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Sermon: Weary No More. July 9, 2017

July 9, 2017

This sermon was preached in Martin, Slovakia:

“Weary No More”

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace be unto you and peace this day in the name of God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1. Greetings from all of the people of Grace Lutheran Church In River Forest, Illinois! It is a joy for us to be with you here in Martin again this year. I’m especially honored to be sharing the Good News with you this morning. If there’s anything I say that you don’t like, just blame Tomas; he’s probably translating incorrectly! As happy as I am to be here, I must confess something. I’m tired. Exhausted, really. I’m tired from adjusting to a new time zone; tired from two flights and a bus ride from Budapest; tired from long hours of work and from parenting three young children. I’m just tired. Fortunately, tomorrow we begin Vacation Bible School for over 200 children. That should be restful, right?
  2. Being tired, it seems, is just part of being human. The journey is long and the work seems so hard. We grow tired of watching the evil in the world and weary from the sin that lurks in our own hearts. And it seems that there’s often not much we can do about it. St. Paul writes that even when he tries to do what is right, he finds himself unable to do so. Where will we find our rest?
  3. I mentioned a moment ago that my wife and I are the parents of three children. Being their father can be exhausting, but it is also exhilarating. Nothing fills me with joy and wonder so much as being with these little ones. And this is true even when they are tired. When our oldest child, Greta, was a little one, she had a hard time falling asleep. Every night was a terrible struggle. She just would not give in to her weariness and fall asleep. So her mother or I would hold her, bounce her, sing to her, and shush her, often for almost an hour. Greta would flail against us, kicking and pushing. She would cry and scream. And this would go on until finally her body’s bone-weariness would win out. Until finally she would realize that she was exactly where she needed to be: safe in the arms of one who loved her more than anything. The tears would stop and peace would overtake her and we could finally lay her down to the rest she so deeply needed.
  4. Is this not how it is for us? Is not our tiredness, our weariness, our exhaustion the result of our refusal to sink deeply into the arms of the heavenly Father who loves us so much? We put so much energy into life – into our careers, into our families, in so many other directions – but we don’t know how to rest, how to recover. We try to do things on our own, but life catches up to us. Where then do we go? For all of our worldly intelligence, we often miss the point. And the point is that we don’t always have to try harder or work longer. We have to stop. We have to rest. We have to sink into the arms of the Father who loves us more than anything.
  5. Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel, has many challenging things to say. Take up the cross. Deny yourself. Lose your life. If we listen with human ears, it can begin to sound like Jesus just want us to work harder. Today, however, Jesus isn’t speaking to our ears. He speaks gently into our hearts and souls; he speaks gentle words of invitation to stop. To rest. To let him take the burdens of this world off our shoulders and replace them with the easy yoke of the gospel. He invites us to see once more that the sin we can’t avoid has nonetheless been forgiven. To hear once more that he has left his Father’s arms to come into this world, to live for us and to die for us, that we could finally find our rest. Like little Greta, we push back against this grace. We resist as long as we’re able. We just want to do it on our own! But it’s no use, for we were not made to make it on our own. As St. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”
  6. Yesterday, our group travelled to Rajecka Lesna to see Slovak Bethlehem, the masterful woodcarving by Jozef Pekara. It took him fifteen years to complete his work – I imagine he was exhausted when he was finished. I’m sure many of you have seen this masterpiece. About 200 of the 300 wooden figures are constantly moving. Some are washing clothes while others make wine. Some are working in a sawmill while others put horseshoes on a horse. Other figures, meanwhile, process constantly to see the three figures at the center of it all, the new parents Mary and Joseph and their newborn baby, Jesus. While so many of the wooden figures are in constant motion, the holy family stands still, in constant rest. In the center of all of this world’s commotion, Jesus rests and invites us to do the same. While we worry and work ourselves to the bone, Jesus rests, trusting that his Father has things under control. In his grace, Jesus invites us to come into his presence and find what we truly need: forgiveness for our sins and rest for our souls.
  7. In Jesus’ presence, we finally find where we belong. In Jesus’ call to us, we are able to drop the heavy burdens we have piled upon ourselves. Jesus invites us to leave our burdens at the foot of the cross and take his light yoke upon ourselves. I am grateful to be among you in Martin once more. Here, in this community, I’m reminded of what is most important. And that is Jesus, always and only Jesus. Yes, he has work for us to do. Spending a week with 200 children is work! But it is work that is light and easy, for it is work that is given to us by Jesus. The work of the gospel is never a demand; it is always work given to people who are free, people who belong to Jesus. So today, my friends, my prayer for each of us is that we would stop kicking and pushing; that we would instead simply feel the arms of our heavenly Father holding us tight and realize that we are each exactly where we need to be. God has given all things into Jesus’ hands and Jesus, in the center, has things under control. Come to Jesus. Come to Jesus, and find your rest. Amen.

And now may the peace that passes all human understanding keep you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, this day and forever. Amen.

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