July 3, 2011 Romans 7:15-25a Dr. Ted H.


Matthew 11:25-30

³Rest for Our Souls´

Dr. Al Jenkins, former Dean of Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of my professors for my D.Min. program, once went with his wife on a religious back packing camp in the mountains of Colorado. Each day the hikers were to pack 4 or 5 miles, set up camp, and then explore a religious issue that Dr. Jenkins would present to the group, a group made up of individuals high school age and older. For some reason, the person who had planned where the group was to camp each night at the last minute couldn¶t go on the trip. Rather than cancel the experience, a couple of the more athletic members of the group took responsibility for leading the hiking part of the camp. Unfortunately, the leaders missed the intended first night¶s camp site. By the time the error was recognized, they were more than half way to the next night¶s camp. Because hikers can¶t just camp anywhere, the group decided to go on to the second night¶s site, which made for a walk and climb of some 10 or 11 miles, much too far for a comfortable hike for most of the members of the group, especially when led by leaders who were in good shape. Dr. Jenkin¶s wife got particularly tired with about 4 miles to go to the campsite. She sat down and said in effect that she just didn¶t think she could go any further. At that point, an 18 year old young woman hoisted Mrs. Jenkin¶s pack off the ground, swung it on top of her own heavy pack, and marched off for the camp site 4 miles away. Because the young woman was able to carry Mrs. Jenkin¶s burden, a difficult situation turned into an experience which brought the whole group closer together. Now be honest. When you hear the words of Jesus, ³Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest,´ don¶t you long for Jesus to do for you what the young lady did for Mrs. Jenkins? Don¶t you want Jesus to take all your burdens from you and hoist them onto his own back so that you won¶t have anything to carry? Isn¶t that how most of us understand this passage, or want it to be understand? We want to understand it this way because for many, life is always a trial, and for all of us, life is sometimes filled with hardship. We all carry heavy burdens. Many people today have too much work. Some women work an 8-hour job, raise 2 or 3 children, volunteer at school and church, keep an immaculate house, and then wonder why they¶re tired. Some men consistently work 16 hour days. The goal for the lawyer in the book The Firm was to bill 90 hours of work a week until he was 40 at which point he¶d retire a millionaire. That¶s a heavy burden to carry physically and emotionally. Even if we¶re not overworking ourselves, many of us are overly worried. When I was in grade school, I remember worrying about a paper I¶d somehow lost. I almost made myself sick worrying about it. Now that seems small and insignificant. Now I¶ve got bigger worries like what¶s going to happen to our economy? What¶s going to happen to the mainline denominations, and in particularly, the ABC? How are we as a church going to meet the needs of this community? How are we going to replace those who¶ve died and moved away when we¶re all getting older? Many of you have similar worries. Are they going to change Medicare? Will we have enough money to live well through our retirement? What¶s going to happen with my children and grandchildren?


