Rest

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Psalm 45:10-17; Romans 7:15-25; Matthew 11:16-19; 25-30 – July 5, 2020

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS 24:34-48

We’ve seen God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah result in the birth of a son Isaac.  Last week we saw Abraham pass the ultimate test of his faith in being willing to sacrifice his only son in obedience to God’s command.  We saw how God interceded and provided a ram in the thicket.

This week we pick up the story of Isaac when he is a grown young man. Isaac’s mother Sarah has died and Abraham determines that it is time for Isaac to find a wife.  Abraham instructs his servant to go to the land from which Abraham came and find a wife for Isaac.  The servant does as instructed, and when he gets there in prayer he asks God to show him which woman is the one God wants Isaac to marry.  He asks that the first woman who responds to his request for a drink and offers to water his camels will be the one.  The first woman he meets who fulfills these requirements turns out to be Rebecca, the daughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor.  Hear the words of Abraham’s servant from Genesis 24:34-38. 42-29.  When Rebekah’s family heard Abraham’s servant’s story they called for Rebekah.  Read 58-67.

INTRODUCTION TO MATTHEW

As we read last week Jesus’ gave explicit instructions to his disciples to prepare them for their first missionary journey.  In chapter 11, Jesus has finished their instructions and sent them on ahead and then Jesus proceeds to follow them and teach and proclaim his message in their cities.  Jesus’ cousin John, whom we call John the Baptist, is in prison and has heard about what Jesus has been doing and sends a message from prison asking Jesus if he really is the Messiah or should he look for another.  Prison tends to make people doubt, especially those on death row.  Jesus responds with an encouraging message to John and then launches into a praise of John as the greatest of all the prophets.   In verse 16 Jesus laments the fickleness of the generation to whom he and John came with God’s message of the kingdom.  Hear the word of God from Matthew 11:16-19 and then 25-30.

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Are you weary?  Are you carrying heavy burdens?  Some of us are weary from work.  Some of us are weary from not being able to work. Others of us are weary from worry. A lot of our fatigue is mental and emotional. I am always amazed at the number of things some people find to worry about.

An elderly woman at the nursing home received a visit from one of her fellow church members.  “How are you feeling?” the visitor asked.

“Oh,” said the lady, “I’m just worried sick!”
“What are you worried about, dear?” her friend asked. “You look like you’re in good health. They are taking care of you, aren’t they?”
“Yes, they are taking very good care of me.”
“Are you in any pain?” she asked.
“No, I have never had a pain in my life.”
“Well, what are you worried about?” her friend asked again.
The lady leaned back in her rocking chair and slowly explained her major worry. “Every close friend I ever had has already died and gone on to heaven,” she said. “I’m afraid they’re going to think I’m not coming!”    (2)


In our gospel lesson, Jesus laments that people could not grasp the message that he and his cousin John came to bring.  Jesus described them as acting like children who complain when people won’t follow THEIR lead! (Know any children like that?)  They complained when they wanted to play the flute and be joyful and celebrate and John wouldn’t join them. They complained because John lived the austere life of a prophet, eating locusts and wild honey and fasting and not drinking (which might be easier to fast if all you ate was honey dipped locust—Fear Factor wilderness style).

 They complained that when they wanted to mourn and wail that Jesus partied hard with folks that were not their kind of people.

They were acting like babies and yet, there were real infants that got it. Jesus said the wise ones of this world were stumped but the “infants” in the ways of the world caught on to who John and Jesus were and what they were about.  Then Jesus invites his hearers to come to him.  He invites them to not listen to the generation of complainers, the whiners. He invites them to not listen to those who claim to be wise in this world, but to listen to the infants to whom God has revealed who John and Jesus are.  Jesus says that those who come to him will be truly free.  

This week as we prepared to celebrate our nation’s birthday there was much talk about freedom.  On July 4th we celebrate our Independence from being a mere colony of Britain.  It is said that King George wrote in his diary, July 4, 1776, “Nothing of importance happened today.” Well, we think something of importance happened, and we are grateful that it did.

We may celebrate freedom FROM England, but true freedom is not only freedom FROM, it is freedom TO.  We celebrate freedom FROM England, but it is also a Freedom TO be the United States of America.  As Christians who have been forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ we celebrate freedom FROM sin and the freedom TO serve.  In Jesus we are freed FROM being unequally yoked to sin and freed TO be yoked to Jesus and to followers of Jesus TO serve others in his name and share his love with others.

Nicky Gumbel is an Episcopal priest in London and he tells a story about the day he was pressed into service to referee a football game. (We call it soccer)  I’ve always thought it ironic that in American Football only four people per are actually allowed to touch the ball with their feet—punters and field goal and kick off kickers. In European football, soccer, the only people are allowed to touch the ball with their hands are the goalies, players who are out of bounds and the referees. .

Nicky said that he didn’t really know the rules, but the regular referee didn’t show and Nicky was the only dad there.  So Nicky began to referee.  It soon became evident to the children that Nicky didn’t know the rules and so they started breaking them….and pretty soon they were breaking each other.  It escalated into mayhem until the real referee arrived.  He took the whistle in hand restored order and the boys got on with playing and had a fabulous time.

For a few minutes they experienced freedom FROM the rules of the game for a few minutes, and lost the joy of the game.  But when they took on the yoke of order, they were able to experience the freedom to play the game and enjoy it.

Jesus calls us to enjoy the freedom OF being yoked to him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and let me teach you for I am humble and gentle at heart and you shall find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light.”

