The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 9A (July 6, 2014)

LessonsZechariah 9:9-12 Psalm 145:8-14 (8) Romans 7:15-25a St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Semicontinuous Series Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 Psalm 45:10-17 (7) or Song of Solomon 2:8-13

Prayer of the Day You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised. You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

11:16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

11:25 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.”

St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Can There Possibly Be Rest for Our Souls

We live in busy times. Distracted driving is a problem in our society. Automobile operators imagine there is so much to do, that it makes no sense to carve out time to focus, exclusively, on driving. During the morning commute it is not unusual to observe drivers talking on their phones, sending texts, eating breakfast, and combing their hair or applying their makeup. Google “distracted driving” and you’ll get more than 3.7 million results in 0.30 seconds (including this image). Googling “distracted driving pledge” will produce more than 1.5 million results — maybe we all ought to follow one of those links, and challenge ourselves to become safer drivers.

Distracted living is also a problem. It seems that every new opportunity (and every new technological innovation!) makes us just a bit busier than we were the day before it arrived. When the electric clothes washing machine became available commercially in the 1930s, people imagined how much time it would free up for them. In reality, no time was saved. People just adopted the expectation that they have clean clothing every day, instead of once a week. As a leader in a faith community, I have wondered if participating in the life of our congregation makes life busier, more challenging, or more frustrating for already-too-busy people.

That’s why this week’s word from Jesus is so intriguing for me. He begins by asserting that the people of his day have inappropriate expectations of their religious authorities. (John lived in such an austere manner that they accused him of having a demon; Jesus lived in such a celebratory manner that they accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard.) He then declares there is a hidden wisdom in what he has to offer that will confound the “wise and intelligent,” and be embraced by infants. Finally, he announces that those who come to him will experience an easy yolk and a light burden. He will give not an additional assortment of tasks to accomplish, meetings to attend, and projects to support, but [wait for it…] rest. Rest! “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Rest for the soul is what Jesus promises.

We’re not looking for rest, of course. We may need it, but we rarely seek it. Rather, we are inclined to seek more, and more, and more. We even evaluate our Christian congregations by measuring how much more there is this year than last. In contrast to this, Jesus promises that if we yoke ourselves to him (instead of this world’s vain expectations of growth and success) we will find rest. Rest for our souls. Rest that puts us at ease in the presence of God. Rest that nourishes us, and strengthens us, and allows us to live more fully than if we were distracted by the more we imagine we need. Rest that comes from entrusting ourselves to the one who loves us enough to die for us, and who invites us into a new way of living and loving and believing.

This is not easy, in a society that celebrates hard work, busy schedules, personal achievement and stories of dramatic success. But we hear, this week, from a Savior who knows what we need most. Rest for our souls is what he prescribes for us. Rest that comes from knowing God already loves us enough to die for us. Rest that allows us to experience what the Apostle Paul called the “peace of God that passes all understanding.”

May the presence of Christ in our lives give true rest for our souls. And resting in him, may the witness of our lives inspire others to see the power and presence of God.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why is it important for Jesus’ disciples to experience the rest that comes from knowing him?
  2. How does this contrast with the religious conventions of their day?
  3. What examples does the New Testament provide for when this happens?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Do my faith convictions make me busier, or help me experience rest in my soul?
  2. What habits can I build into my life that will allow me to more fully experience the soulful peace that Jesus wants me to know?
  3. How might the life of my own congregation promote the rest for our souls that Jesus promises?