Sometimes the worries turn out to be as small and insignificant as my 8 year old worries were. Other times, our worries are well founded. In either case, we often long for Jesus to remove the burdens from our shoulders and carry them himself. Along with worries, guilt burdens us ± though we don¶t like to admit it very often. We don¶t carry our guilt on our shoulders. We carry our guilt in our hearts where it weighs even heavier on us. ³I shouldn¶t have said that to her. I wasn¶t thinking, and it just popped out. Although I apologized for saying it, I still feel terribly guilty.´ ³I should¶ve visited him in the hospital. I meant to do that, but my kids wanted to go to the park. At the time I thought it was important to be with them, but now I feel guilty for not visiting in the hospital.´ The list of guilts can go on and on for all of us, because none of us come close to being perfect. The truth is, from what I¶ve read, the closer anyone comes to being what the world would describe as saintly, the more the saint realizes they aren¶t perfect. The closer to God a person becomes, the more that person realizes how sinful they truly are. All of us carry the burden of guilt, the burden of sin. We all want and need to hear the words of Jesus, ³Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.´ It¶s most probable that when Jesus first said this to the people that the burden to which he specifically referred was the Law itself. The Pharisees took the Law that God gave to humanity so that we might better know how God wants us to live, and turned it into a terrible burden, especially for the poor. There were so many rules and regulations, so many do¶s and don¶ts that it was impossible for the vast majority of Jews to even come close to obeying the Law. Only the Pharisees and the religious elite could obey all the Law. The rest of the Jews either obeyed what they could and felt guilty about not being able to obey all the Law, or else they simply gave up and didn¶t bother trying to obey any of the Law because they saw it as hopeless. Either way, the Law was a terrible burden on them. Jesus said, ³My yoke is easy.´ The word easy in Greek can mean well-fitting. In Palestine, ox-yokes were made of wood. An ox was brought, and the measurements were taken. The yoke was then roughed out, and the ox was brought back to have the yoke tried on. The yoke was carefully adjusted, so that it would fit well, and not gouge the neck of the ox. The yoke was tailor-made to fit the ox. ³Jesus says, µMy yoke fits well.¶ What he means is: µThe life I give you is not a burden to gouge you; your task is custom made to fit you.¶´ This doesn¶t mean, however, that God is going to take away all our burdens. God doesn¶t hoist our back packs onto his own back and march off to the camp site allowing us to saunter down life¶s trail with nothing much to do. In fact, many times I suspect that we may not believe Jesus even keeps this promise to us, because we don¶t feel our loads have been eased. Especially in the darkest of hours, we may believe that we¶re still carrying the whole load all by ourselves. And maybe we are. Maybe we¶re carrying the whole load because we¶re unwilling, or unable to turn the burden over to Jesus. It¶s not really easy to trust Jesus in the midst of the flood, if we haven¶t trusted Jesus until that point. The time to share one¶s burdens ± our work, our worries, our guilt, our pride, our sin ± the time to share these things with Jesus Christ is before we reach the crisis point. Do you ever wonder why athletes practice so much? Why does Kobe Bryant continually practice his shooting, or Tim Lincecum throw so much in practice? They¶re the best there is at their games. Why do they keep practicing? They keep working and working because Bryant, for instances, wants his

shot to always be the same. He wants it to be in the groove, as they say. That way, when it comes down to the last second when has to make the great shot to win the game, if he¶s practiced enough, he doesn¶t have to worry about the mechanics of his shoot. He can worry about the shot itself. Athletes practice so that their sport will be instinctive when the pressure is on in the game. So it is for all of us. The time to practice our faith is before the crisis begins. The time to let Jesus Christ carry our burden is today and tomorrow, not in the dark hours that we all know will come to all of us. We can practice turning our burdens over to Jesus Christ several different ways. Probably the first way to do it is through prayer and devotions. Had Mrs. Jenkins not told the young woman that she didn¶t think she could go on, the young woman wouldn¶t have known her help in carrying the load was needed. Don¶t push that too far. I don¶t want to imply that God doesn¶t know when we¶re struggling, because I believe God does know. But it¶s part of the mystery of God¶s relationship with us that God wants us to share ourselves with Him. God doesn¶t seem to help unless we ask God to help. The place for us to ask is in our times of prayer and devotions. Another place to turn our burdens over to God is in worship. Too often, we Protestants think of worship as God¶s Spirit filling us up so that we can go out into the world and live another week. That¶s only a small part of what worship is all about. Worship actually means giving thanks and praise to God. We¶re to come into this place and share ourselves with God ± in song, in prayer, in meditation, and in hearing God¶s word proclaimed. As we give thanks to God, we can also share our load of care with God. The third area I would mention where we can learn to share our burdens with Christ is with our Christian friends. I firmly believe that God works in and through people. Where one or two are gathered in the name of Christ there Christ is also. Too often, we don¶t take advantage of our friends in our time of need because we¶re afraid we¶ll take advantage of them. We don¶t use our friends because we¶re afraid we¶ll abuse them. When our burdens become too heavy for us to carry, almost every time, our friends want to help, if only we'll let them know we need their help. ³Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.´ When we learn to trust God, when we turn our problems, our worries, our guilt, our sin over to God, when we spend time in prayer and worship and fellowship, we¶ll find that our burdens are lessened. Sometimes this will happen dramatically, all at once. More often, it will occur gradually, perhaps without our even realizing it. We¶ll just slowly discover that we¶ve survived the crisis we thought we¶d never be able to survive. We¶ll know the rest of which Jesus speaks.


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