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Archive for July 7th, 2014

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” St. Matthew 11: 28

Text:  The Holy Gospel, St. Matthew 11:25–30

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, pastor and bishop, who lived in the 2nd century, whose most noted writing was Against Heresies, wrote: 

“For error is plausible and bears a resemblance to the truth but requires to be disguised;  while truth is without disguise and, therefore, has been entrusted to children.”

The shocking part of that quote is that the truth has “…has been entrusted to children”!  Not to the adults, not to the learned, not to theologians.  This is keeping with our Lord Jesus Christ who prayed to His Father,

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.    St.Matthew 11

When it comes to right or wrong, adults like to think in terms of “moral grays”, make things complicated. but a child does not:  it is either right or wrong.  It is that way with the Gospel:   a child gets it. I have done wrong, God is great, He loved us upon the cross.    Creation is good.  I have done wrong.   We are forgiven. This is truth without disguise.  The Father reveals His love to children not the “learned and the wise”. Jesus Himself entrusts it to children:  even if the child is a 100! It is in keeping with Irenaeus and his love of Scripture is the lyrics of the old Sunday School song:

Jesus loves me! This I know,  For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! He who died, Heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

Yet, the undisguised truth of God’s Word has so much that even the most able minds cannot understand it all.  But them some then try to fit God’s Word to their self-conceived good words and works. Self-conceived in one’s own works and words is finally self-centered.  In Irenaeus’ day there were the Gnostics who said creation is evil, spirituality is good. Plausible…except it is not the Scripture:  see Genesis 1 and the refrain, It is good, seven times culminating in the God’s declaration of His Word: And it was very good! See Jesus Christ:  God became FLESH, His own creation!  It is the heretics, who have had enough of God’s own truth, to disguise and then complicate the truth of God’s own Word, now looking to themselves and a ‘superior’ spirituality.  It looks good but it is a wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing (see Matthew 7:15).  Beware,  said faithful pastors like Irenaeus.  Irenaeus also famously said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”  How?  Answer:  Jesus loves me.  Upon Him, the solid rock, we can grow and be edified, built-up by the Holy Spirit.  A child can get it and it is entrusted to His children of all ages and for all the ages until He comes again.

At that time, Jesus prayed the first part of today’s Gospel.  At that time, when things were going against Him and folks were just not getting His invitation by His grace alone to the eternal life He offers in God’s own forgiveness.  The deaf hear, the blind see, the dead are raised and blessed is he who takes no offense at that, Jesus said to John’s disciples earlier in chapter 11.  Children, infants are not in control.  They are dependent.  Those wise and understanding in their own eyes are not dependent and think they are in control over their salvation.  Not a baby, actually, not any man.    

Filled with one’s own wisdom, fame, power, and wealth, the learned and understanding, cannot be filled with the Lord.  It  is in our time we have the expression, He or she is filled with himself.  But not only individuals but nations and religions.  Jerusalem, which should have filled with the Lord as no other city on earth, was very filled, obese with their own spirituality and their King came riding in lowly and riding a donkey, emptied of fame, fortune and riches.  He was emptied, it says in the Bible, even death on a cross.Many suffer from spiritual obesity going from one leaking cistern to another.  Spiritual obesity is starving to death People go to and fro seeking spiritual experiences but the one spiritual experience all avoid like the plague is what the Lord says to us in His Law.  God’s Law will empty any one of us.  His Law is good, love is good, as the command is good, but I do the very thing I hate and this the Law shows me.  The great apostle Paul understood that in spades.  As a Pharisee he was probably well acquainted with the phrase: to put on the yoke of the Law, God’s Law. He knew this conflict in his soul, actually Paul called that spade a spade, he called in it a “war”, which is in everyone’s soul in Christ Jesus.  Jesus prayed, Come to me all who are burden and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Jesus answered Paul’s prayer.  The dictionary definition of rest is: 

a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities

a :  freedom from activity or labor

b :  a state of motionlessness or inactivity

c :  the repose of death

The conflict in Paul did not mean to try harder to be saved or get good with God, another self-help book, another TV guru.  The conflict means only one thing, the third dictionary definition of rest: the repose of death.  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Not me, not you, Come to Me all who are burden and heavy laden. Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. His Law exposes the inner wretch in us that we can sing, Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. This is, as Jesus says, the Father’s gracious will to so reveal to us His Son. He chooses to reveal this to those who know their burden, Come to Me. The Word of God has two parts:  contrition and sorrow over sin, the weak and weary soul and the second part, the Gospel forgiveness and so the Lord gives us the Sacraments with those two parts,

“Here there are two parts. The “labor” and the burden signify the contrition, anxiety, and terrors of sin and death. To “come to” Christ is to believe that sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. When we believe, our hearts are brought to life by the Holy Spirit through Christ’s Word. Here, therefore, are these two chief parts: contrition and faith.” (The Book of Concord:  Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XII, Repentance)

From the learned Book of Concord and a child can understand it.

We are in the midst of summer and vacations.  Is rest and vacation the same thing?  And the congregation responds:  Good question, Pastor!  Maybe you, or family and friends, have said after a vacation:  “I need a vacation”, because many get tired by the effort and planning to “get away from it all”.   “Vacation” is from the verb “to vacate” which means a person’s active will and works to leave and go some place else, with the hopes that a change will be relaxing, but it may not be necessarily restful.  We “vacation plan”.   “Rest”, on the other hand, is utterly passive.  Rest, Sabbath is God’s plan.

“You shall observe the worship day,

That peace may fill your home and pray,

and put aside the work you do,

so that God may work in you.

Have mercy, Lord.” (#581,Lutheran  Service Book, “These are the Holy 10 Commands, by Martin Luther)

 Rest means to entrust one’s self in it’s entirety to something or someone greater than myself, as in the hymn lyric, “I rest on His unchanging grace”.  Rest means in a word, doing nothing. Rest means being, not doing, and we will so serve actively in His grace. Rest means ceasing to create the world and receive the Lord’s creation as His gifts to us all.  And as Lutherans are want to say Biblically, doing nothing to save oneself. Our works, however good, cannot save us, only His good work in Jesus Christ has.  The word translated as “little child” can also be rendered infant. Helpless as a baby, is an old expression.  It’s not God helps those who help themselves, it is God helps those who can’t help themselves.  Natalie and were married 27 years ago on July 4th and as the pastor said, Interdependence Day. Our help is in the Name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. Rest means the one who is “gentle and lowly in heart”.  His yoke is not the Law but Grace, means “learn from Me”, not new rules and regs, new powers and principles, but learning Christ Jesus for life, the reign of the Lord,  eternal life day by day and yes, by prayer, Sacrament, Scripture, and  “you will find rest for your souls”.  In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy  Spirit. Amen.

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