Sunday, July 6, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Matthew 11:25-30

Those familiar with Monty Python’s Flying Circus will remember one of their gags: “And now for something completely different.” That would be followed, of course, by something having nothing to do with what had been happening. It was goofy. But it’s true, isn’t it? There are things that are different in life. Different doesn’t necessarily mean bad, it can just mean different. A TV show had two best friends confronted with a challenge. The one was going to get married and the other one was afraid this would affect their friendship negatively. The one getting married was straightforward: yes, things are going to be different—but different doesn’t mean bad, it just means different.

We might also think that different means weird. There are plenty of people out there who revel in being so different that it can seem pretty weird. You’d think that acupuncture is just for people. But there’s a guy who goes around Portland, Oregon, doing acupuncture to the city. He sticks needles into the earth in order to help maintain the city’s vital energy.

But different doesn’t have to be weird. It doesn’t have to be bad. It can be simply different. Distinct. Distinctions are inherent in God’s creation. On the first day of creation, He created light. Then He separated the light from the darkness. Do you know what He created on the second day of creation? An expanse. The sole purpose of this expanse was to separate. “He separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And God called the expanse Heaven.” Throughout creation and life we can see that there are differences. That doesn’t mean bad, it means different. Men and women are different. That’s a good thing, they complement each other. Day and night are different. God made it that way. We have time to work and play and time to rest and sleep. Work and play are different. We have time to accomplish things and serve others and time to rejuvenate. Our lives are filled with differences, and this is good; it would be pretty boring if everything were the same.

God Himself is wholly different from us. In our Gospel reading Jesus rejoices in God the Father hiding His glory and grace from the wise and understanding. That might seem strange, even wrong. Why would He be happy about that? We prefer fair play. But God deals in justice and mercy. The cause of Jesus’ rejoicing in was in God’s hiding of His glory and grace from the unrepentant and His revealing of them to the repentant. What do you do when you have done everything you can do? You rejoice in having done everything you can do. Jesus had done everything He could do for the towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, all He got was rejection. He preached, He provided miracles. They refused Him. What they would then receive would be judgment on the Last Day.

The Psalm says, “All men are liars.” The Word of God says that God is the God of truth. Whether the truth of God is received or rejected, it is still the truth. The Psalm says, “O Lord, if you should mark iniquities, who could stand?” John in his first epistle says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” They had rejected Him, but Jesus rejoices nonetheless. Though He had done all He could do, God the Father was still God the Father. Though people rejected Christ, God was still the Creator and Lord over all of creation. The one who realizes that the God who has come in Christ is a holy God and that he himself is a sinner and without hope before the holy God, confesses his sin. But John goes on in his epistle to say, “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the Truth is not in us.” God, above all people, agonizes over those souls that reject Him and His grace and salvation. While He is above us and greater than us, He nevertheless appeals to us with His offer of free and eternal life.

Christ’s offer is different from what we may think we need. We may be thinking we need help in our problems. We may think we need healing from our illnesses. We may think we need reprieve from our boss that’s too hard on us. All that would be great, and Christ does indeed offer us help in those things. He gives us wisdom and strength and at times even reprieve. But if that’s all He were to offer, how would that really be any different from what we could receive from the world? Go to any bookstore and you’ll see a self-help section that will offer more than your share of help for your problems. What would Christ really be offering if it were nothing more than that? He would be no God and no Savior at all.

What He offers is something completely different. In his letter to him Paul exhorts the young pastor Timothy to rightly divide the Word of truth. What our Lord does is call us to repentance. This is so different from what our sinful flesh wants to hear it’s no wonder many reject Christ as God and Savior. But this is His first act of love in reaching out to us who have more to deal with than just our problems. We must answer for our sin. We must stand before God. He deals in justice, and we are hanging in the balance and found wanting. Paul in the Epistle talks about how for us Christians, we are who redeemed and forgiven, are nevertheless in a battle against our sinful flesh. Sin lies close at hand. The first person ever born, Cain, murdered his brother, Abel. God said to him, “sin lies crouching at the door, but you must master it.” What happens when we try to stop doing those things that are wrong and hurtful? We think we can just try harder to get better. But who are we fooling? You can’t stop cancer. We, as Paul says in the Epistle, are a body of death. Trying to get rid of our sin is like putting a Band-Aid on cancer. Our disease is sin.

So what does Christ offer? Rest for our souls. Taking His yoke will not make our lives easy, but it will give rest for our souls. We might ask for an easier life, but He offers us what we truly need, refreshment for our weary souls. “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.”

In giving us His Holy Supper, our Lord not only commands and invites us to eat and drink, The Large Catechism reminds us that

"there is besides this command also a promise, as we heard above. This ought most strongly to stir us up and encourage us. For here stand the kind and precious words, “This is My body, which is given for you.… This is My blood … shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, I have said, are not preached to wood and stone, but to me and you. Otherwise, Christ might just as well be silent and not institute a Sacrament. Therefore consider, and read yourself into this word you, so that He may not speak to you in vain. Here He offers to us the entire treasure that He has brought for us from heaven. With the greatest kindness He invites us to receive it also in other places, like when He says in St. Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” It is surely a sin and a shame that He so cordially and faithfully summons and encourages us to receive our highest and greatest good, yet we act so distantly toward it. We permit so long a time to pass ‹without partaking of the Sacrament› that we grow quite cold and hardened, so that we have no longing or love for it. We must never think of the Sacrament as something harmful from which we had better flee, but as a pure, wholesome, comforting remedy that grants salvation and comfort. It will cure you and give you life both in soul and body. For where the soul has recovered, the body also is relieved."

Are you ready for something completely different? Rest in the Lord. The yoke of the Law, of sin, guilt, and condemnation, was laid upon Him. In His suffering on the cross, we have rest. Receive His body and blood. Receive His eternal rest for you souls. His promise to His people in the Old Testament is the same to you and me: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Amen.



Peter said...

What a GREAT proclamation of the gospel!

rev.will said...

Thanks Peter!