by Rev. James Mattek
Scripture: Matthew 11:28-30
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
It is my distinct privilege to proclaim God's word to you today, and I come to you in the name of your Savior and mine, our brother, Jesus, who helps us bear the burdens of life.
About three years ago, I was sitting with my family at the supper table, and my daughter Rachel, who was 16 at the time suddenly asked, "Dad, what is it you really do?" I think that was a fair question because ever since she could remember, I was a parish pastor and she came to church with Mom and the rest of the kids on Sunday morning and Dad was up in front, and now Dad wasn't doing that any more. What is it I really do?
I used that as a teaching moment. I said, Rachel, what we do is really help people through the sometimes difficult transitions of life. More specifically, when it comes to seniors, we help them as they are becoming a little bit less independent—with a nursing home, assisted living, senior retirement. People who need help from our counselors—people who are trying to transition to a healthier way of looking at life and at themselves. We have a family ministry program that helps young couples transition into a Godly role as mom and dad. We have a ministry to teenagers which helps young people transition to a role of leader among their peers and some day leaders in the congregation.
Ultimately, the most important transition of life that we all need help is the transition into the family of God and, ultimately, transition into our Lord's heavenly home. Until that happens, an awful lot of water is under the bridge. Lots of burdens. Lots of challenges. Lots of struggles. And that's what I'm going to talk to you about a little bit this morning—bearing with life's burdens.
Before we get into this beautiful portion of God's word from Matthew's Gospel, I'd like to have you picture something in your mind. I'd like to have you erase from your mind all the distractions, all the responsibilities of today and this coming week, and just picture this if you don't mind.
This picture, unfolded almost every school day during the football season when I was in high school. The routine was the same every day: done with classes, go to the locker room, put on your football gear, grab your helmet, head across the practice field, and meet as a team. But I'd like to have you picture this—almost every single day, I would see this happen: once we were out on the field meeting, out of the school comes one of my best friends. Smallest guy in school, he was our trainer—our manager. And he would have slung over his shoulder a huge burlap sack that was bigger than he was, full of football gear. And he would come struggling across the practice field, and almost every single day he would go half way across, throw it down on the ground, catch his breath, pick it back up, and sling it back over his shoulder to make his way over toward us. It was actually pretty comical to watch!
I'd like to have you picture that in your mind because it's a picture of you, and it's a picture of me. It's not the practice football field, it's the practice field of life. And what we are struggling to carry is not football equipment. Instead it is the burdens of life.
I'd like to have you picture the burdens of life as being like stones. Every time we don't deal well with life it's kind of like we're adding another stone to our burlap sack—before you know, we've got quite a burden. A person doesn't have to be very old. A person doesn't have to have walked very far across the practice field of life before suddenly, unknowingly, unwittingly, we begin to add stones to our burlap sack.
There are two ways in which we add stones. I'd like to have you think about these two ways.
First way is through rejection.
The second way is through regret.
Rejection—that's just life—but if we respond to the rejection inappropriately or even sinfully, we end up unwittingly, unknowingly adding weight—stones-- to our burlap sack that we carry through life. All you have to do is not make the tryout. Not make the grade. Not pass the test. Don't get the part. You like somebody but they don't like you back. You're not part of the "cool" crowd.
Now a lot of those things are out of our control, but if we don't handle rejection appropriately, it doesn't take long before a person can become cynical, sour, sarcastic—all you have to do is be bullied, somebody call you names, somebody makes fun of you. As you get older, you don't get into the school you want, you don't get the job you desire. You're overlooked for advancement, you don't get the position, you're fired for no good reason, she leaves you. It doesn't take long before all of a sudden you picture yourself walking across the practice field of life kind of bent over, weighed down--not real happy. The rejections of life can add weight to our burden.
But then there are also the regrets of life. One stone after another, from things that we didn't do right, didn't do well, or maybe simply sinned. The time we lost our temper. The time we lost control. The time we lost our pride. The time we lost our priorities. The time we lost our innocence. One sinful stone after another. And it gets heavy. It chafes, it bends us over, it steals our joy.
No wonder people are so grumpy. No wonder people are in conflict. No wonder they don't get along. No wonder they are not optimistic. It's hard to be optimistic about the future and joyful in the present when you have not dealt appropriately with the past.
So what do people do? They need rest. They want peace. They want some relief. And left to ourselves, it's amazing what human beings do in order to get some kind of rest from all this.
Some people sling their sack of burdens over their shoulder and they go to the gym with it. They leave it at the door, they work out and get kind of sweaty—lose a few pounds, look in the mirror—things are smaller, things are looking better, time to go home, and it's still there at the door isn't it? It didn't go anywhere. So you pick it up and you take it home.
You still have not really found the solution. You've not found rest or relief, or peace. So, you take it to school or you take it to work. Maybe you can try real hard and overachieve. So you go to the school, you go to the office, go to the plant, throw it down at the door, you do real well, you get a pat on the back, you get a good grade, you're feeling really good, and when it's time to go home—it's still there. So you pick it up and sling it over your shoulder and you go home.
What you do now? Maybe a person should try happy hour. With a name like that it's got to help, right? And so you sling it over your shoulder, you go to the bar, you drop it down by the barstool, you belly up to the bar, you have a couple, you tell some jokes, the music is nice, the company is pretty good, you're feeling fine, it's time to go home—it hasn't gone anywhere. It's still there. So you pick it up, sling it over your shoulder and trudge home.
