3 Pentecost Proper 9A                     
Rev. Dr. D.K. Schroeder
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 Sermon                                     
July 3, 2011

Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
577 "God Bless Our Native Land" (now playing, Beethoven arr.)
34 "My Soul Now Bless Thy Maker"
276 "Come Unto Me, Ye Weary"
47 "Saviour Again To Thy Dear Name We Raise"


TEXT (vs. 28-30):  ď28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." 

             One of the things that sometimes happens when I see my mother, and she happens to catch a glimpse of my backside, she will say, "What did you sit in?  There's a dirt smudge all over the back of your trousers."

            Of course I can't see back there, even when I try turning around real fast.  So I don't know it's there unless somebody, like my mother tells me about it.  It was frustrating, because I could never really figure out how it was happening.  So out would come the bottle of Spray n' Wash, and I'd soak it up pretty well before putting it in the washing machine.  The trousers would come out clean.

            But sure enough, that mysterious dirt smudge would reappear again, seemingly out of nowhere.  It took me a while before I realized what was happening.  I would either sit upon, or lean up against the front fender of the car.  And if the car wasn't clean, then I would wind up with this smudge of dirt across my backside.  It wasn't the type of dirt you could just brush off either.  It wouldn't come off that easy.  It required pre-treating and laundering before I could get rid of it. 

            My problem is, I need to rest.  I can't remain standing for extended periods of time or walk long distances, or my arthritis gives me fits.  It doesn't seem that long ago that I was able to walk long distances and be on my feet without suffering any ill effects.  When I was in Australia, I even walked between three and five miles a day, almost every morning.  I felt I could almost walk forever.  But now I require a lot more rest.

            I think this has given me a better appreciation for the invitation Jesus is extending to us in our text for this morning.  In verse 28 of our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus says:  "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."   

            The writer to the Hebrews also carries this thought through in chapter 4.  Verses 9-11 read:  "9So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10for whoever has entered Godís rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.  11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience."

            Just think about those times when you are really, really tired.  All you want to do is find the nearest chair so you can sit down and recuperate.  And when there's no place available where you can do that, you search even more fervently and frantically.  It's like you are on a quest.  You are about ready to take the first perch you can find available, even when it happens to be the fender of a dirty car.

            Jesus happens to know what it is like to need rest.  He knows the meaning of fatigue.  Psalm 22 is what we call a "Messianic Psalm," meaning it is a direct prophecy regarding the Messiah, or Jesus.  Verses 14 and 15 describe the physical effects of Jesus' passion.  We read:  "14I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death."  That describes a type of fatigue and tiredness that none of us will ever know.

            The point is, that we are searching for rest.  People will search almost everywhere to find it.  And unfortunately, their desire for rest has a tendency to lead them to a lot of the wrong places.

            Last week if you recall, we had special prayers for Kristen, the daughter of Pastor Karl Koch.  Pastor Karl had to leave Lincoln rather hurriedly last week, because she was in hospital in serious condition.  Her liver and kidneys weren't functioning as they should, and she wasn't expected to last very long at all.

            This week, Pastor Karl stood in front of his congregation and informed them that his daughter, Kristen Reynolds had died this past Tuesday, June 28.  She was almost ten years younger than me.

            But Pastor Karl continued on to explain what had happened, and why she had died.  She died as a result of acute and chronic alcoholism.  She literally drank herself to death.  Why did she do it?  What had happened?

            I went with Pastor Karl into his study and had a more lengthy conversation with him.  He described in some detail the rather heart-wrenching time that he and his wife have had with their daughter.  There was marriage, divorce, a child, custody battles, and de facto relationships in her past.  Alcohol was the biggest foe that brought everybody so much misery.

            Then he went on to explain what led up to her death.  Some time back, she suffered a severe fracture to her ankle, something that happened when she had been drinking very heavily.  The doctors had put her on pain-killing drugs, but those began to affect her organ functions.  So they began weaning her off of them.

            Meanwhile, she moved away from where her Alcoholics Anonymous support people were located, so she was on her own.  And since she couldn't have her pain killing drugs, she went back to drinking.  And that was the beginning of the end for Kristen Reynolds.

            There is more to the story of course, but that's it in a nutshell.  And even though I have no idea what it's like to see your own child live a life like this, I know that this is a deep hurt that Pastor Karl and his wife Dorothea have had to deal with for many years.

            What do you think Kristen was seeking all these years?  Maybe it was a good time with her friends.  Maybe it was the whole social aspect.  Maybe it was the "party hearty" mindset.  She would have been young, and feeling almost invincible. 

