Sermon for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
July 22, 2018
Time with Jesus
Do you find it restful here at church? Think about it. With all the needs for greeters, ushers, acolytes, altar guild, deacons, Sunday School teachers, coffee hour preparations and clean up, not to mention the work that went into getting ready for today during the week: the time that Becky spent just getting a bulletin together, the lawn mowing, etc. And, on top of that, there are several of you that hassle with feeding and clothing children, getting the car loaded and then wrestling in the pew. Much has gone into your being here. We can be thankful that we didn’t need to shovel the drive before coming this morning.
All these things are part of our individual and collective vocations; things God given us to do in loving service for one another that we might be able to gather here. He has given us other vocations that may be less directly related to our gathering but in no way less of service to those around us. God sends us into the world to serve in diverse ways and then He offers to us a weekly respite here on Sundays. It is a different kind of respite than going fishing or just swinging on the porch swing. Sundays are given to us by God as a rest from our physical labor but also to rest from all spiritual labor by which we try to climb up to God or prove to Him our worthiness to be noticed and accepted by Him. It is a time that Jesus descends to us to make us worthy and to demonstrate our acceptance, once again, by the Father in heaven.
Our Gospel reading today begins with the twelve returning from the missionary journey that Jesus had sent them on. They had gone out by twos and they proclaimed repentance to the people, cast out demons, and anointed and healed many who were sick. Their task was burdensome for the need was great and it was constant. And as we see, just because their designated time was up, it didn’t mean the work was finished nor that the people left them alone. The people continued to come and go not even letting the disciples eat or have rest.
Jesus knew very well that the need was great and that the twelve could be kept busy for a long time yet to come but He knew that they needed rest. They needed time away from the crowds and time to relax but even more they needed time with Him. They needed rest for their bodies but they also needed that rejuvenation of the soul that is given by Jesus. It is not a recharging of batteries that I am talking about. It is the reassurance of acceptance by God through Jesus despite thoughts of inadequacy or delusions of greatness. It is the application of forgiveness that comforts the soul burdened by many sins. It is rest that comes from knowing that Jesus has done all the labor that the Law demands; all that is required to please God; all that is necessary to earn eternal life. And that He still willingly bore the burden and suffered the consequences of our sin that we might know true rest. And so it is that our rest is only in Him and that until we rest in Him we will not know rest here in time nor in eternity.
St. Augustine, a bishop in northern Africa in AD 400 wrote about having a restless heart until we learn to rest in Him. He understood that all the striving for leisure or pleasure outside of the satisfaction that Jesus made for us will never provide rest for our hearts that yearn to know God’s love for us.
Despite all our activity on Sunday mornings, resting is how we truly worship God. When we relax and stop thinking about how we are meeting God where He is or, contributing in some way to our being found acceptable, then we are truly worshiping God. We tend to have this notion that worship is all about what we do; it is about what we contribute to the gathering; or it is in some way dependent on us moving, singing, reciting, giving, etc. But worship of God is accomplished and exemplified best when we are at rest; when we are not doing and not trying to do anything. It is when we are in receive mode.
The baptism of infants and the lifelong reliance upon it is a fitting example of restful worship. Today, Peter Daniel started his day like all others. He got changed, fed, dressed, strapped into his car seat. He was hauled along with his family where ever they were going. He was carried into church where things changed a little. He was presented at the font, held over the water and given a bathing unlike any other he has ever had. He didn’t get to decide the temperature of the water or if it would be sprinkled, poured or by immersion. He didn’t get to respond for himself or decide for himself. He was totally in receive mode. It is an example of worship at rest as he received from God the fullness of the promise that is for all in Jesus Christ. He underwent that new birth from above, which was not by the will of man but by the will of God. He was united with Jesus and sealed with the Holy Spirit not because he demanded it or achieved it. It was by God’s grace as gift to him as to those whose hearts are restless that they might find rest in Jesus.
The Sabbath day and our gathering in church is Jesus saying to us, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Come with me to a place apart from the hustle and bustle of everyday life that demands so much and rest. Stop doing and don’t try to achieve. Just rest and receive from My Father all that He has promised you; forgiveness of sins, grace of acceptance, adoption as sons, and rest from any need to earn or achieve His favor.
As we learn and understand this rest, we realize that it extends beyond these walls as well. It is what living in our baptism is all about. Remembering what God has promised to each of us in His Word applied and trusting that He is faithful to fulfill that promise. As the crowds never seemed to leave Jesus or the disciples alone, it may seem our labor is never ended in this life but as we sang in the last stanza of our sermon hymn, we know that we now have union with the Triune God, and is a mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.
So, let go your sigh of relief, for your labor is over and your rest has begun.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.