August 23, 2020
WELCOME AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Let me remind you quickly of our protocols for everyone’s safety.
Attendance was taken by ushers as you entered
Offerings may be placed in the plate by the doors.
The bulletins were placed specifically for social distancing, one household per pew. Please sit exactly where you found your bulletin.
Please keep your masks on and remain seated through the whole service.
There will be no singing, and no physical contact.
You may read along silently, but today there will be two questions at the end to which I will direct a short out loud response
Short Informational Congregational Meeting
Fran to explain World Communion Sunday offering
The office and the rest of the building remain closed, but you can contact Karla during her office hours.
WORDS OF WORSHIP
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it!
light of the minds that know you,
life of the souls that love you,
strength of the thoughts that seek you:
help us so to know you
that we may truly love you,
so to love you
that we may fully serve you,
whose service is perfect freedom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
CONFESSION AND PARDON
O God, we confess to our brokenness, to the ways we wound our lives, the lives of others and the life of the world. May God forgive us, Christ redeem us, and the Spirit empower us to live in love.
In the name of Jesus, we are forgiven. Thanks be to God!
May the peace of Christ be with you.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Oh Lord, your Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Open our hearts to receive it, that we might know your more completely and serve you more faithfully. In Christ we pray, Amen.
SCRIPTURE LESSONS Romans 7: 15-25a
15 do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. If I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. [a]I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.19 I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. If I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 I find this law at work: I want to do good; evil is right there with me. For in my inner being delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin work within me.a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law,in my sinful nature
Matthew 11: 16-19
16“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
17“‘We played the pipe for you,
you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
you did not mourn.’
18 John came neither eating drinking, they say, ‘He has a demon. ’Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. ’wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
Matthew 11: 25-30
25 that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father ,of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children., Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
27“All things have been committed to me my Father.one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28“Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.my yoke upon you and learn from me ,I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
SERMON “Resting in God”
Today’s scripture reading from Matthew is one of my favorites.
I’ve always been a person who takes responsibilities seriously
I’m a bit of a perfectionist
Maybe you’ve heard it said as I have, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.”
And troubles tend to weigh heavily on me, whether they’re my own, those of my family and friends, or those of the world.
So, the first time I read these words from Jesus, I felt a lightening of sorts, a relief:
“Come to me, all of you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I found this ox yoke in an antique barn out in the rural countryside of Illinois
I was going to be preaching on this text, and I wanted to have a visual to show people
I was delighted to find it!
The only problem with it as far as I could see was that it wasn’t the same on both sides.
The bow that goes under the neck of the ox is smaller on this side than it is on the other
I kept pushing down on it and pulling on it to try to even it up
When I got to church that Sunday, I was showing my yoke to Susan, one of our musicians
I pointed out the “imperfection” of the uneven bows and she just kind of grinned at me.
She said, “That’s because it’s a training yoke.
The smaller bow goes around the neck of the younger, less experienced ox and the larger one goes around the older, stronger, more experienced ox.
When they work together, the weaker animal learns from the stronger one”
And it all suddenly made sense to this city girl
I find it kind of ironic, as I look back at it now
My failure to understand the yoke came from not having grown up in the country, yes
But maybe there was something more going on
Wasn’t it like me to try to force the smaller bow into something it wasn’t?
Wasn’t it like me to try to “perfect” something that was designed just as it was meant to be, for the purpose it was meant to fulfill?
Something tells me that, given the choice, I’d rather be the strong ox than the weak
I’d rather be the experienced ox, wearing the big bow, the one who knows where to go.
That’s a problem for me sometimes
It seemed to be a problem for some of the people Jesus was trying to reach too.
The people Jesus spoke these words to were the scribes and the Pharisees
They were the “big people,” the intellectuals, the religious elites, the wise
They had a certain way of doing things
We know that they were given the Ten Commandments, which we as Christians still try to follow today
But the commandments over time evolved into over 600 ceremonial rules that Jews were required to follow
It was humanly impossible to do everything right
Imagine what a burden it must have been
Jesus said of the scribes and Pharisees: “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others.”
