5th Sunday after Pentecost July 5, 2020

“I’m Burden Free!” Matthew 11:25-30

      Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

      The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Matthew, the 11th Chapter.

      “25At 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; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

      I am not sure if you are familiar with Dave Ramsey. He has a financial program named “Financial Peace University.” It is a program he developed to help people in debt to rid themselves of their financial burdens. His program has a series of steps to follow so that you can gradually pay off your debts and live with financial freedom. There is a ritual that some people go through when they finally pay off the burden of their debts. They call his program and shout into the phone, “I’m debt free!” The burden of debt is removed.

      As we hear these words of Jesus there is a similar thought placed before us. Jesus speaks to those who are weighted down with a burden. He invites them to come to him in order to have their burden lifted from their life. Jesus promises a better life that is free from the burden that weighs you down. He invites you to partake of the Gospel so you can stand before God and proclaim to the world “I’m Burden Free!”

      Life is filled with many burdens, is it not? These burdens weigh down upon heart, mind and body. We have already mentioned the burden of financial debt. When I graduated from the seminary, many fellow pastors left seminary with a considerable burden of debt. I also had education debt as well as consumer debt. The turmoil and fear that played on the mind while under that burden of debt was quite a worry for my wife and I. Each month when the bills were paid there was a sigh of relief. But the tension would build again for the next month, and so on and so on. It was not until a few years ago that all that debt had been paid off. Now we are burden free.

      There are other burdens which we do not bring upon ourselves. These burdens may come from the outside. Much like what is happening in some of our nation’s cities. You can have instant invitation to watch such burdens by staying connected to social media. Crowds of people are gathering in the streets of those cities to protest one thing or another. With the current racial problems being brought to light, people a being burdened with the perceived need to take a stand on one side or the other.

      To speak from a neutral stand is not sufficient for some of the protestors. One race is demanding apologies from another race because of the color of their skin. Those being coerced to apologize are being held accountable today for deeds carried out centuries ago. In Seattle’s once autonomous zone, one race was forced to pay a certain sum of money to another race for those wrongs committed centuries before. Such thinking and actions do nothing to resolve these burdens. It only exacerbates the problems and increases the tension. The burden remains until proper atonement is applied.

      In these examples we witness the striving of sinful flesh against sinful flesh. This is the true burden against which we struggle as individuals, communities and as a nation. Blinded by that sinful flesh we seek short-term answers to long-term problems. Such short-term answers do nothing to address the real need that underlies our sinfulness. So we struggle under the burdens of the flesh and we are wearied.

            This is the same weariness that Jesus addresses in the Gospel reading today. Jesus speaks of the people who are laboring and heavy laden. Let us consider those words for a moment. The laboring of which Jesus speaks includes everything associated with it. This includes the activity, the process and the fatigue or exhaustion that causes you to labor.

      In high school I played rugby. I really enjoyed the game. However, the practices were another thing. Part of practice involved running. The coach had us hold our cleats in front using both hands. Then he had us run up and down a steep hill for twenty minutes. This simulated carrying the ball while running across the playing field during a game.

      I made the mistake of racing up the hill on the first try. I soon realized my mistake as I labored the next few times to make it back to the top of the hill. I was quickly exhausted and struggled to put one foot in front of the other. In my mind I was berating myself and hoping the coach would give us a break. Unlike Jesus’ invitation to rest, the coach said keep on running. So I was stuck bearing the weight of my irresponsibility.

      Jesus is addressing those who also are bearing the weight of their irresponsibility. Their lives were marked by striving against the weakness of the flesh to fulfill the burden of God’s Law. They were under the mistaken belief that they were able to keep God’s Law and obtain His favor. Yet, in the underlying thoughts there was the visible reminder this was a lie. Consider the sacrifices offered daily in the Temple at Jerusalem. Consider the yearly festivals of Passover, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Booths. These were reminders of the weakness of human flesh.

      Animals were substitutes for the people. Their blood was poured out and their lives taken in place of God executing divine judgment upon His people. Through these sacrifices, God intended His people to realize the futility of trying to earn God’s favor. Like my coach, God says go up the hill one more time. Go to the Temple one more time and bring a sacrifice. Once there offer your sacrifice, then come back again tomorrow until I tell you to stop.

      Unlike my coach, Jesus does give invitation to have relief from the burdens of sinful human weakness. Jesus calls out to the people to draw them to the haling power of the Gospel. “Come to me,” Jesus says. These words call out to sinners the world over to draw them out of the darkness of sin and into the light of God’s grace and mercy.

      Such grace and mercy lifts the burden of trying to make right what was wrong. Such grace and mercy gives peace to troubled hearts and minds burdened by guilt and sorrow over personal failures. Such grace and mercy leads sinners to see the cleansing power of the Gospel that restores and renews sinners to live in fellowship with God and neighbor.

      Such grace and mercy breaks the yoke of sin and replaces it with the yoke of Jesus atoning sacrifice for sin. The Temple in Jerusalem is replaced with the Temple of Jesus’ body. In that Temple is the blood that was poured out for full atonement for sins past and present. Reparations are not needed, for they have been erased in the blood of the Lamb sacrificed on the cross of Calvary.

      Jesus brought us into the Temple of His body by grace in the water of Baptism. In that washing God lifted the burdensome yoke of our sin. In its place God laid upon the yoke of salvation and the reigns of peace through Jesus Christ. No longer is sacrifice needed. Rather, in its place is repentance and contrition. As Scripture says, “A contrite heart, O, God, you will not despise.” And again in the liturgy we faithfully confess, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

      Remember these words, “You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” You are not guilty of another’s sin. You are guilty of your own. The sins committed by the generations of people past cannot be laid upon you in the present. Nor do you take upon your hearts and minds the guilt for those sins committed by the preceding generations. They are not your sins. Moreover they have been forgiven in the blood of Jesus Christ. Such sins and the ones who committed them are in the hands of God. It is well for us to leave them in God’s hands. His judgement is perfect and His righteousness will prevail.

      Lastly, what would Jesus have you learn? Jesus is gentle and lowly. He does not come to us with harsh words of judgment and condemnation. Rather, Jesus comes to us with words of invitation and reconciliation. Jesus holds before us the solution to sin. He is the one who reconciles sinners to God, their conscience and to their neighbor. He pays the cost for sins committed and sins imagined, for sins projected and sins perpetuated. Retribution is replaced with redemption. Accusation is replaced with acquittal. Punishment is replaced with peace. Guilt is replaced with grace. Condemnation is replaced with pardon. Judgment is replaced with absolution.

      Remember the words of hope and assurance sung earlier.

“Come unto Me, ye weary, and I will give you rest.”

O blessed voice of Jesus, Which comes to hearts oppressed!

It tells of benediction, Of pardon, grace, and peace,

Of joy that hath no ending, Of love that cannot cease.

Is your heart oppressed? May the benediction, pardon, grace and peace of Jesus rest upon you.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.