Scripture: Matthew 11:16-19,25-30
Are you tired?
Are there any here today who have never been weary? Never had to carry a heavy heart burden? Okay, you’re free to go and grab a coffee. Come back when the hymn starts. Because today we’re going to talk about Jesus’ offer to the weary and heavy hearted. And we’re going to set down the heavy burdens that life has given us, and take up the easy one of Jesus.
What, no one left? I guess that, at one time or another, most of us have been there. We live in a fast-paced world, where many of us are overachievers — hurrying, rushing, working too hard, until our energies are depleted and our well-being is in tatters. Others of us are dealing with health issues, family problems, financial difficulties …
Welcome to this place of rest
And then we come to church. Welcome! Welcome to this church, St George’s — this place for tired, weary people – and you will find rest for your soul.
We may come to church for many different reasons. Maybe you’ve come to church today because Mom or Grandma said to go. Maybe you’re here to enjoy the music, Stephen’s guitar, the singing, our beautiful church or the companionship of our church family. But we also know that too many of us come here stressed and worried, troubled and tired. People try many ways to deal with stress. Some turn to food as a way to cope with stress. Others turn to alcohol, cigarettes, or the use of drugs. Some burn the midnight oil surfing the internet and pay for it the next day because they have had inadequate sleep.
Come to Jesus
Long ago Jesus told his followers how he would like us to deal with stress: “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, … Come to Jesus. I don’t know of any more effective technique to get a handle on the stress in my life than to turn to Jesus. God designed you and me in a way that our spirit, mind and body would react together in a marvelous way when we feel tense and anxious and “heavy” and set our heart and mind on Jesus. God knew that Jesus was our anecdote for stress … not drugs, food, alcohol and the internet.
Take time in the stresses of life to reconnect with the Divine. Stop and look out at your garden, or a bunch of flowers. Go for a walk and clear your mind of problems. Or just take time to breath deeply. Stop regretting the past and worrying about he future. Be present to the Now. Simple things like this can take you from stress and turn your mind to God. A few minutes of rest … Oh yes, the promise of rest for your soul in Jesus seems very sweet.
A life of service
But, 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 a life of freedom and joy instead of slavery. It is life yoked to Jesus under God’s gracious and merciful reign, free from the need to prove oneself, free to rest deeply and securely in God’s grace. God’s rest is the creation vision of Gen 2:2-3, in which God, after creating, rests, with all creation in just relationship with God and itself. Only with God’s transforming intervention can such a world be created.
“And you will find rest for your souls.” This rest is not inner contentment and inactivity. It comes from returning to God and faithfulness to God’s will. The disciple takes on the yoke of Christ and learns to become gentle and lowly himself in the process.
There are at least four gifts wrapped in Jesus’ invitation and promise.
Sabbath Rest, rest for your soul
The first is the gift of Sabbath time. Jesus is a Jew; he knows about Sabbath time. Sabbath provides the spacious context for Jesus’ invitation. Sabbath is a gift, a time of rest. It doesn’t have to be a day, Saturday for Jews or Sunday for us. It could be Monday morning, or an hour every evening. Or a weekend alone at the cottage or a retreat This rest is more than sleep; it’s rejuvenation, restoration, re-connection to our life force, to full aliveness. In the creation story, God worked six days, and then God rested on the seventh day. If it was good enough for God, it’s good enough for us.
It is a time of Being rather than doing. Evelyn Underhill says that we spend our lives on 3 things: having, wanting and doing. None of these are as important as being. Being means living in the present moment, not regretting the past or feeling anxious about the future.
Sabbath rest, if we practice it, infuses us with attention to the present moment. Attend to the present moment; it’s where God shows up — God’s energy, God’s peace. In his invitation, Rabbi Jesus is offering Sabbath rest, and this rest is the pathway to renewed aliveness.
Release – let it go
The second gift Jesus offers is release — the opportunity to let go of stresses and pressures, release the inner obstacles that block us. Whatever dilemma, problem or anxiety is clogging our insides, “let it go.” In the silence, this time of Sabbath rest, I’ve sometimes imagined putting my anxieties on a little imaginary boat and letting them float off. Yes, the boat will come back, but keep putting the anxiety or worry on the boat. Let it go. For fullness of life to develop, emptiness is essential. Release stress; Let it go.
Streams of living water
The third gift in Jesus’ invitation is the gift of the inner wellspring: living water. It flows with goodness; it’s the source of our aliveness. If we do our part in releasing the stresses, then calm energy, aliveness, can emerge, and it will even gush. So as well as letting go, let it gush, gush, gush.”
Energy for service
When we go to the wellspring, the inner wellspring, and take it in, we may receive a fourth gift — the gift of energy for our work in the world. Call it energy for goodness, for justice. If I don’t find my way back to the wellspring, I will not have the energy and inner resources to do my work in the world. Jesus is our role model; he was both a mystic and a social reformer; he was a contemplative and an activist. He was often going off to pray, to re-connect to the wellspring. Then he would head back to his ministry of compassion, justice, equality, nonviolence.
Come to me, Jesus says, and find life-giving rest for your soul, Sabbath Rest, release. An inner wellspring and energy for our work in the world.
Amen. So may it be.
Let us pray. Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.