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Life in Jesus

myyokeiseasyMatthew 11: 25-30
Introduction to the reading
We continue today with the summer sermon series on discipleship.  Now in week four, we notice a shift in direction.  Chapter 11 begins:  Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.  

Having warned them that their work on behalf of the kingdom of heaven will be greeted with resistance, outright hostility, false charges and painful divisions even in their own families, Jesus now resumes his own ministry, teaching and preaching and facing all that trouble himself.  The audience is now the crowds of people who follow him around.  As you will hear, even his prayer to God seems to be offered openly.  Jesus may be speaking to a much larger group now, but the disciples – along with us – are still the ones who are learning from him.

Sermon
Our son Tim is an auto mechanic.  That’s not what we might have expected him to be calling his life’s work when he graduated from Bucknell University with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science with an emphasis on biology.

He started work in an engineering firm in Princeton which had a contract with the state Schools Construction Corporation (no longer in existence).  Under that contract, the firm was charged with investigating sites identified as possible locations for new schools in major cities like Camden, Paterson and Elizabeth, many of which sites had, shall we say, rather checkered pasts.  I recall his telling us they were called off a job when some human remains were uncovered in the basement of an old building.

Tim spent most of his time at a computer, however, communicating with the EPA.  He had wanted to get his hands dirty, to muck about in streams or something like that.  So he was not really happy.

One day, though, he announced to us that he had decided to quit his job, enroll in the Universal Technical Institute in Exton, PA, and learn auto mechanics.  The Universal What???

But, Peter will tell you, we had always said to him, “Find what you love to do and pursue that.”  Which is what he did, and it was a courageous and risky move.  He found a job at a garage specializing in repairing German cars, which helped pay his tuition.  And after he finished the year-long program as an outstanding student, that same shop kept him on and began to groom him for management.  But then, after eleven years, that same shop abruptly fired him.  “Going in a different direction and you’re not in the picture.”  Secret deals behind his back.  Betrayal.  Again a decision – how to do what you love.  And again, success at that.  Now he is the general manager of a different garage, in Philadelphia, that works on BMWs.

Does he have power and position?  Not really.  Does he have fame and fortune? No.  Tim is an ordinary person, just as most of us are, facing the ups and downs, the joys and triumphs, the pains and pleasures, the decision points of ordinary life.  But within that ordinary life is a blessing, a blessing that is offered to every one of us.  It is not the work you do – what position you hold, how much you earn – that makes a job worthwhile.  Rather, it is understanding how you should go about doing your work, whatever it is; how you live your life.  Tim is a man who walks with Jesus.  Would he be open to saying that?  I think maybe so, because I think he knows it is the most important thing…
It is the point of the reading for today from the Gospel of Matthew.  Actually two points…

First, Jesus thanks God his Father that he has chosen to reveal the saving knowledge of the gospel to the most unlikely of candidates, “infants” he calls them, the least sophisticated theologically but the most receptive in heart and mind.  In other words, most ordinary people.  The ones who consider themselves most learned in the ways of God (in Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, scribes and elders), who are just too self-sufficient, too sure of themselves in righteousness, tend to scoff at the real presence of God.  They think that knowledge of God is something to be attained like any other skill or achievement.  No.  Knowledge of God, sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit, is something to be received, to be accepted.

Then second, Jesus invites all those who are weary and carrying heavy burdens – all of us most ordinary people living ordinary lives – to find our rest in him.  What does that mean?  How can Jesus offer rest when he asks, even demands, so much of us as his disciples?

  • Take my yoke upon you…  Think of yoked oxen or yoked horses plowing a field.  They work together and share the task.  Jesus’ yoke is living out the commandments to love God with all your energy and strength, mind and heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.  And the yoke of Jesus is easy because Jesus is the one walking beside you.
  • Take my yoke upon you…and you will find rest for your souls.  The yoke of  Jesus is profoundly satisfying for the human soul.  The yoke of Jesus means having a purpose beyond yourself.  It means participating with him in the saving and gracious mercy of God in and for this world, the most important and worthy work there is or will ever be.

Let me end with a reading from a book of daily devotions, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  The entry for today, July 9:

Stop worrying long enough to hear My voice.  I speak softly to you, in the depths of your being.  Your mind shuttles back and forth, hither and yon, weaving webs of anxious confusion.  As My thoughts rise up within you, they become entangled in those sticky webs of worry.  Thus, my voice is muffled…

Ask My Spirit to quiet your mind so that you can think My thoughts. This is an awesome benefit of being My child, patterned after My own image.  Do not be deafened by the noise of the world or that of your own thinking.

Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and will give you rest.  Amen.

Rev. Kathryn Henry
Peapack Reformed Church
Gladstone, NJ
July 9, 2017

khenryRev. Kathryn Henry
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