Archive for the ‘Pentecost 21B’ Category

There IS Rest For The Weary

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

21st Sunday in Pentecost B, October 21, 2015

Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114

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“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  And (to this, Jesus disciples) were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”” (Mark 10:25-27)

There’s a city in Peru named Arequipa.  The name of the city was chosen due to a miscommunication. You see, in 1537, Diego de Almagro, who was the first Spanish explorer to visit there, pointed to the ground and asked the name of that place. The natives thought that he was asking permission to sit down, so they courteously replied, “Arequipa,” meaning “Yes, you may rest here.”

Well this morning, God wants you to know for certain, you may rest here.  He desires that all will find rest here in this place and in His Word.  And He also desires that through His Word, you will find faith to believe that He has prepared an eternal place for you to rest.

Today, we’re all equals; that is we’re all Camels looking at the eye of a needle. And this needle’s eye is meant to cause each of us, along with the apostles to wonder out loud, “Who can be saved.”  And God’s answer through Jesus Christ is, “You can be saved.  You can be saved if you are weary of living your life your way, and if you are ready for God’s idea of rest.”

The rich man from last week’s gospel lesson wanted rest; that’s why he searched out Jesus.  But, he wanted rest according to His understanding of rest.  “What must I do to be saved” He asked?  And how did Jesus answer that request for knowledge?  Sell everything you have and follow me.  Now that’s an impossible teaching… for man.  That’s an impossible request to fulfill, but not for God.

What the rich man lacked was the very same thing the Israelites who died in the wilderness lacked… fear of God and faith in God’s ability to give them rest.  This is why our Epistle lesson (Hebrews 4:1-13) starts out with this simple statement:  “While the promise of entering (God’s) rest still stands, let us fear lest any of (us) should seem to have failed to reach it.”  Are you in danger of failing to reach God’s rest?  You could be if you lack fear in Almighty God, and faith in His ability and love to do exactly what He says He will do, and give precisely what He says He will give!

The good news for us this morning, is that God’s promise of eternal rest through the forgiveness of sins is still offered to us.  Think of the sweetness of these two words “promise” and “good-news”.  God is promising you right now today, that through His Son Jesus Christ, your sins are already forgiven.  Can you believe and receive this?   God wants you to believe, and that is why He freely offers faith that comes through His Word and Sacraments.  And through this gift of faith, God asks you then to obediently come to Him and receive rest; rest here in this place through His Word, and ultimately an eternal rest in Paradise.  But that good news, may also be bad news for some people.

For some folks who lack fear of God and faith in His loving promise of forgiveness and rest, instead of receiving a spirit of obedience, they are now caught up in a spirit of disobedience.  Oh God still calls out to them, He still invites them to come to His house of prayer and to receive His gift of rest in His divine service, but instead, with hearts hardened by a lack of faith, like the disobedient Israelites in the desert, they hear the invitation to come and the promise of rest and they do neither.  Occasionally they will gather with others around God’s Word and Sacraments, but because of their hard hearts they count it as nothing more than formality.

Sadly, some people refuse to believe, and because of their refusal they loose both their rest in Christ here in this sinful world, and also their rest for eternity.  They are Camels who scoff at the possibility of passing through the eye of a needle, even though the only One who can make the impossibility a reality is telling them how this can be done.  Listen to Jesus invite us now: “Come unto me, all who are weary, and I will give you rest.” [Matthew 11:28]

We are all weary, whether we will admit it or not. You can hide your weariness from your loved ones here and at home, you can even hide your weariness from yourself, but it does not change the reality that God through His Word constantly points out your weariness.

God’s Word is indeed sharper than a double-edged sword.  It cuts deep like a butcher’s knife that separates bone from bone and even slices bone in half, exposing the very marrow deep inside.  God’s knife, which is His Word is able to separate your soul from your spirit.  And what is it that He wants us to discover?  He wants us to discover the very thing that we must acknowledge; that without Him, we are sinful and dead and in need of new life and rest.

And here is the amazing part of God’s pronouncement of our condition, even after it is proven to us unless we have faith, which is mingled in with the hearing of His Word, we will justify our emptiness and lifeless condition, by saying, “I’m just tired.  I need a break.”  And what is our idea of a break?  We stop for a moment from our work and we recreate; we use vacation time or we buy something special or many somethings that we really want, and we use these things as a way to put our minds and hearts at ease.  And at the end of the day, ease is all we’ve gathered for ourselves.