The Jews had been waiting for a Messiah for a very long time
They’d been longing for the coming of the One who would relieve their suffering and oppression and bring them new life
But when Jesus came in gentleness and humility, announcing the peaceable kingdom of unconditional love, and celebrating the goodness of life, he was rejected
He wasn’t living up to their expectations for a savior at all
And the Pharisees were nothing but critical of the way Jesus was doing things
Jesus wasn’t following the rules
It seems that in our scripture reading today, Jesus has just about lost patience with them
In fact, he tells them they’re acting like little children
And he doesn’t mean that in a good way
we know that, just as our children can be wise and profound, they can also be very demanding, self-centered little beings at times.
We’ve probably all had the experience of watching an over-indulged child opening up so many birthday gifts that none of them satisfies him.
Or we’ve watched our own children or grandchildren sit in a room full of toys and heard them say, “There’s nothing to do.”
This was the kind of behavior Jesus had noticed in the crowd he spoke to that day.
They’d asked for a Messiah, waited for one, and now they didn’t like the one they were given.
I like Eugene Petersen’s rendering of Jesus’ speech in The Message.
Jesus said to them, “How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riff-raff.
John the Baptist had showed up, living in the desert, eating locusts, avoiding luxurious food and drink, and the people considered him demon-possessed.
They couldn’t see him for the remarkable prophet he was.
Jesus had done the opposite, enjoying life, eating and drinking and being with people, but their reactions to him were negative too.
Neither John nor Jesus looked or acted in ways that the religiously “wise and intelligent” would expect.
The “children” didn’t like their “gifts.”
You just couldn’t satisfy them.
“Next Jesus let fly on the cities where he had worked the hardest but whose people had responded the least, shrugging their shoulders and going their own ways. ‘Doom to you Chorazin! Doom, Bethsaida! If Tyre and Sidon had seen half of the powerful miracles you have seen, they would have been on their knees in a minute. At Judgment Day, they’ll get off easy compared to you. And Capernaum! With all your peacock strutting, you are going to end up in the abyss.
It seems that the people of Capernaum had just chosen to ignore Jesus altogether
They were indifferent to the message of salvation
They weren’t notorious for their sins the way some other cities were
They were just too smart for what he had to offer
They had just continued with business as usual while the redeemer was in their midst
Jesus was fed up
But then, right there in front of everybody, Jesus started praying,
“Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.
You concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people.
There were some who accepted Jesus, and these were the “little” people, the unpretentious people who came to him with a childlike trust
after lambasting the high-and-mighty, and giving thanks for the few believers, Jesus suddenly turned around and offered some of the gentlest words in Scripture:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me.
Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Jesus had been fuming with righteous anger.
He’d stopped to pray.
And then he’d turned with tenderness toward the crowd to invite them to rest in his love.
Maybe it was like one of those moments we’ve experienced when our children are behaving badly and we’re letting them have it,
and in the middle of our tirade, we’re suddenly filled with a parent’s compassion.
Suddenly, that child who has rebelled against us and annoyed us to no end appears needy to us.
We’re so overcome with love that we want to take him into our arms and hold him.
Maybe that’s what happened with Jesus.
Maybe he was so overcome with love and compassion for his high-and-mighty, do-it-yourself, unbelieving, untrusting people that he just wanted to take them in his arms.
“Come to me.
It’s not about being perfect.
It’s not about being intelligent.
It’s not about keeping the rules impeccably.
Come to me, learn from me, walk with me, rest in me.
If you’re trying to save yourself, you’ll never do it.
You’re in for a life of frustration.
Yoked to me, partnered with me, life is easy.
The apostle Paul knew all about the struggle.
Paul had learned the hard way.
A strict and pious Jew, he had tried to earn salvation by keeping the law and failed.
Having found his peace in Christ, he admits in the Romans passage that we read this morning,
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…as it is, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it…what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Later in the passage he concludes, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
In giving up trying to do it himself, and giving his life over to Christ, Paul was freed.
Paul understood the peace of coming to Christ with a childlike faith, in resting in the arms of God.
