Sunday, July 09, 2023

Be Unburdened!

[Below you'll find live stream video of both worship services from Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio for July 9, 2023, as well as the text of the message shared during the services. WARNING: The video titled "11:00 AM Modern Worship" actually the "8:45 AM Traditional Worship" and vice versa. Got that? Have a good week. God bless you!]

Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus tells you today, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

This is the Gospel, the good news, in today’s gospel lesson that Jesus gives to you, that He does to you and does for you today. Literally, Jesus says, “Come to me, all those toiling and being burdened and I will give you rest.”

Many, if not all of you, are toiling and burdened today.

Some of you toil to be “good” people under the burden of old sins that you confessed and God forgave through Christ long ago.

Some of you toil under the weight of sins perpetrated against you, sins of which you either cannot or will not let go.

Some of you toil under the burden of thinking you must create a “best life” for you, your kids, or your grandkids.

Some of you are working to placate God, trying to pile up enough credits to get yourself into His eternal kingdom.

To you and me Jesus says today, “Let go of your burdens–all your guilt and shame, all your pride and self-righteousness, all your self-promoting or self-destroying religiosity–and I will give you rest. I will give you peace.”

Not everyone finds Jesus’ invitation compelling. In fact, it’s true to say that most of the people who have ever encountered God’s gift of new and everlasting life and of rest with Him through Jesus, most, have repudiated it, ignored it, walked away from it. Even derided it or tried to kill it off.

Jesus first spoke these Gospel words–come to me and I will give you rest–in the face of mass rejection of Him by His own people.

Earlier in chapter 11 of Matthew’s gospel, we’re told that as Jesus preached to crowds of people, disciples of John the Baptist, reflecting their leader’s skepticism, ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3) Jesus points them to what they are hearing and seeing Him do: giving sight to the blind, making the lame walk, causing the deaf to hear, raising the dead, and preaching His good news–His gospel–to the poor, to all who can admit that they are not self-sufficient, all who, on hearing Jesus’ word, realize that without Jesus, they can do no good thing. (John 15:5)

Also in Matthew 11, just before Jesus’ words in today’s gospel lesson, He denounces cities whose people have refused to repent–that is, to turn away from sin and the burdensome lie of self-sufficiency.

It’s in the face of this rejection and earthly failure that Jesus, God the Son, prays to God the Father. “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” (Matthew 10:25-26)

The Gospel, the good news from God that gives us rest, peace, and life with God is hidden from some people and it is seen and heard and trusted by others.

Now, anybody can see, hear, and trust in Christ’s Gospel. God is not a monster! God doesn’t pick winners and losers of salvation.

God’s message to the people of ancient Israel is His message for us today: “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11)

God wants to forgive our sins and give us new and everlasting life with Him.

But most people, thinking themselves “wise and learned,” unwilling to admit their need for forgiveness, or reconciliation, or peace, soldier on under the burden of self-rule. They refuse to daily turn away from the dumpster fire of sin, bitterness, and selfishness that rages in each of us descendants of Adam and Eve and cling to the lie that they (or we) can “be like God.”

These are people like Lot’s wife. Remember her? At the moment she was being graciously delivered from the hell of Sodom, told to not look back but to look ahead to the future into which God was taking her, she looked back anyway.

She may have thought to herself, “If I go back, I can make it better.”

Or, she may have thought, “I know what life was like back there in Sodom. I have no experience of the life God is taking me too.”

The wise and the learned are those who hear the Gospel promise of life and rest with God, but like, in the words of Proverbs, dogs returning to their own vomit, will not give up on the idea that they can be in control, or that they can make their lives right in their own power. (Psalm 26:11)

Jesus says though that “little children” are people who are open to His Gospel.

Don’t misunderstand Jesus here. Jesus doesn’t idealize childhood. The Bible is clear: We are all born sinners, intent on being masters of the universe, disinclined to love God or love neighbor. One of the favorite first words of children is still “No!”

What Jesus is saying is that when children are loved, they credulously and openly receive that love.

When some people hear the Law of God telling them that they were sinful at birth, they take in this truth from God and acknowledge it. (Psalm 51:5)

And when they hear Jesus say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17)--or “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” (Matthew 11:29) their resistance is melted. Their wills are overruled. They trust in Christ.

Now, friends, you know that if you are one of Christ’s little ones, trusting in Christ, turning from sin, receiving His promised rest, it isn’t because you’re superior to those still caught up in the lie of their own supposed wisdom or learnedness.

The Bible says “that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)

The rest that you have in God’s grace, given in Jesus, is a gift borne to you by God’s Word: preached, taught, read, heard, and received in the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. The Bible reminds us that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8)

What does all of this mean?

Quite simply, it means this: Today Jesus wants to make a trade with you.

He wants your sins, your death, and all that you try to conceal about yourself from God, the world, even yourself. He wants you to put all of these things on Him. That’s what we do when we repent.

In exchange, He wants to give you all His righteousness, rest, peace, life, hope, joy.

Little children, receive all these gifts from Jesus today.

He tells you again now: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Give Jesus your burdens and He will give you rest in Him.


God's Law and Gospel, July 9, 2023

[Here's video of today's adult Sunday School class from Living Water Lutheran Church. Sorry for the poor sound quality.]