Hello church family, this is Pastor Phil-
Our reading this Sunday is from Matthew 11:28-29 (you can read the whole chapter here!)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Near the beginning of the Coronavirus Quarantine, my daughter, Emma, got pretty sick with an upper respiratory illness that started to go into pneumonia. All of our immediate family are asthmatics and we tend to get upper respiratory problems a lot but, considering what was going on at the same time, we really wanted Emma to get checked out and treated. We tried to get Em in to see her primary care doctor, but because her symptoms met some of the conditions on the COVID-19 checklist, they sent us directly to the triage unit at the ER for COVID. Now, she got treated, she didn’t have the coronavirus, and it all worked out well, until…
we received the bill for the ER visit. Our health insurance company decided to not pay the bill for the ER because they said it wasn’t an emergency and we were charged the full amount. With all of the xrays and bloodwork she had done you can imagine how much that “amount you owe” was! You know how heavy something like that is and it was weighing me down. It was another bill demanding money we didn’t have. So, I called my health insurance company and explained the situation. Honestly, I was expecting and preparing for a long-drawn out battle like these things usually end up being; instead, when I talked to the rep she was compassionate and understanding; she said she felt so bad for what happened to us and having the claim denied just made it worse. She told me what to do and said, “Don’t worry. It’ll be taken care of.” You know what? It was. I did what she told me to do, our claim was accepted, and the final bill was much, much more reasonable. I went from having this huge burden weighing me down to feeling at peace and free.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
When Jesus says these words from our Gospel lesson today, He had just finished preaching and teaching throughout the cities in the region and in many of those places Jesus was rejected. Standing on the hillside, Jesus cries out to those cities, “woe to you and your people” because of what you have done to yourselves in continuing to reject the Good News of Jesus.
It is as if Jesus was in a boat in the ocean and all of these people were drowning in the water all around Him. Jesus kept throwing out lifeline after lifeline to the drowning people weighed down by the weight of the water, but instead of grabbing hold of the means of their salvation, they kept tossing the lifeline away and yelling, “No thank you Jesus, I’ll do it on my own.”
The ocean is the weight of sin and separation from God that all of humanity is drowning in because of our lives and actions. God loves His creation, us, so much that He didn’t just leave us to drown in our sin and be separated from God eternally, but came to us in Jesus to save us from our sins and bring us back into an eternal relationship with our Heavenly Father. So, Jesus cried out to them, “You don’t have to drown eternally under the heavy weight of your sin, I am here to take that weight from you.”
When we’re drowning under the weight of our sin, we can’t free ourselves. Back in my 20’s I used to go white water rafting as often as I could, down the Pyle, Gauley, and New rivers among others. I have a story about being thrown from the raft and doing my best Wiley Coyote impression, but I’ll leave that for another day.
Like often happens on rafting trips, you do fall out. I remember vividly one day on Gauley I was thrown from the raft and stuck upriver while the raft kept going. I put my feet up in front of me and floated down the river until I caught up with them. By this point I was so tired and water-logged that when I got to the raft, I couldn’t pull myself in, no matter what I did, so my crew grabbed hold of the back of my lifejacket and hauled me in. They did for me what I absolutely couldn’t do for myself.
That is us weighed down by our sin. Just look around us today and we see the results of sin in our lives and in our world. Look at all of the ways that people try to improve themselves, whether through religion or self-help, and everyone ends up at the same place, simply hoping and wondering that they did enough, but always sure that they didn’t. That is why what we are talking about is Jesus and what He does for us. Jesus took all of that weight of sin upon himself on the cross so we wouldn’t have to bear that weight eternally. In faith, Jesus takes that heavy burden of sin from us and gives to us His gift that He earned for us, salvation and eternal life.
In faith in Jesus, we are freed from the weight of sin and given salvation; Jesus lifts us up during every weight that the world puts upon us. There is a story about the late evangelist Henry Moorhouse and his little daughter who was paralyzed.
She was sitting in her chair as he entered the house one day with a package for his wife. Going up to her and kissing her, he said, “Where is mother?” “Mother is upstairs.” “Well, I have a package for her.” “Let me carry the package to Mother.” “Why, Minnie, dear, how can you carry the package? You cannot carry yourself.” With a smile on her face, Minnie said, “Oh, no, Papa; but you give me the package, and I will carry the package, and you will carry me.” Taking her up in his arms, he carried her upstairs — little Minnie and the package, too.
Despite every burden that this world puts upon us, we, as Christians, we do not carry the weight alone, but Jesus carries us through this entire life until we are in our eternal home, where every weight and burden is lifted from us and we are given the free and easy gift of eternal life to carry forever.