Monday, July 10, 2017
"I Will Trust (and rest) in the Lord" - Sermon, July 9, 2017
Community UMC, Quincy
“I Will Trust (and rest) in the Lord”
July 9, 2017
Pastor Andrew Davis
Romans 7: 15-25a
Matthew 11: 16-19, 20-25
Did you enjoy the extra day off this week? How about the Four-day weekend if you got Monday off? I do admit that it’s kind of an odd placement when the Fourth falls on a weekday, as Wednesday sure felt like Monday, even though I worked through the afternoon on Sunday and some of Monday before heading to Reno for a lunch meeting. But having that extra day off and going up to Frenchman Lake very early for some morning fishing action was nice too, well before the water-skiers and jet-skis hit the lake, which can be fun too since fishing won’t really be good from the bank until later in the evening. Plus there’s nothing like a fresh, lake-to-fork dinner as well!! Although, somehow, I don’t think that we’ll be getting a five day weekend out of it next year, as the Fourth falls on a Wednesday. Nonetheless, I always enjoy and appreciate the extra little bit of time off and extra sabbath since sabbath is going to be a little hard to come by these next couple weeks, as I'll be helping with the Girls Chrysalis Flight in Ranch Cordova Thursday until Saturday then with VBS starting a week from Monday. But, it's still going to be worth it, especially as we welcome a number of children onto our campus for VBS, an important outreach.
While I typically take Friday as my Sabbath where I intentionally don’t do anything church related (although will respond in a life or death emergency), Saturday is usually my day to work in the yard or around my home and do laundry, basically all my domestic stuff, then read, re-read, and polish my sermon for Sunday. But it’s that Friday sabbath that I always look forward to each week, as it’s a time to rest, regardless of whether it’s been quiet or really busy. And I know that one of my greatest faults is that I have a tendency to overcommit myself and can sometimes be a work-a-holic, which is easy to do when you’re single and live by yourself. And given the culture we live currently live in, it’s one that readily encourages us to constantly go-go-go, not really encouraging us to take time for rest except to sleep at night and even then, six hours or a little less is average compared to the recommended eight hours we should be striving for (now for John Wesley, it was five hours for men, six hours for women; although several of those waking hours were to be spent in prayer and Bible study). I don’t know about you, but 4am is an ungodly hour to be awake, but that’s just me and I know it does work for others.
Our present day culture is also like having to have more-more-more, and that includes getting the most productivity we can out of every waking hour that we have. Yet sometimes, in my case where I wrestle a lot, it feels like I have a greater purpose in life when I engage in many activities at once and give more-more-more, but I also have to ask myself, does doing this bring me joy? Does doing all of this stuff give me purpose in life? Am I trusting in the Lord while doing all of these activities, whether it's what I'm called to do or me just doing it to add more to my plate? And, am I intentionally taking adequate time to rest and do something renewing, something I really enjoy? I have to admit that at times, things do get a little hectic both here and in life and I think all of us have been in a place where we feel a little overwhelmed and burned out here and there, which can cause the body, mind, and spirit to get a little out of whack. It’s kind of like last week when I shared that I always looked forward to my family’s Fourth of July BBQ, but after a number of years, the amount of work was becoming a lot and it was time to take a rest from hosting, although the property still has to get mowed to the ground before the fourth. However, as much as we want to or feel that we need to be productive every waking hour, regular rest and renewal is something that is important in our journey of faith and life as disciples of Jesus. We need to trust in our Lord when our Lord says it’s time to rest.
I also need to admit that this morning’s entire Gospel lesson is a bit of a challenge for the preacher, as there are almost two messages in one, yet I can’t help but constantly reflect on Jesus’s words in Matthew 11: 28, “come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Jesus is once again offering a chance to learn from him, an invitation to discipleship even though he and John had just been rejected by the present generation of their time earlier in the chapter with John the Baptist being a seen as crazy person and Jesus as a glutton and drunk because he was always dining with and hanging out with the tax collectors, the poor, and others who were often marginalized. However, Jesus still makes the invitation to learn from him with those who are typically seen as outsiders to the Roman empire, the poor, the sick, the outcast, the children, and all of the people who are vulnerable in society. Even we in todays world can take up this invitation to come to Jesus, to trust in him, and learn from him because he is offering everyone, as well as us a chance to rest from things that trouble us. And like the time when the Gospel of Matthew was written, Jesus was talking about living in “God’s empire” which is a lot more “life-giving” than the empires of the world, hence a reason why I tend to view the world as God’s kingdom, and why I trust God over trusting the rulers or nations of the world of now. Gods Kingdom is much more powerful and has so much more to offer in giving life and a place where we can find rest. But as a people of the Christian faith, it’s about trusting and resting in our Lord, which given how things are going in our world right now, we need to trust and rest in our Lord more than ever!!
