4 Pentecost Proper A9
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
July 6, 2014

Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.

Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal & The Service Book and Hymnal):
TLH 575 "Before The Lord We Bow"
SBH 346 "O Beautiful For Spacious Skies"
SBH 356 "Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory"
SBH 360 & 358 "My Country 'Tis Of Thee" & "God Bless Our Native Land"  


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 used to frequently happen when my mother was alive, was when she would happen to catch a glimpse of my backside when I was wearing khaki or other lighter colored trousers.  She would inspect me and 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 didn't know it was there unless somebody, like my mother would tell 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.  Sometimes it was so bad that I had to use a stiff brush and Fels Naptha Soap on it in order for the trousers to 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, especially if there was any amount of grease with it.  Like I mentioned before, it often required pre-treating and laundering before I could get rid of it. 

            But you see, I have a problem here.  I need to rest.  I can't remain standing for extended periods of time or walk long distances.  Even though my hip replacement has made a very marked difference, I still have issues.  The most frustrating thing about this, is that 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 inAustralia, 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.

            Perhaps you have been watching the news lately, and you have taken note of all the difficulties going on with the Veterans' Administration.  It was learned that countless veterans were having to wait unbelievably long periods of time in order to get medical treatment, which resulted in people dying before they could be treated.  Here are veterans who have given their very selves to the defense and protection of this country.  They should rightfully expect the people they have protected to take care of them.  They give a whole lot more to us than we have been giving to them.

            I think that there is a very good parallel here.  Veterans are seeking something they desperately need, like looking for rest.  And people need to realize that this rest is something that they cannot provide on their own by themselves.  It has to be provided for them.

            One thing that plagues people, especially veterans, is what we know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.  In bygone days, we used to call it being "shell shocked;" but it goes far deeper than that.  And there are many veterans that need help in this area.

            PTSD is the result of abnormal and acute events that have happened in a person's life.  For a veteran, this can range from being uncomfortable in situations all the way to having violent outbursts.  People often cannot sleep.  They can severely react to loud noises.  They might have trouble being around people.  And they often have nightmares.

            One man who had returned from Afghanistanwas suffering from PTSD.  He was sitting in his chair one evening relaxing and watching television.  His three-year-old daughter quietly came up behind him, put her hands over his eyes, and said, "Guess who?"  She didn't mean any harm.  But his reaction was to swing his arm back.  He did so with such force that it knocked his little daughter back where she slammed against the wall.  Fortunately she didn't get hurt, but it was still a sad situation.

            People with PTSD have trouble coping.  They want help and they want rest.  So what do they do?  Sadly, many turn to alcohol, or drugs.  Some just completely withdraw and avoid society all together.  And sad to say, there are those who choose to find peace by taking their own life. 

            As tragic as this is, think of how people cope with life's problems.  When those smaller 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 wasn't a PTSD sufferer, but he 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.

            This time of the year, I like to have a service with a more patriotic theme.  AsUnited Statescitizens, July the 4th has very special significance.  This is the date that we celebrate as the birthday of our country.  And we have much for which we can be thankful as citizens of theUSA.

            As horrible as war is, and as bloody as battles can be, it makes our hearts ache when we witness man's inhumanity to man.  War is never good, and there is always sin as the root cause of it. 

            But we must also have a sense of appreciation and gratitude to those who have fought for us, and have protected those freedoms we hold so dear.  So somewhere amongst the brats and burgers and fireworks on the fourth of July, we need to remember what we are celebrating. 

            In our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote the phrase, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that amongst these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

            One gentleman approached Benjamin Franklin (who incidentally had a hand in writing the Declaration of Independence), and asked him:  "Where is this happiness you have promised us?" 

            Benjamin Franklin replied, "We didn't guarantee you happiness, just the right to pursue it.  Happiness is something you have to find on your own by yourself."

            As we look at our text for today, Jesus is not telling us that we have to search high and low for what he promises to us.  Jesus promises us rest, which also gives us happiness.  That rest isn't for aching muscles, but for an aching soul.  Jesus doesn't want us to have to pursue this rest, but he gives it to us as a free gift.  And what a special blessing it is for those who suffer from PTSD.

            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.