            But suddenly that gives way to life's problems.  And when those problems get bigger and bigger, then people search for ways to mask the problems instead of fixing them.  People seek temporary relief rather than a permanent solution.  And sadly, too many people have adopted the philosophy, which says:  "the bigger the problem, the more alcohol it takes to cover it up."  And we all know where that kind of thinking will lead.

            If we look at our Epistle lesson for today, we read the words of one very frustrated individual, namely the Apostle Paul.  Hear what he's saying in Romans chapter 7, verses 21-24:  "21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"

            When faced with this kind of frustration in life, where do people go?  Where can people turn?  Where are the answers?

            Paul was looking for peace and rest.  He was looking for deliverance.  And he knew that he wouldn't find it by resorting to alcohol and drugs.  He knew where to find the answer, and who was there to help him.  In the very next verse, verse 25, Paul simply states, "25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

            Jesus is the one with the answer to sin's problem.  Listen to what he is telling us in verses 28-30 of our Gospel lesson this morning: "28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." 

            I personally think that this is amongst one of the most comforting passages in the Bible.  Jesus isn't offering some sort of temporary solution.  He isn't offering us a drug or chemical to numb the pain.  He isn't leading us down some dead-end road where we'll wind up no hope and no future.

            What Jesus is offering to us, to you and to me, is something very real.  Paul, who was continually plagued with sin in his life, sins of thought, word, and deed, also knew what Jesus had done to deliver him from sin and give him rest for his soul.

            That's the very same hope we have.  Jesus doesn't want to burden us down with more laws, and more rules, and more baggage.  It's quite the opposite.  He wants to lift that load from our shoulders.  He wants to give us peace and rest.

            That's what we find as a reward of faith.  We come to Jesus as sinful human beings, and we soon discover that through faith alone we have everything Jesus has to offer to us.  We can quit looking in the wrong places for rest, and find the true Sabbath rest that only Christ can give to us.

            When I park my backside on a dirty car fender, I get temporary rest, but I also bear the mark of the consequence.  Even though I can't see it myself, others can.  I should have maybe wiped off the fender or sought out a better rest for my aching joints.

            People will seek out a whole variety of different ways that will, in their estimation, bring rest for their souls.  There are the various non-Christian and heathen religions.  But all these do is add more burdens to an already weary soul, and more work to an overly fatigued spirit. 

            Then there are the chemical solutions, which never bring relief from any situation.  These only bring bigger and deeper problems into the picture.

            The only rest comes from faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.  The Holy Spirit breathes new life into our tired selves, so we can see what Jesus is giving us, and what he has done for us through his life, death, and resurrection.

            Yesterday, as I was walking with Pastor Karl from the narthex of the church to his study, a group of people had gathered, standing there drinking coffee.  These people were all members of an Alcoholics Anonymous group that met on Saturday Night at the church.  As Pastor Karl walked through, he exchanged greetings with a few of the people.  And then he said, "My daughter just died this past week as a result of chronic alcoholism."  And that's all he said as he continued to walk away.  Everybody just stood there in silence.  I think his point had been well taken.

            I did ask Pastor Karl about Kristen's faith.  He told me that a pastor he knew had been ministering to her in hospital.  She breathed her last holding on to the cross of her Saviour with nothing more than faith alone.  She knew that all of her sins from her rather checkered past were forgiven.  All of her frustrations had come to an end.  And for the first time in a long time, she was able to see a bright future and hope on the horizon.

            On June 28, 2011, our Lord Jesus Christ took Kristen to be with him in heaven.  She was able to find the peace she had been so desperately seeking all these years.  It's just too bad that she took the road she did to eventually get there.

            The lesson here is obvious.  The invitation Jesus gives is for all of us, regardless of who we are, where we are, or at what point in life we might happen to be.  God the Holy Spirit brings us in faith to the foot of the cross, where we lay down all of our burdens and sins, and accept through faith alone the forgiveness, peace, and rest Jesus has for each one of us. 

            In John chapter 14, verses 1-2, Jesus tells us:  "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In my Fatherís house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?"  

            And today in our Gospel lesson, Jesus says: ď28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

            With a promise like that from our Saviour, we know that there is no other place we can find peace and rest, apart from what he gives us by grace through faith alone.

Kristen Reynolds
Kristen M. (Koch) Reynolds
November 17, 1964-June 28, 2011
At rest in her Saviour's arms.