That is the invitation that Jesus gave to the crowd this day.
If we read further into the chapter, we find that Jesus’ invitation went unaccepted.
The Pharisees were hard to convince.
It’s hard for us to believe too, isn’t it?
It’s hard to believe that we don’t have to do anything to receive God’s love.
It’s hard for us to surrender to him, to relax in his arms with a childlike trust.
I wonder how many of us are making life hard for ourselves by feeling we have to save ourselves.
How many of us are trying to work, and think, and achieve our way into salvation?
It’s hard to believe God could love us just the way we are.
There must be something we have to do.
It’s especially hard for us as Americans.
America is the home of Davey Crockett, who conquered the wild frontier and Wyatt Urp, who tamed the wild west.
We honor and value independence, self-sufficiency, and strength.
Hard work and perseverance have made us the great country that we are.
We Americans don’t like to be dependent on anyone.
And yet, that’s exactly what Jesus is asking us to do.
He says, “Come to me when you’re overwhelmed and burnt out and tired of trying to do it all.
Bring me your burdens.
Come to me.
Rest in me.”
In Palestine, ox-yokes were made of wood
The ox was brought, and the measurements were taken
The yoke was then roughed out and the ox was brought back to have the yoke tried on
The yoke was carefully adjusted, so that it would fit well, and not chafe the neck of the animal
The yoke was tailor-made to fit the ox.
God knows each one of us personally and completely
He knows about our successes and failures
He knows what’s brought us joy and what’s brought us sorrow
He knows our gifts and graces
He knows our inadequacies and fears
He knows the exact work that each of us was created to do
And so, he fits his yoke perfectly to us, and it’s like no one else’s
He says to us, “My yoke is easy.”
The word “easy” in the Greek means “well-fitting.”
It’s not a yoke that allows us to do nothing
It’s a yoke that allows us to do the work we’re made for with ease because we’re walking beside Jesus
We’re working yoked to the stronger, more experienced one who walks beside us
We watch him
We learn from him
When its uphill, we allow him to carry more of the load because he knows how
When we stumble in the mud, we let him pick us up again
We aren’t yoked to a wagon all by ourselves with Jesus as a task-master standing over us with a whip, saying, “Move this way, pull faster, pull harder.”
No, we’re yoked to Christ, the one who pulls for us, pulls with us.
So how do we live surrendered to Christ?
We must come to Christ in prayer
Every day, every moment, with every breath we breathe
We breathe in the breath of life
And as we breathe out, we surrender to him
We give up our difficult yoke of carrying everything ourselves
What are the unnecessary things we carry?
One is guilt or regret over the past
We can’t do anything today while carrying or pulling our accumulated burdens from yesterday
We can confess our sins to God and let God forgive us
We can make amends to people we’ve hurt
And then we move on
Another unnecessary thing we carry is fear of the future
We have to remember that God has gotten us through difficult times before and God will do it again
We need to release the future to Jesus and trust that he’ll be walking beside us every step of the way
We might also carry the belief that we need to be more than we are or that we need to be like someone else
Remember, our yoke is made just for us
Jesus asks us only to be ourselves, to do what we can
There is work that only we and Christ can do together
And we must give up the belief that we have to know everything and do everything ourselves
We were never meant to live this life without the help of God and others
We need to ask for help – in prayer from God, from friends and family, from pastors and counselors
We were never expected to always know the way to go
We were never meant to pull the whole load ourselves
And we have to let go of perfectionism
The Pharisees were perfectionists and it lead to bondage and death
There’s a saying I like:
“Perfectionism is death by self.”
Perfectionism is constantly trying to fit ourselves to the part of the yoke that’s too big for us
But surrender to Christ is to wear the part of the yoke that fits just right
Jesus says, “Come to me.”
Rest in me
Walk with me
I love you completely and accept you as you are
I will take you into the future unafraid
And together we will do the work that only you and I can do together
AFFIRMATION Apostle’s Creed, Ecumenical Version
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION AND THANKSGIVING AND THE LORD’S PRAYER
CHARGE & BLESSING