Ardmore Moravian Church
“Finding Rest and Making Work” July 9, 2017
Matthew 11:25-30 25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” According to the National Sleep Foundation, on any given night more than 40 million Americans did not get enough sleep. Our bodies are designed to get 6-8 hours of sleep per night if you’re an adult, even more if you’re younger. There are many reasons that we are getting less and less sleep. We live in a world where many people are more stressed and anxious than they ever had been. 18% of our population suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder. Our world seems to be getting more complex. People are feeling the stress of jobs, over half of people working in the US say they are not satisfied by their work. There is the stress of healthcare, finances, education, the emotional stresses of family and loved ones and I could go on down the list. And this lack of sleep builds up, it can take a toll on your physical and emotional health. Lack of sleep increases your risk of disease, it can lead to depression, and it effect memory. Our bodies are designed to need sleep. So why am I painting you a glooming picture and what does it have to do with Jesus’ words here in Matthews? I am bringing up all of this because I want to talk about rest and work. So let’s read back to what Jesus says and the verses we are going to focus on this morning: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” First, let’s get a little context to these verses. When Jesus is talking about a yoke, he is talking about something very specific. A yoke was a tool used to put over an animals’ shoulders so they could pull tools used to plow fields. But the word yoke had taken on another meaning in ancient times. The idea of a yoke became a metaphor for a rabbi’s teaching. The rabbis were Jewish teachers and rabbis would have a unique teaching or interpretation. And when you became a student or disciple of a rabbi you would take on their yoke. This symbolized your commitment to following that rabbi. These teachings or these yokes usually connected to how to keep the law in some way. And the pharisees at the time of Jesus had a particular yoke, or particular teaching on the law that was very specific. You had to follow the law in a very particular way to be in right standing with God. In order to be close to God you had to do things a certain way. You had to associate with certain people. You had to follow the law in a particular way in order to stay in relationship to God. If you did good things you got a check in the good column. And if you did bad things you got a check in the bad column. Your job was to make sure you had more on the good side than the bad. It was a rigid system but pretty straight forward. But this teaching, this system, this yoke, left you in a constant state of not knowing exactly where you stood. Are you doing what you need to in order to measure up? Are you making sure you are doing all the right things so that God will bless you, Are you making sure you don’t hang out with the wrong people, Or Believe the wrong things, Are you praying the right way, Singing the right songs, So that you stay in the good column? This system produces a massive amount of anxiety and it relies on some being in and some being out. And then Jesus comes in, some obscure Jewish rabbi no one has heard of saying: 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 What Jesus is saying here would have flipped the religious establishment on its head. Jesus is saying you don’t have to play the column game anymore. It is not about the ledger sheet of good and bad. Jesus is saying you are already blessed, you are already loved. The most true thing about you already is that you are a beloved Child of God. Now go and have the freedom to live and work for God’s goodness in the world without being bound to some artificial counting system for who gets in and who doesn’t. Do you see why the religious leaders wanted Jesus dead, he broke their whole system. So what does this have to do with us and why in the world did I talk about sleep at the beginning of this sermon? Those systems of counting didn’t go away did they? We continue to do the same thing today. Did you go to the right school, to get the right job, to buy the right house, to have the right family, to retire at the right time? Did I join the right club? Are my kids on the right team? Did I invest in the right 401(K)? Are there enough checks in the good column so that my life turns out to be a good one? Now don’t get me wrong. These things are important. You should care about your future, and want the best for your family, and try your best to live life to the fullest. But Jesus is warning us that if you make life about making sure you have all the right boxes checked you will be disappointed. Because that is not where real life come from. Playing the game of trying to get enough or to do all the right things to have the perfect life will always produce anxiety. Because we are always being told by the world around us to do more and more and more. And that is where Jesus messages speaks to us giving us words of comfort: 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 We can find true rest and true peace when we release ourselves from the constant battle of always having to do more. Jesus offers us rest and contentment because our identity is not tied up in what we do, or what we produce, or how well we parent. We can fully rest in truth that God loves you and finds you fully worthy exactly where you are. Now this does not mean we pass everything on to Jesus and we don’t have to do anything. We are still taking on a yoke. We are still taking on a way of life, a way to live in the world. This brings me to the second point we can draw from this passage and that is one of work. And by work I don’t necessarily mean what you do to pay the bills. In the passage Jesus is talking about his yoke - His way of living in the world. A rabbi’s teaching was not just abstract thoughts about God but they involved specific ways to live in the world. So when Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden is light - We are given a way to live in the world that is unique, that is different. We don’t have to function the way the world functions. We are free to do the good working of building God’s kingdom and growing God community. Free to do work that brings us life and brings life to others. And this can be done if you are a lawyer, a banker, a stay at home mom, or retired. Or that can be done by serving at a non-profit, or volunteering to read to kids, or making art. The work that brings you life doesn't have to be the same one that pays the bills, it can be and that’s great. We are all called to do good work no matter what form that takes, we have the opportunity to engage in work that brings us life and brings life to others. And we are free to do good work when we find our identity in God, not in how much we can do or produce. We can find rest for our souls because God has already claimed you as God’s own. Our identity is as a beloved child of God and nothing else. All of this is summed up well by Eugene Peterson’s translation of this in The Message: 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. And we have the opportunity today to do that today - to learn the unforced rhythms of Grace and to live freely and lightly, We can do that by coming to the table and partaking in communion. The communion table is a powerful symbol of our identity in Christ. A symbol of the yoke we take on. We come to this table to recognize what God did for us, by coming to this world, offering his life, and claiming each one of us as a beloved Child. The bread and the cup remind us that the way of Jesus is simple. It is about receiving what God did for us and it is about choosing to go and do good works. In a moment I will come to each of you with the bread, all are welcome to partake, but if you do not wish to do not feel pressured to, you can simply cross your arms and I can pray a blessing over you if you desire. Once we all have received the bread, we will partake together, and then we will do the same with the cup. Sermon by Pastor Chaz Snider - July 9, 2017