Sermon for Sunday July 9, 2017 (preached at West Van. Presbyterian Church)

Matthew 11:16-19

Woke This Morning With My Mind on Jesus

You might have heard the early morning prayer that this one guy prayed each day: “Dear Lord, So far I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I’m really glad about that. But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed. And from then on, I’m going to need a lot more help.”

Some mornings when I wake up, I ask myself the question, “What is the day going to bring?”  I think of things that are going on in my life and all the things that are going on in the world.  There’s that general list of stuff that I seem to have been praying about for what seems like years…I wonder what happened overnight in Syria?  What happened in Palestine/Israel?  Were there any more terrorist attacks in Europe?  What about the people starving in Africa?  What has President Trump tweeted?  You can really feel like these things are a tremendous burden.  It is a rather heavy feeling to start the day with.

Part of the reason it feels heavy is that my burden is full of unfulfilled expectations of God.  At some level, if I am truly honest, I feel a little frustrated with God that God isn’t more about the business of making this world, and perhaps my life, a little bit more okay.  I relate to the Hebrew people in the Old Testament when they cried out, “How Long, O Lord?!”  True, I do wonder at times if I myself am doing enough, but most of the time I am left thinking that if we are trying hard enough or if we are being faithful enough, then life really shouldn’t be this hard for me and for others.  I have lots of expectations and so many of them go unmet.  I seem to have this God description for God.  I have an idea of the way I think God should do things.  I even have a timeline for God.  Yet God doesn’t work that way and it can feel like all the challenges of this world are one big weight resting on our shoulders.

Some of the people who were around Jesus were feeling like that.  Things with Jesus weren’t going quite how they had expected.  Jesus was not whom they thought he would be.  John the Baptist’s followers were the first ones to express those feelings out loud.  At the beginning of the chapter from Matthew that we read this morning some of them come and say, “Jesus, John wants to know if your really are the one.”  Are you really the messiah?  Are you really the one who is going to solve all of the woes of the nation?  They try to hand Jesus all of their unfilled expectations.   They expect Jesus to solve their problems for them.  Jesus’ reply?  Go and tell John what you have been seeing.

Jesus reminds them about the blind seeing, the lame walking, the leapers being cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised, and the poor hearing that God loves them.   Go and tell John what you have been seeing and he will figure it out.  As they walk away we get the image of them shaking their heads, weighed down by the fact that there is no easy answer to their question.  They still have all of these unfulfilled expectations.

The followers of John weren’t the only ones asking questions about Jesus.  Everywhere people were arguing about who Jesus was or rather who he was not.  When Jesus didn’t meet their expectations, they lamented: “He’s just another prophet.”  “He’s only a healer.”  “What do you expect from Nazareth?”  “He can’t be the one.”  In the middle of this chapter it is almost as if Jesus is exclaiming, “What am I going to do with you?”

Jesus says that first God sent John the Baptist.  People weren’t satisfied with the way John was living out his life.  John was an amazing prophet and messenger, unlike any prophet who had come before.  He was strict and particular.  He was appropriately somber, a teetotaler, who, before he was arrested, ate a strange diet and dressed like a wild desert hermit.  He had the word of God on his lips, talking about repentance and preparation.  You could see that through him God was at work.  God was changing lives.

His ministry is going well and yet people began to grumble.  “He’s the Preparer of the Way?  That’s not how I would do it!”  John was too traditional and old school.  He preached far too much about fire and brimstone.  Too much about repentance and judgement.  Too much about mourning and wailing.  Listening to him preach was a real downer.  John wasn’t whom they would have chosen.

Then Jesus came on the scene.  Jesus was the opposite.  He came with a deep passion for justice.  He was joyful.  He was compassionate.  He included everyone.  He embodied the good news of God’s grace and love, of God’s healing and salvation.  Jesus was the one and through him God was at work, changing the world.  God was at work for those who had the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

Then Jesus sat down with tax collectors and sinners.  “He can’t be the Messiah.”  “He is far to open, to convivial, way too tolerant.  He eats and drinks too much with the wrong kind of people.  He doesn’t act how a Messiah should act.  He refuses to stay within boundaries.  He pushes against too many rules.”  At this point, Jesus was getting frustrated.  No matter what, they could not be satisfied.  The kingdom was breaking out all around them and they couldn’t see it.

What about today?  Do we see the kingdom breaking out around us?  A summer music camp is taking place.  Mexican dancing and a piñata after church.  People praising God, reminding one another that they were not alone.  A family of refugees arriving from Africa.  A woman who said it was good to find a church that would accept her and her wife.  A Korean prayer group happening.  An Armenian bible study.  Sandwiches for those who were hungry.  Meals at the mission.  Clothes for those who didn’t have enough.  New people from distant shores in their midst – God’s reign breaking out all around.  Do we see it?  Do we notice the kingdom?  Jesus knew that if the people weren’t able to notice it, then it would be impossible for them to participate in it.  This isn’t the way God works!  Surely, this Jesus is not the one.

Then Jesus prays, verse 25: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.”  Is Jesus here reminding us that no matter how powerful and intelligent we may think we are, we are not the Creator, but the creatures?  We might think that we have the weight of the world on our shoulders but really, we are the ones who rest in the palm of God’s hand.

After Jesus finished praying, he looked around.  He saw the people bearing up under the weight of the world, the disappointed looks, the disapproving glances.  He saw the ache of those who wanted to have everything in life figured out and nailed down.  He felt hearts that were burdened with trying relationships.  At this moment, his frustration gave way to grace.  Jesus stretched out his arms, ready do carry all their burdens.  Ready to help them shoulder the weight of their lives.  He issued his own invitation.  “Come to me,” he offered, “All you that are weary and carrying those heavy burdens, come to me.  All you who are worn out from trying to keep your life under control, come to me.  All you who think the world is growing scarier with each day, come to me.  All you who are confused, grieving, exhausted, lost and lonely, come to me.  Come to me and I will give you rest.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This invitation is still to us today.  Jesus stretches out his arms.  He invites us to lay down all of our should’s and should not’s.  He invites us to lay down our burden of skepticism.  He invites us to lay down our burdens of control, of shame, of anger, our disappointment with God or with one another or with ourselves.  Jesus stands there reminding us that we are not God.  He reminds us to lean on God.  “I will give you rest for our souls.”

God may not be the kind of God we always want, but God is the kind of God we always need.  That is what we are called to trust.  My prayer is that knowing this, we might be freed to experience all God is already doing in our midst, realizing that we don’t carry the load alone.  May our prayer this morning be the words of the spiritual sung by Mavis Staples, “Woke up this morning with my mind stayin’ on Jesus.”

(song video to be played)   Press Control + click to view.

Woke Up this Morning




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