Are any of you tired or weary and carrying heavy burdens? The stress on people today has been well documented–particularly those with families. There are many people today working full-time on the job and then working just as hard off the clock meeting their responsibilities at home.

Kim Bolton tells of a workday to which that many moms can relate. She looked around at mounds of unwashed laundry and un-mopped floors, and she silently dedicated herself to a day full of cleaning. And just as she was getting into a cleaning rhythm, her two-year-old son called to her, “Hey, Mom, why dontcha come and sit wif me in da big chair.”

Kim protested. She tried to explain how busy she was. She promised to sit with him later. But he continued to smile that charming smile and pat the chair next to him. Finally, Kim put down her laundry and settled into the chair with her son. The two of them snuggled for a minute or so, and then her son patted her on the leg and said, “You can go now.”

In a hectic day, he had insisted that she take just a moment to rest with him. He understood her busyness, but he also understood that their time together was more important to both of them. In that moment, Kim Bolton said her two-year-old boy was an example of Jesus to her. (1) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” says Jesus, “and I will give you rest.”

Few emotions take a toll on us like worry does. Author Stephanie Stokes Oliver in her book, Daily Cornbread, asks whether we are worriers or warriors.  Chronic worriers let their anxiety and fear interfere with living their life to the fullest. They manifest their worry in physical symptoms like headaches and knotted muscles. Worriers seem unable to take control of their situation and make a positive change for themselves.

Warriors, on the other hand, find healthy ways to deal with their fears. They don’t automatically shut down and go into crisis mode. They trust that God will sustain them. Warriors take positive action to change a negative situation. (3)

Astronaut Jim Lovell is a warrior. In a news conference he was asked about Apollo 13. He was in command of that spacecraft when it experienced an explosion on its way to the moon. With their oxygen almost gone, their electrical system out, their spaceship plunging toward lunar orbit, it appeared Lovell and his crew would be marooned hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth.

Lovell was asked, “Were you worried?” Such as obvious question drew snickers. But then Lovell gave a surprising answer. “No, not really.” he said. “You see, worry is a useless emotion. I was too busy fixing the problem to worry about it. As long as I had one card left to play, I played it.” (4)

People who allow worry to overwhelm them will often complain of fatigue. Fatigue, they’ll tell you, is why they do not do anything about their situation.
Friends, you may be tired because of your work. You may be tired because of worry.  But more of us are tired because of what is happening in our brains than what is happening in the workplace. Negative thoughts will drain the life right out of you.

Some of the worry we experience may come to us from a breakdown in integrity. Nothing will drain us like the fear of discovery–always looking over our shoulder will not allow us to make much progress in the world.

Are you weary this morning? Weary from work? Weary from worry? Weary from guilt or fear? Hear again the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  

Jesus calls us to come to him and take him on…to follow him and that as we do so with others in ministry the load is lighter because it is shared.  Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  It’s still a yoke.  Work is still involved.  It’s more than taking a seat in a recliner. It’s strap on and let’s work together in partnership with your other brothers and sisters and we’ll make light work of it. 

Jesus calls us to celebrate freedom FROM the bondage of SIN and enjoy the freedom TO SHARE God’s love.  Jesus calls us to not only celebrate Freedom FROM being a Colony of another nation, but to celebrate the freedom TO SHARE God’s love with other NATIONS.  Jesus calls us to come to him even if we are in a dead-end job or we think we’re too busy to “come and sit wif me in da big chair.”  Jesus came to free us from worrying, especially about our friends who have gone to heaven thinking we’re not coming.  So let us answer Jesus call to come to him and let him give us…..rest.

Let’s pray.  We hear your invitation, Lord. Come. Rest. It sounds so appealing. Come! Rest! Come share the load with others.  Lord, lift us out of our self-concern and focus our attention upon your word of life. Help us to find rest for our souls. Amen.

1. Kim Bolton with Chris Wave, Finding God Between a Rock and a Hard Place, compiled by Lil Copan and Elisa Fryling (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1999), pp. 134-135.
2. bounce-jokeseveryday-1807004@ripple.dundee.net
3. Stephanie Stokes Oliver. (New York: Doubleday, 1999).
4. Second Thoughts–One Hundred Upbeat Messages for Beat-up Americans by Mort Crim, Health Communication, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida, 1997, p. 154.

                 Offering Song: “Abide With Me”  -Henry Lyte

On Friday I had a phone conversation with David Cade. In the course of our visit we got to talking about some of the old hymns.  I talked about the one I’ve been signing off with on my emails—“God be with you till we meet again.”  David said one of his favorites was “Abide with Me.”  I think that hymn is a great follow up to Jesus call for us to come to him when we are weary and weighed down. Abiding with Jesus is a great way to find rest.

I looked up the author of the hymn and found its history fascinating. It was written by Henry Lyte.  Henry was left an orphan at the age of nine and was taken in by a kind Irish minister named Dr. Robert Borrows. Even though Dr. Borrows had five children of his own, he took Henry in and paid for his schooling. Henry followed in Dr. Borrows’ footsteps and attended Trinity College in Dublin, where he won prizes and scholarships for poetry. Henry graduated in 1814 and became an ordained ministry of the Church of England.

Henry overworked himself taking care of the sick and soon had to visit France to regain health. Henry and his wife Anna spent their days carrying for the sick and needy every single day and visiting warmer France in the winter. Henry became ill with tuberculosis and was not expected to live much longer. At the age of 45, Henry prepared a farewell speech for the morning of September 4, 1847 which included the lyrics of “Abide With Me.” Henry Lyte passed away 10 weeks after preaching his farewell sermon.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

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