Finding Rest in Jesus. July 5

Finding Rest in Jesus

Romans 7:15-25; Song of Songs 2:8-13; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Rev. Catherine E. Schuyler

Catskill United Methodist Church, and online.  July 5.

 

17‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

 

Have you seen the Venn diagram online, with intersecting circles labeled ‘worried about catching Covid-19,’ ‘concerned about our small businesses on Main Street,’ ‘dislike being told what to do,’ ‘love my spouse/sister/grandfather/self who is older than 70 dearly,’ ‘worried about the nation,’ ‘deeply opposed to racism,’ ‘proud of my hard-working ancestors,’ ‘worried about the world’?  In the center is the word ‘You.’  You are all these things, some of them seemingly contradictory, all of them true. We’re all in the middle of similar diagrams, many of them with a few extra circles of ‘wanting to go to worship with my church family’ and ‘worried about catching the corona virus from someone on a Sunday morning.’  We are torn in so many directions, most of which are attractive and convincing, and it is impossible to be part of all of them and impossible not to be.  I see that diagram when I hear Jesus talking to the crowds.  You are a mass of contradictions, he tells them.  John fasted and that wasn’t right; I revel with friends and disciples and that isn’t right.  The world was stressful and without clear answers then and it’s the same way today. 

 

To add to the confusion and challenge of the world we face, there’s the testimony of Paul, shared with us in the seventh chapter of Romans.   I do not what I wish, but I do what I don’t want to do.  I cannot get it all right.  I simply can’t.

 

We watched Hamilton on Friday night; maybe you did too.  The show portrays Alexander Hamilton as he was, a flawed man, brilliant, arrogant, loyal and disloyal both, hot-tempered and loving both.   Which doesn’t make him all that different from the apostle Paul, or from you or me.  I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate, says Paul.  What is Paul’s particular sin referenced here?  Perhaps it was a selfish moment with a friend. Perhaps it was a cutting remark offered in an otherwise friendly argument, words that he could never rescind.  Perhaps it was holding a grudge so long that the relationship never recovered.  Perhaps it was succumbing to temptation in a manner he had sworn off of years before.  Paul isn't specific about the sin.  He is specific about the feelings such sin invokes in him.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death? 

 

Most of us are not struck as Paul is by the general concept of sin, but we certainly have high standards of ethics, of what we should and shouldn't do, how we should conduct our lives.  And, like Paul, like Alexander Hamilton, like any of our heroes, famous or family, we fall short.   We fail to live up to the standards we have set for ourselves. We are lazy sometimes, or mean, or selfish or wrong-headed or stubborn.  And so, we err.  We hurt people we love, we lose opportunities to make things better, we damage causes we believe in strongly.  And once the damage is done, it's hard to undo, even when we are self-aware enough to offer apologies, which isn't all the time. 

 

The pain of which Paul speaks is not some penalty imposed by God, or by Paul's understanding of God.  It's a human feeling – regret and sorrow and wishing things had happened differently.  We often begin the thought process that accompanies sadness by looking back at whom to blame. Sometimes there is someone else to blame.  And sometimes there is no-one to blame but ourselves.  These are the situations Paul is referring to.  We mess up, sometimes badly, and without access to forgiveness, we are 'wretched' – lost, miserable, and without hope.  The answer lies in God's forgiveness, made manifest to the world through Jesus. 

 

Today there are people on the streets speaking their truth, people stuck at home, lonely and afraid, and those who just want things to go back as they were, a year ago, five years ago, twenty years ago.  We can’t do that.  So we face tomorrow, frustrated, disappointed, and looking for a ray of hope.  At the same time we face ourselves, guilty and so capable of getting things wrong. 

 

Jesus says, Come to me, all you who are weary and I will give you rest.  Come to me, come to my love, my grace, my power, and my peace.  This is the invitation we are given.  Come to Christ, to his way of living, to a center of love and grace. The contradictions of the world around us won’t go away, nor will we be relieved of responsibility to address them, but with Christ at our side, we know that the center of any strange Venn diagram, any complexity is love, the love of God made manifest in Jesus. 

 

Love won’t remove the corona virus from our neighborhoods or from our hospitals; Love will allow us the humility to limit risk and to wear masks and to maintain distance from one another in order to keep sickness from spreading. 

 

Love will not bring back the lives of those mourned by protesters in the streets, but it will guide us as we listen to grievances and find ways to address problems.

 

I am weary, just as Jesus says.  I am weary of trying to get it all right on my own, and I am weary of getting it wrong even if I figure it all out.  I am weary of being on edge with people whom I love, in case I disagree with them on something I or they feel strongly about.  Jesus offers a way through our weariness, a way of love, even for our enemies, or those whom others might think are  enemies.  Jesus offers a way of letting go of our need to be right and invites us to love and to listen, to get beyond our heavy-laden to-do lists that try to prove our worthiness.  Jesus offers a way of grace and peace, a way that binds us together, whether we gather in person or virtually via the internet. 

 

Grounding ourselves in the ways of love and truth is at the heart of taking Christ’s yoke upon us, to learn the gospel ways of living – love, forgiveness, peace, patience, gentleness.  Jesus’s promise isn’t simply a panacea to gloss over the pain of life, it isn’t even a creamy lotion to soften the outer skin of difficulties or grief.  Christ offers a new way of living, a grounding that pulls us away from insisting on winning or on showing ourselves brilliant or competent or wise.  Jesus says come to him, to the source of love, to the grace that lets go of the tentacles of nostalgia that keep us tied to the way things were once.  We can live into tomorrow, because he lives. Because in Jesus we can be free, forgiven, renewed day by day by the power of the Spirit, guiding us into paths of justice and love and truth.  Come to Jesus, walk in his ways, accept his grace, and live in his love.  And he will give you rest.  Amen.

 

 

 

Romans 7:15-25

15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

 

Song of Songs 2:8-13

The voice of my beloved!  Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Look, there he stands behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

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.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19the 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.”  …

25At 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; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All 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. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

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