That’s the heart of the Gospel reading today, and even in Paul’s letter to the Romans, particularly how he talks of being a ‘slave to sin’ (which I admit I don’t like the word slave, but also understand that it’s a different time period). I believe that we are able to trust in the Lord and even rest in the Lord, we are able to find rest from our sin and learn from Jesus, who in addition to rest, can give us life when we take up his invitation to a life of discipleship, even today which can also free us from sin. It is a new way of life, but will still have its challenges and pitfalls, even when we rest and trust in our Lord. But no matter what the case is, Paul puts it best when he proclaims that “the answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7, 25a, NLT).
When we trust and rest in Jesus Christ our Lord and savior, we can live a whole new life, even though it does not necessarily mean escaping the world that we presently live in, although we can definitely give Jesus our troubles and burdens whenever we pray. It's something I'm still working on, especially In my moments of anxiety and depression, as I do have what theologian St. John of the Cross calls ‘a dark night of the soul’ here and there when these things come up. While I do have my ways of managing anxiety and depression, I try to keep trusting and resting in our Lord amidst the chaos or dark nights. And regardless of what might be bothering us or what we might be dealing with, whether it's mental illness, addiction, recovery, general illness, injury, or whatever is going on in life, we are still given this invitation by Jesus to take his yoke, trust him, and find rest in him.
Even though we don’t physically see Jesus, we still trust him and feel his presence through the Holy Spirit. Colin Yuckman, a doctoral student at Duke Divinity School explains that
as disciples, we do not simply attempt to duplicate the actions of an absent master; on the contrary, we rely on the ongoing presence of Jesus himself. This, too, is included in what Jesus means by "rest." As Matthew reminds us early on, Jesus bears the name of the one promised in Isaiah: Immanuel, "God with us" (1:23). All who take the yoke of discipleship upon them can experience a kind of new creation sustained by the ongoing presence of the Creator in a life of discipleship.
When I think of resting in Jesus and taking up this yoke of discipleship, I know that I can trust in our Lord, even when I take a day away from the grind of life to escape it's routines and renew my soul or even in the midst of my anxiety or depression; when I said yes to taking the yoke of discipleship, I have come to believe that we CAN receive new life when we trust and rest in our Lord, whether it's living a new life by breaking a bad habit, turning an attitude around, living a healthier lifestyle, and keeping our eyes on Jesus, allowing him to guide our feet, hold our hand, and stand by us. But it takes that step of accepting the invitation, whether it's one time, or many times. We can trust and rest in Jesus.
As disciples, Jesus says to rest in him, lay our burdens on him, and more importantly, trust in him, especially when we are weary or tired or troubled, or experiencing a ‘dark night of the soul.’ As I said earlier, it is no wonder why we have more people who are stressed out and burned out than ever before because we live in a world of more…more productivity, more doing, more, more, more. Unless it’s a life or death situation, we can trust in our Lord that whatever we didn’t finish today will still be there tomorrow, unless skipping that task causes harm, or could lead to disciplinary action by your supervisor. There’s definitely a tension in rest and work, but when you do get a day or two off, definitely try to take the time to rest, even spend some of that time in prayer by walking with our Lord Jesus, trusting, and resting in him.
As we are in the midpoint of the summer and may have a little extra time in between things, I encourage all of us to take that time to rest and renew, and even play; take that time to rest in Jesus as we trust him when he says to “come unto me, and I will give you rest.” When we trust and rest in our Lord, let’s emerge with this new life and a renewed energy so we that can continue walking with Jesus as his hands and feet in our world, being and making disciples, changing the world for the better, and sharing the Good News of the Gospel with everyone who we encounter.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let the church say, Amen!
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