July 5, 2020
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
These are the last few verses of today’s gospel lesson from Eugene Peterson’s The Message translation. This scripture comes at a time when many of you may be on vacation and amid Independence Day celebrations. While celebrating freedom, have you thought about the rest that you have longed for and the ultimate freedom that can be found in Jesus Christ?
As we move past this Independence Day, and the unusual nature of the holiday this year, many of you are probably already looking at your calendars and wondering what is on tap for the week coming up. It is difficult to fully rest like Jesus invites us to do. To take a deep breathe, and fully sit in the presence of God is difficult. Why, because it has been ingrained in us that we must be busy, and if we are not, then we are not being useful of our time.
What is your typical response when someone asks you, “how’s it going?” My guess would be that a lot of the time, our response is, “I’m busy.” We may then run off a list of those things that we are so busy doing. While many of those tasks may be important, I doubt that few require our immediate attention and we could afford to stop and rest. It is even possible for you to delegate to someone else a task that may not necessarily be completed by you. Once again, we run into the conundrum that we know how it should be done and thus want to do it ourselves to ensure that the task is completed properly and to our satisfaction. Thus, this endless cycle of being busy never ends, because being busy means that we are being productive. Or so, many would like you to think. This does not even consider the constant way our brains continue to function and keep us up and thinking at all hours of the day and night. I have heard stories that this has become an even greater issue during this pandemic. I know that I have had my own struggles.
Amid a holiday weekend, and for those looking forward to vacation time, these verses from Matthew’s gospel this morning bear permission to simply rest in Christ. It is a message of welcome from Jesus to let us know that we are not alone. Resting in Christ can happen anytime. We do not have to be on vacation. We do not have to be alone. We simply must be willing to let Jesus bear our burdens that are too much for us at this time. While Jesus takes on our burdens, he invites us to take his yoke from him. Are you ready to take that yoke?
“What do you expect when you come to Jesus? Someone who will say you are ok just the way you are? Someone who invites you to follow in a way of love and to give up security, comfort, power and prestige for the sake of God and neighbor?” Jesus never said following him would be easy. Peterson’s translation resounds deeper, “Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” In taking Jesus’ yoke, we receive his presence and teaching to guide us and lead us from now to eternity.
As we celebrate Independence Day, Jesus offers us a freedom of his presence. It is a freedom that can envelop our entire being and does not mean we are free from work, but from burdensome labor that steers us away from a life in Christ.
Jesus invites us to rest in God’s grace and mercy. It is here that we are transformed in our living as we turn toward Jesus and live out the gospel. It is this unforced rhythm of grace that we long for and is available to us if we just slow down to rest in Christ.