It's hard even to be nice when you've got the burdens of life weighing you down. But one of the sad realities of this picture is that we tend to throw stones at the people we claim to love the most. What do we do? Paul in Ephesians said, the man who loves his wife, loves himself. Very closely connected to our ability to love others appropriately, the Bible says, is our ability to love ourselves, and how can we love ourselves with all of this burden staring us in the face? I don't know.
So we have the words of Jesus before us this morning:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
There might be a cynic in the crowd this morning, I don't know, but there might be. In case there is, that cynic might be asking a question such as, you know—I've tried religion and it hasn't really done a lot for me. I've sat in the pew, and you know, it just doesn't give me a lot of peace and hope and relief. If a person here is thinking along those lines at all this morning, allow me to ask you a few questions.
Would you agree with me that it's possible to try religion and not find God? Would you agree that it's possible to sit in the pew on Sunday mornings and not see Jesus?
Jesus says to you and me this morning Come to me. And if you are hesitant, you're very human, but it's not just anybody inviting you—it's a real and loving Son of God who is inviting you this morning and saying come to me . . . come to me with your burdens.
You might be thinking, but how can I do that? I've drifted so far, I've sunk so low.
Well Jesus knows it! You're not keeping a big secret from him. He knows it all already. This would be too good to be true—I've borne this burden all my life, I know nothing different. Jesus knows. He knows that spiritually we're not perfectly sanded, stained, and polished. He knows all that already. And to those us who are like that and that's, I think 100% of us, he says, come to me anyway. Come to me—let me handle that for you, and he says it with a smile on his face. He says it with love in his heart. He says it knowing you and everything about you. Come to me . . . all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.
He does not invite you reluctantly, he's inviting you enthusiastically. He knows you need help. He knows you need him.
One of the most beautiful passages of all of scripture goes like this:
For the joy set before him, he endured the cross.
Did you catch that? It almost sounds like a contradiction. For the joy set before him . . . he endured the cross. What in the world could be joyful about going to die on a cross? What could fill the mind of Jesus with joy as he anticipates his own execution? What could fill his mind with joy as he anticipates having his palms and feet punctured? What could fill his heart with joy – think about it – what could fill his heart with joy at the thought of being burdened with the sins of the entire world?
The answer is that when he was going to the cross and thinking in terms of his own execution, he saw you! He saw me! The thought of us being back together in God's good graces brought him joy. The thought of allowing us, enabling us, empowering us by his spirit to be able to live productive Christian lives brought him joy. The thought of his Godly family back together again brought him joy, and the thought of having you and me absolutely forever in a perfect heavenly home brought him joy, and so the person who is inviting you this morning to come to him is not somebody who is doing it reluctantly or having not thought about it a little bit. He did everything necessary. He's very well acquainted with burden bearing. Matter of fact, all the burdens in our burlap sack, he's already dealt with. The Heavenly Father blamed him for them as if he had committed those transgressions. You trust in him—God . . . forgiven. You're adorned with the righteous life of Jesus and the Heavenly Father smiles down upon you, and he can't wait to get you into his heaven.
It is not a reluctant Savior that invites you. He says come to me . . . bring those burdens to me. . . and I'll give you rest. Matter of fact, he promises that he will replace the burden with a burden that's no burden at all. And that is the burden of forgiveness. The burden of peace. The burden of relief. The burden of knowing that your life has a Godly purpose to it. The burden of knowing that Heaven is guaranteed. The burden of knowing that God loves you so much that he has tattooed your name on the palms of his hands, and he has written your name in the book of life. He is preparing a custom-made heavenly home for you as I speak.
Now picture yourself walking across the practice field of life, no longer bent over, no longer grumpy, no longer cantankerous. As a matter of fact, you're even starting to love yourself because you see what God has made you into—he has transformed you.
Come to Jesus, leave your burden with him. The people around you will be happy you did! It's very difficult to throw stones at people when you left them all at the foot of the cross.
The practice field of life—burden less. Picture it. Know it. Believe it. Feel it. Amen.
Jesus Calms The Storm by Metropolitan Mor Eustathius Matta Roham
The Gospel narrates that after a long day of ministry, Jesus wanted to cross the Sea of Galilee. While traveling He fell asleep. .. When Jesus rises from His sleep, He does not at first speak to the disciples, but to the winds and the waves, telling them to be quiet and to be still. By doing so, Jesus eliminates their reason to be afraid. ...
It is I; do not be afraid by Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
We often ask: why God does not save us from the storm? Storms are part from our human nature and from the changing conditions of this world. Jesus did not come to change the weakness of the human nature or the physical conditions of this world, but to change the hearts of men and women. He does not always stop the storms, but he is always present with us in the storms to give us the inner strength to weather the storms.
How to Face Life's Storms by Dr. Stephen Felker
I have gone through several storms in my life. At times God allowed the storm or defeat to get my eyes back on Jesus. At times I believe God was just strengthening my character, and teaching me some important lessons. But through it all, I can say that none of those storms really hurt me, but only made me a better person.
What Should I Do When Trials Come? by Steve Brandon
I hope that you would get beyond, "survival mode," which simply seeks to endure until the trial is done. Such a response, though natural for us, fails to see God's purpose for you within your trials. My heart is that you would see God's purposes in the trials in your life and respond appropriately when they come.
Who's to Blame for Human Suffering?
I daresay that if the innocent suffer they do so because one of us -- you or me or some other thug -- now or in the past has set their pain in motion. If the innocent continue to suffer they do so because we have yet to take responsibility for their pain; we have yet to take sufficient responsibility for their relief.
Suffering | General Sermons | Lectionary Sermons | Spiritual/Moral Articles | Malankara World Journal | Malankara World Library
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