Now please hear me, and listen and learn what I am about to teach you.  Ease and rest are not the same thing. Ease can only give you a temporary respite by taking your mind off of your real problem.  And your real problem is that without God’s Word and promises you will never find relief from a guilty conscience, because that guilty conscience is God’s way of demonstrating your real need to enter His rest.

Your conscience can never find rest and peace through work or through ease, but by faith in Christ alone.

St. Paul says “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God.” [Romans 5:1]  So what is it that is preventing you from resting in Christ, in trusting Him, in leaving your old life and following Him into a new life?  Could it be your accumulation of stuff that you are afraid to live without?  Is there something in your life that you have put your trust in that is causing your terrified conscience to waver and doubt the promises of God?  Are you compensating for your guilt before God by working harder to be a better person, a better parent, or better what ever, so that at the end of your life God might see these things and be pleased?  But can’t you see, that these are the very things that are causing you to reject God’s offer of forgiveness and rest?

So let’s take this path to its obvious conclusion, shall we?  In the end you will simply rush headlong towards your ultimate demise pretending to be alright, but inside you are tired, afraid, and in need of the one thing you have refused, and that is rest.

But God will not give up; His Word will always hound you until you simply quit running from Him and admit something we all know to be true; you do not do the good that you want to do, but rather the evil you don’t want to do. [Romans 7:19]  With your mind you are a slave to the condemnation of God’s law, but with your flesh you are a slave to the law of sin. [Romans 7:25]

It is God’s Word that has left you naked and afraid before His ever present eye.  And now shivering in the dark cold of reality, God has you where He wants you, your cornered and crying out to Him, “Who can ever love or fear you enough?  Who can wait patiently while hardships, disease, and personal attacks are coming down upon them?  Who is it that can be so faithful that they never doubt what they hear in your Word?”  And at that point, addressing all of your fears, doubts, worries, in the midst of your emptiness, God points the eyes of your heart to His Son Jesus and says, “He can and He did.  And what’s more is that He did it all for you so that you may find rest.  He is your High Priest who came from me so that you could find, keep, and rest within the abundant life of forgiveness that I give.”

All of this is yours for the taking, if you will simply receive it by faith.  Your sins really have been forgiven at the cross.  You really have been washed clean, recreated at the font.  You really do eat and drink Christ’s body and blood for the experienced forgiveness of sins.  Will you believe?  Do you want to believe?  Good, then simply continue to turn to Jesus every day in His Word.  Continue to come to this place to be filled, healed, and restored with all of these wonderful gifts.

Perhaps this morning, the best way for me to close our message is the same way that Mark closed the 10th chapter of His Gospel; with a further explanation of who Jesus really is and why He really came to us.  Listen: “And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” [Mark 10:32-34]

Do you get it?  Jesus is saying that He would be smitten, stricken, and cast down for you!  He knew that where He was going to, would be a place where He would be mocked, spit upon, beaten, and then crucified for you; He would undertake all of this for your sins so that you can be free.  And then, after all of this was done to Him, three days latter He rose from the dead to prove to you that His promise of eternal life and rest is real and it’s yours, if you will simply believe and receive this gift through His Word.

It is His Word friends that comes to you every week here at Trinity.  It is His Word that not only strengthens your faith to believe but also changes how you think, speak, and live.  It is His Word, which convinces you that the greatest Christians in God’s eyes are not the ones that seek leadership, but the ones who flourish in humble service to others.

Finally, God points our eyes to the last verses of Mark Chapter 10, where we meet a blind beggar named Bartimaeus in the city of Jericho, who encounters Jesus as He makes His way to Jerusalem and then to the cross, and He simply cries out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  That cry for help from that poor man was enough to stop Jesus in His tracks, and have that man brought over to Him.  “And (the Apostles) called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.”

This morning Jesus is pointing our hearts to that blind beggar and to the camel that must pass through the eye of the needle, and He is asking us if we understand.  He is saying, “Do you get it?  That’s you!  I am here every Sunday passing in your midst and all you must do is see your need for both the faith I give and the rest I provide, and then simply enjoy My gift of forgiveness.”

Dear friends,  all of God comes to work for you, and He comes in response to sinners like us crying out to Jesus, “Son of God have mercy on me!”  If that is your cry this morning, then Jesus answers you, “I have forgiven you and I always will, if you will but trust me, leave everything behind, follow me, and you will have… rest.”  AMEN!