St. Matthew 11:25-30
July 5, 2020Proper 9A
Dear saints of our Savior~
Are you weary? Are you burdened? Are you laboring beneath a heavy load? Are you in need of rest? I suspect a lot of us would answer those questions with a resounding “yes.” That’s us. We are weary and burdened, stressed-out and burned-out. You know the symptoms—pushing hard but not getting the hoped-for results. You can’t seem to muster your enthusiasm the way you used to. Even the fun stuff in life just seems kind of ho-hum. Been there, done that.
Everyone feels that way sometimes; but did you know that the followers of Jesus are especially susceptible to burn-out? It’s true. Being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t give you a special immunity to burn-out. Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t easy, but difficult. As Jesus often said, “If anyone would come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” Christians are cross-bearers. And all that cross-bearing can sometimes lead to deep weariness and burn-out.
Now this might surprise you, but not all burn-out is bad. There is a proper place for weariness in the Christian life. In fact, part of the reason God gives us His Law and Commandments is to grind us down to nothing and drive us to despair of ourselves. The Law of God is more than just nice rules to live by. It does more than just “show” us our sin. The Law magnifies our sin—amplifies it—causes us to cry out with St. Paul, “What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Are you with me so far? The Law of God is good and wise; but part of the Law’s goodness and wisdom is that it burdens us and wearies us. It works like this: You know God wants His Law kept perfectly. But you—you can’t keep the Law perfectly no matter how hard you try. And the harder you try, the less of the Law you wind up keeping.
The passage we heard earlier from Romans 7 is a horribly accurate portrayal of the battle that rages every day in all who follow Jesus: We have the desire to do what is good; but we can’t do it! The good things that we want to do and should do—these aren’t the things we do. Instead, it’s the bad things—the evil things—the sinful things we know we ought to avoid—these are the very things that we end up doing. If that doesn’t lead to weariness and burnout and despair, I don’t know what does.
So what do you do? What do you do when the things you do are the very things you hate? When you want to be loving, but anger comes spilling out? When you want to be thankful, but resentment and jealousy are what you feel? What do you do when you want to do good, but evil always worms its way into the picture? You know you shouldn’t do that, but you do it anyway. You know you really ought to do that, but you never quite get around to it. What do you do?
Some people—some Christians—essentially give up. They’re weary of discouragement and failure. They’re tired of trying harder, so they don’t try at all. “I’ll just do my best and live my life as I please, and hope for the best. I’ll try not to hurt anyone, mind my own business, be nice to animals. I’ll recycle. I’ll reduce my carbon footprint. I’ll put a sign in my yard to signal my virtue to everyone. But I’m just not going to worry about “do’s” I can’t do and “don’ts” I can’t stop doing.” That’s where some people are at.
But what do you do when the Law has its way with you—when you realize with Saint Paul that by nature nothing good lives in here? You can give up. You can pretend otherwise. You can just aim to do your best (which will never be good enough). Or, you can embrace the burnout and welcome the weariness, and, then, take it all to Jesus.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me—that I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Are you weary, burdened, and needing rest? Come to Jesus. Hear that invitation and take it to heart. Jesus wants us to come to Him—wants your weariness and your wretchedness and your burn-out. He wants you. This is why He came. This is why Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. This is why He still comes to us in the Word and sacraments. He wants us to come to Him with our burdens and burn-outs and all the heavy lifting we try to do. Jesus wants to give us rest.
It seems so basic, doesn’t it—so simple, really? Come to Jesus. Trust Jesus. Let Jesus shoulder your burdens. And yet, we refuse to believe it, refuse to trust it, and choose to burden ourselves needlessly. Jesus Christ bore your sins on the cross; why are you trying to bear them for yourself? Jesus Christ bore the burden of your shame and guilt in His death; why are you still holding onto these things? Beloved in the Lord, when Jesus says “Come to me,” He’s talking to sinners—poor, miserable, wretched, sinners—and not to good, pious, commandment-keepers. He’s talking to me and you.
Come to me . . . and I will give you rest. That, my friends, is a promise from the Savior—an unconditional promise with no ifs, ands, buts or asterisks. So take it to heart. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus, who died and rose from the dead. His Word is sure and certain. You’re not walking alone when you come to Jesus. “Take my yoke upon you,” He says. He’s bound Himself to you with that yoke of His. You and Jesus—you’re like a couple of oxen yoked together, pulling a plow. And that yoke of His is not two tons of commandments. No, His yoke is easy, and His burden is light because He bears the burden for you. Jesus shoulders the heavy load, and you just walk along like a little kid tagging along with your older, bigger brother. Jesus carries the load as the two of you walk together.
Come to Jesus, for He is gentle and lowly in heart. He isn’t an overbearing, demanding deity requiring sacrifices. He’s the Savior, the Shepherd, the Redeemer of the world. He’s not that interested in what you can do for Him. His interest is in you. He wants you. He wants you to come to Him with your burdens, with your cares, with your sorrows, your brokenness, your burnout, your anger, your lost-ness, your doubting, your sins. He wants it all. Everything that you carry around every day. He wants it all beneath the yoke of His cross where your every burden was carried by Him.
Come to Jesus in His Word. Hear what He has to say to you. The wise and learned—they don’t get it. But listen like a child, trusting and believing what the Lord says. Come to Jesus in the power of your baptism. You can draw upon that power every day—power to own up to your sin, confess it, and receive the cleansing of His absolution. Come to Jesus at this altar where Jesus wants to refresh you with His holy Supper for the forgiveness of sins. Here you will find faith to follow Jesus and to fervently love one another. Jesus says, “Come to me,” and you can’t come any closer to Him than when you receive Him in His body and His blood.
Weariness and burnout are not the end of the story for you, for me, for all the people of God. For we have been delivered. We have been rescued from this body of death—by the body of Jesus given into death for us, raised from the tomb for us, and now reigning at the right hand of the Father—for us. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.