Saturday, July 05, 2008

A, Pentecost 8 Proper 9 - Matthew 11:25-30, Romans 7:15-25a "Do Rest"

There is always plenty to do. No doubt we would all have done many things this last week, month, and year. Lifetimes full of doing things, both good and bad!

With all this doing, perhaps there are things you should have done but haven’t yet got to them. Or you’re trying to forget, and hoping that they will just go away! Maybe you are not capable of doing what you want to do because you’re too young, too old, not confident enough, or too ill!

These days seem to be more and more rushed. The more we do, the more we have left to do. It seems to be a trail of never-ending busyness. When God looks upon us, we must appear as ants scurrying to and fro. Perhaps when God makes his presence known amongst us, we like ants, try to bite him and get him out of our busy way.

We have to ask ourselves, with all this busyness, where does it end? Are we so concerned with what we think is important that we are letting go of what is really important? And because we are so overactive do we then treat God with frustration and contempt, treating him as just another task to fit into our busy schedules? Perhaps you blame God or others for what have to do?

Even our rest and recreation times have become so busy; they no longer seem to be effective. The more we do the more we have left to do. We work for more rest and recreation and once we get to these days, they’re gone, they fizz into thin air.

What does you doing do? To where does the busyness lead? Does your doing deceive you, or does it deliver from deception? Do the things you do bring glory to God, or are you just working and entertaining yourself to death? Being so busy on doing what we deem necessary, do you consider what these deeds might be doing to others around you? Not to mention the things we keep hidden; the things we do that make us ashamed before others and before God. Even the best, most wholesome and righteous things we do are tainted by our own self interest!

Saint Paul, a convert from Judaism to Christianity, the Apostle to the Gentiles, called by Christ on the Road to Damascus, testifies to his struggle with what he does as he looks at his ego and the things that come out of it…

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:15-25a)

If we are honest with ourselves, when we look seriously at what we do, we know that we too are wretched, just like Saint Paul. You can hear Paul’s frustration as he rants about his inability to do the right thing, even though he knows exactly what he should be doing.

In fact it is human nature to beat ourselves up when we fail doing the right thing. We might even think that we have to verbally churn out our disgust, as a way of trying to work off our guilt due to what we do or what we should have done. But the end result is that we cannot work off our guilt, no matter how much we beat ourselves up; it will only remain with us and make us implode.

Our society today is hell-bent on doing all sorts of things to appease its conscience; some of the deeds good, others not so good. But at the end of the day nothing removes the darkness from a conscience busied by the sinful nature. We can and should seek to do humane and kind things to each other and to the creation God has given us; but even so, doing them won’t give us peace, hope, and joy that last.

It’s at this point in time we realise that it’s not about being the doers and the shakers of the world, the wise and the learned, or the strong and the healthy. We have learnt of our wretchedness in God’s word, and in our weakness we need to be delivered from our bodies of death. So we’re led to hear Jesus commends the ones who cannot do, but rather the ones who can simply believe, the little children.

25 Jesus said to the crowds, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30)

The good thing for us who are burdened with doing, having to do, and not doing what we should have done, is that Jesus Christ has done it for you. Like Paul when you get to the frustrating realisation that your plight is wretched, there stands Jesus offering you the same gracious hand revealed to the little children.

The reality for us who live in today’s world is this: regardless of how much we do or how little we do, none of it has any real meaning unless the burden of doing it, is placed on Christ, and we carry his yoke of resting and remaining in him, and hearing and believing his written word.

The recreation and rest the world leads us to believe doesn’t give us satisfactory rest at all. We’re tempted to work so hard gathering objects of entertainment around us, and once we do they don’t give rest, but rather more noise and restlessness. However, the recreation and rest you and all humanity needs is re-creation and Sabbath rest in Jesus Christ and his forgiveness of sin. Who will rescue us from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.