5th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 9 – A)
July 9, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel, which was read a few minutes ago.
In the 1800’s, people began hearing about a wonderful place far off to the West with cheap and fertile farmland, a place called Oregon. Thousands of people would chase their dreams and travel westward on what became known as the Oregon Trail. As they prepared for the journey, families had to decide what was important enough to make the trip. Like people are prone to do, many families packed way more than was necessary, or even practical. So when animals died or were injured and when wagons broke down families were forced to lighten their loads to continue on. Scattered all along the Oregon Trail were discarded dressers, tables, and dishes. I can imagine the heated and emotional discussions when the question was asked, “Why? Why are you still carrying it?” At the time, it was an important question of survival, so many special things were left behind. All these years later, the interstate has replaced the Oregon Trail and moving trucks have replaced the prairie schooners, but the question is still relevant, so I ask you, “Why are you still carrying it?”
Now you may be asking yourself, “Why am I still carrying what?” Maybe you don’t think you have anything that needs to go. It’s possible that you’re the only one in the whole world with nothing to drop, but it’s not very probable. In the Gospel, Jesus talks about the wise and understanding and how certain things are hidden from them. They don’t see, or don’t admit, that they’re carrying something they really should put down. The wise think they can keep carrying on with no problem. They’re capable of handling it themselves. They suck it up. They pull themselves up by their bootstraps, which by the way is a saying I don’t understand. They put their shoulder to the wheel and just power their way forward. Others ignore what they’re carrying. If they pretend they’re not carrying anything, they won’t be bothered. Some blame others for what they’re carrying. It’s not their fault, so they push what they’re carrying off on to others. But it doesn’t work that way; what you carry is yours. King Solomon has a saying about those who act wise and carry on by themselves. He says, “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 26:12)
The good news is that there are some people who realize they need help carrying their load, the bad news is that they’re still wise. Their wisdom leads them to look to others for help. There are songs that even encourage this behavior: You’ve Got a Friend, That’s What Friends are For¸ I’ll Be There for You. Friends help friends, right? If you’re carrying something that’s too big for you to handle on your own, you get a friend to help. But be honest, how often do friends let you down? They get tired of helping so they drift away. They have their own things to carry so they can’t give you the help you need. It happens, right? And even if someone sticks with you and helps you all they can, there’s only so much they can do. In the end, you’re left to carry on by yourself.
If you’ve ever carried something really heavy, you know the relief you have as soon as you put it down. The strain on your arms and back is immediately relieved. You stand up straight, stretch your back and take a deep breath. If only it was that easy to drop the weighty things we carry. Early on, you may have wondered what I was talking about when I was asked “Why are you still carrying it?”, but I hope by now, you’ve realized what I’m referring to. What you’re still carrying is probably different than the person next to you, but be assured that we’re all carrying something.
Some of you may carry the weight of past sins; a baby aborted, a divorce, an arrest, an uncharacteristic outburst of anger and violence, things done and left undone. Maybe you feel like King David did, “For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.” (Psalm 38:4)
Do you carry an angry God; a God who doesn’t love you or won’t forgive you.
Some of you carry the weight of a heart broken by betrayal or abuse.
Do you carry the weight of the Devil and his temptations; the temptations that could ruin your life or your marriage or your career?
Some of you might be carrying a thirsty soul, one that aches for God to show you His presence, one that needs Him to banish your doubts.
Do you carry a troubled conscience?
Some of you may carry the weight of need; it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s still heavy.
Do you carry fear? Fear of your illness, fear of death, fear of growing up, fear of growing old, fear of being alone, fear of the future, fear of losing God?
Do you carry something else? Something I didn’t mention? Something only you know?
Wouldn’t it be a relief if you could just put down all these feelings, sins, emotions, hurts, and sorrows. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful if you could just drop them and walk away? Well, you know what? You can! In the Gospel Jesus says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father” and this means you and all that you carry! Jesus says to you, “Why are you still carrying it?” “Why are you still carrying it when I want to take it from you?” He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is a gracious invitation that comes from God Himself, from Jesus your loving Savior. Jesus said that God revealed hidden things to little children, and this is the great revelation, you don’t have to carry on by yourself. You don’t have to labor under all that weighs you down. He promises you that you can come to Him with whatever it is that you’re carrying and He will give you rest. Someone once said, “Sleep doesn’t help when your soul is tired.” I can’t argue with that, but I promise that the promises of Jesus are for you and He will give you rest. As King David sang, so can you, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” (Psalm 62:1)
When you give Jesus the burdens that are wearing you down and wearing you out, He gives you relief in the form of another yoke, another weight. This sounds like a contradiction, but listen to what Jesus says. “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.” The yoke Jesus gives you isn’t heavy. It’s the knowledge of why Jesus does what He does – that He is gentle and lowly, that He is not cut off from you but close by. As King David also said, “The LORD is near to all who call on Him.” (Psalm 145:18)
Call on the Lord and hear His voice. Hear His promise that He’ll take whatever you give Him. You don’t need to carry it, He will carry it for you! Carry His yoke, the yoke of peace and rest. Carry His yoke knowing that He carried all your weighty things to the cross. It is in His body, killed by the burdens of the entire world, that you can find rest. It doesn’t matter what’s weighing you down, Jesus has picked it up for you. So why are you still carrying it?
If you’re carrying the weight of past sins, Jesus says, “I came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Tim. 1:15).
If you’re afraid of God, if you fear His wrath, Jesus declares, “I carried, and drank, the cup of God’s wrath in your place.” (Luke 22:42)
If your heart is bruised and broken, Jesus promises, “I am near to you. I will heal your broken heart and bandage your wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
If the Devil constantly attacks you, forcing you to carry the weight of temptation, Jesus assures you, “Know that I defend you as the Lion of Judah.” (Revelation 5:5)
If you carry a thirsty soul, one that needs to hear from God, one that needs His presence, Jesus says to you, “Let me quench your thirst with myself, the Living Water.” (Matthew 5:6, John 7:37)
If your conscience is distressed and troubled, Jesus pronounces, “I am Great Physician. I will pour the heavenly comfort of forgiveness over it.” (Matthew 9:12, Luke 10:33).
If you are in need, Jesus promises, “When you call to me, I will answer; I will be with you in trouble; I will rescue you and honor you.” (Psalm 91:15)
Are you carrying the unbearable weight of fear? Jesus declares, “If you are in peril, fear not, I will deliver you; when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.” (Isaiah 43:1-2)
If you carry the fear that Jesus may abandon you or that you might get lost, Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd, no one can snatch you out of my hand.” (John 10:28).
If you’re carrying something else, something only you know, Jesus promises you too, “Cast your burden on the me, and I will sustain you; I will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22). These promises are the yoke that Jesus gives to you and you can rest in them.
It had to be hard for those on the Oregon Trail to leave things behind, but they had to if they were going to survive and finish their journey. It’s hard for us to leave our burdens behind as well. But we do so because Christ has promised to take them from us. What a great exchange: we give him the heavy loads of our lives and He gives us the feather light load of peace, forgiveness, hope, comfort and everything else He promises to us, His little children. So don’t carry it anymore! Jesus is here so you don’t have to and now you can find much needed rest in Him.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen