven years of full-time education – past High School to achieve these diplomas. These realities make it very difficult for an individual to answer the ‘call’ to ministry. This is just the beginning.
Even as we discuss the cost of getting a fully trained pastor into our local churches, Jesus was not just speaking of this aspect of following him. Everyone, with or without a formal education, are ‘called’ into ministry. The Apostle Paul discusses this well in his letters to the struggling church in Corinth. Simply put any and all of the abilities and attributes of individuals at any stage of education or life have something that will enhance the ministry here in our community. Even in the time we live, where gatherings are still difficult because of the Covid-19 virus, there are still much that can be done in ministry!
Today, we are blessing recently donated food that will be used to feed the hungry. That is ministry! Last week we spoke about the need to stand side-by-side our Gay, Lesbian, transgender and bisexual friends. Not just speak up for them but stand with them in a public way! That is ministry! We can do more than say we are welcoming. We can support their dignity! And as seek out ‘new ways’ to stand with those who are pushed aside and marginalized. Furthermore, we can stand with our black neighbors, as well as a large cross section of people, who come to us with a diverse set of backgrounds. That is ministry!
Ministry begins with setting new visions, which leads to new tasks and responsibilities. The multitude of details, it often takes, to implement new activities which validate new ways to serve the Living Church of Christ in our community – will stretch who we are! Yet, we can do new things with the help of God! Look to what we have accomplished in these last months. First and foremost, you have supported this your church in meaningful ways through your donations as seen today in the food offerings you have brought to feed the hungry! We have revamped our ministry team to support this new frontier for us, our On-Line ministry! Our public worship services – live and on-line – are just the first steps in this new adventure! We have only begun to explore the opportunities for us to serve the spiritual needs of our community, which now includes everyone that tunes in to worship with us on Sundays.
The rewards of ministry, following in the footsteps of Christ can be diverse, and oftentimes bountiful. We are promised everlasting life in the kingdom of heaven. Yet, way before that we are promised rest from our burdens. Some days serving the church, serving the people of God, and seeking to be part of the body of Christ – is hard! Yet, there is a peace, a spiritual uplift, a sense of usefulness and serenity that can only be felt when we have extended ourselves seeking to be of ultimate service to God. And in so doing we come to realize we are also being of service to others. In that feeling of exhaustion, we can experience peace, a restfulness that shall still our souls and comfort us in the most difficult of times.
Jesus says unto us all: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” /Matthew 11:28/