Sunday, July 9, 2017

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2017

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: Matthew 11:29
Theme: Soul-Rest

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The gospel is a burden to no one...ever! The apostle says, “His commandments are not burdensome.”1 Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”2 Anyone who perceives, feels, or considers the promise of good news in Christ to be burden is not hearing the gospel. There are many reasons this happens. It might be because the conscience doesn’t want to recognize the guilt of sin which only Christ can remedy. It might be because the heart is set on taking credit for its own deliverance. It might be because the will is too stubborn or apathetic to take seriously the truths of mortality and eternity. The fault does not lie with the Holy Spirit, who clearly proclaims to us through the Scriptures: Jesus is not a new lawgiver, He is the Saviour. He does not give burdens, He takes them.

Jesus spoke to the habitual complainers today. In response to the malcontent of the crowds, Jesus quotes conventional wisdom. He denounces them for being like children playing in the streets; never satisfied, always changing the rules to suit their own advantage. There was no pleasing those who closed their minds to the message of God’s kingdom. John the Baptist was a strict ascetic. He didn’t indulge in the finer things of life. He didn’t recline at the table at anyone’s banquet. And yet, some accused Him of having a demon. Jesus dinned with tax-collectors and Pharisees. He healed lepers and prostitutes; and yet was accused of being a glutton and drunkard. Jesus was approachable to everyone in every circumstance, yet for those who wanted to silence His message and His mission, it was never good enough.

Discontent is a particularly unattractive feature of human nature. It is prevalent because it is one of the most common expressions of sinfulness. It easily becomes an habitual way of thinking and acting. We’ve all said or heard something to the effect, “There’s no pleasing him.” Or “There’s no satisfying her.” People held captive to this perspective often enjoy wielding judgment over the ideas or actions of others. It’s usually seen by them as a tool of empowerment. We’re all prone to it. In reality, an attitude of continual complaint only fosters unnecessary resentment and damages the well-being of the complainer.

Those on the receiving end become weary. The effects are cumulative. All consequences of sin are. Christ offers relief to the truly tired soul. What causes true weariness of the soul? It is caused by loss of hope that the present can be redeemed. It is caused by lack of confidence that the future can be better. Lethargy of the soul results from carrying a weight that only God can lift. Unforgiven sin will always burden the conscience. It makes us restless. David poured out his heart to God saying, “When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.”3 The heart cannot be at peace when sin remains unresolved. The conscience is restless. The mind is distracted. The soul is burdened. Unbelievers can go on their merry way without the resolution of sin, blissfully unaware, but for Christians everything in life is liable to become a chore.

People are seeking rest. They are seeking rest from the relentless pressure of political-correctness. Failure to identify with the views of the political elite risks marginalization and censorship. Fatigue in public engagement is the result. People are seeking rest. They are seeking rest from the rat-race of the world. Over-scheduled, over-committed, running on adrenaline, they are fatigued from the pressure to meet the expectations of others. People are seeking rest. Scarred from fractured relationships, carrying the burden of resentment, they are fatigued from the brokenness of marriage and family. The list could be multiplied endlessly.

Jesus offers rest for the soul. What kind of rest is He speaking of? He is not talking about sleeping longer, taking a holiday, or finding a less demanding job. These might be helpful adjustments in our lives but they don’t address the core need. Christ is more than a listening ear, a kind word, and a gentle embrace. He is our Sabbath-rest. The grueling, exhausting, punishing work of atonement is finished. The demand of justice has been satisfied. Jesus has accomplished it. We didn’t lift one finger to help. There is nothing we could contribute. He bore all the weight. He carried the entire burden. The exhaustion of bearing the weight of sin was fully and finally relieved at the cross. The yoke of oppression was lifted.

You are gifted with His rest. You are baptized into the power of the living God. No matter how great the darkness which encompasses you; the light of Christ will pierce it. No matter how ugly your past record of sins is; Christ has wiped the ledger clean. No matter how many failures you have accumulated or promises you have broken; the Saviour makes restitution to the full. Regardless of your fears or anxiety for the future, the reigning Christ will deliver you from all evil. The blood has been shed. The ransomed has been paid. He has tasted death for us. You are cherished. You are freed. The risen Christ prepares your place with the Father and sends you His Spirit.

Your citizenship in the kingdom of heaven gives an entirely new perspective to your vocation in this world. You are not simply a moral or ethical influence; you possess an eternal hope to be witnessed by unbelievers. It’s fitting to ask ourselves why we do what we are doing? What is the purpose of our various vocations? Is our only goal in life to make money? To make a living? Is it to build our bank account, our reputation, or our image? Is our vocation as husband or wife, parent or child, employer or employee mostly self-serving? The Holy Spirit shows us deeper meaning in what otherwise might be considered drudgery. During your working, your parenting, your daily routine of activity, you reflect the humility of Christ. The Scripture says, “None of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.”4 Your higher purpose is to be Christ to somebody in a place and context where only you can. You have the privilege of offering lasting hope and an eternal perspective. You can point those who are weary to Christ, the giver of rest.

Here’s the miracle: Believers have rest for their souls even while enduring demanding and exhausting circumstances in their lives. It’s a gift Satan is always trying to steal from us. It’s a gift we’re prone to give away in our doubt or our selfishness. But Christ is an endless supply. Christians are like yeast that leavens the dough. You cannot artificially manipulate faith to make it contagious to others. But the Holy Spirit uses us like living letters of God’s word. The soul at rest in God is a witnessing tool of the Holy Spirit.

We have the privilege of joining with the Psalmist in saying, “Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For You, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”5 Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…you will find rest for your souls.”6 Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
9 July 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 1 John 5:3
2 Matthew 11:30
3 Psalm 32:3-4
4 Romans 14:7
5 Psalm 116:7-9
6 Matthew 11:28, 29