Sermons

"How Do We Rest?" - A Sermon for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

"How Do We Rest?"  - A Sermon for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

    Jul 09, 2017

    Passage:Matthew 11:16-30

    Preacher: The Rev. Jean Scott

    Category: Discipleship, Faith, Kingdom of God

    Keywords: discipleship, faith, kingdom of god

    Summary:

    It was our pleasure to have visiting priest, the Rev. Jean Scott, preaching and celebrating with us Sunday morning. In this sermon Mother Jean reflects on the Gospel passage for today and Jesus' invitation for us to rest. "How do we rest? We become disciples learning from Jesus the Teacher; we are open to divine revelation, and we live in faith where the yoke is easy and the burden light."

    Detail:

     Year A- Proper 9  Matthew 11:  16-19, 25-30

    July 9, 2017

    St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Amarillo, TX

    Let us Pray:

    Lord, let your word be like a gentle rain, refreshing our souls, and opening our hearts to your eternal care and love.  Amen.

    How do we rest? In Matthew’s gospel reading, Jesus looks around at the crowds and he sees poor, marginalized people who are weary and burdened by the demands of an oppressive religious establishment. In first century Israel, good Jews followed the strict purity codes of the day, observed Sabbath rules, and paid the required taxes. These rules were oppressive; they preyed on the poor and the weak. Jesus comes with a message of good news that will bring rest, but in many of the towns and villages where he healed and preached, the gospel fell on deaf ears.  Jesus is exasperated by the inability of so many to sit up, pay attention, and respond to the coming of the kingdom of God right in their midst. To us today, he might say, “You who are weary, and anxious, and distracted; put down the cell phone, quit texting, take the earplugs out of your ears, turn the volume down and listen.” As Jesus speaks to the crowds and to you and me this morning, he gives us an invitation to rest.  How do we find rest for our souls?

    We become disciples.  The Greek word for disciple is “learner” or “pupil.”  Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” Discipleship is to learn from the teacher.  In my work at Texas Tech, I teach several on-line courses and recently, I have started working with anew instructional designer who is helping me up-date one of my courses.  Formerly, I had been working with Anita, an instructional designer, who helped me revise two other courses.  I really enjoyed my work with Anita, but she left in the spring to take another job.  Now, Vickie is my instructional designer.  In working with Vickie, I am surprised to find that I must pay attention to the instructions she gives and not to make revisions using my old approach. I have had to adjust to Vickie’s method of doing things.  I have this urge to say, “That’s not how Anita did it!”  or “I’d rather do it my way.”  Vickie and I have had a few rough starts because she insists that I follow her instructions.  As I learn a new method, the work becomes much easier.  In a similar way, Benedictine monks grow in their spiritual life by following the rule of St. Benedict. It is a rule of life that requires, among other things, that the disciple be silent and listen in order to imitate the humility of Christ. The monks practice ways of developing gentle and humble hearts.

    The choice to follow the teacher is one we continually make in response to Jesus’ invitation to “Come to me; learn from me.”A disciple then is first a learner who follows a direction set by the teacher.

    How do we rest? We see what is revealed.  For, as the gospel says, God has revealed the kingdom to infants – those with open hearts and open minds.  Often, it is in the ordinary, everyday aspects of our lives where we encounter God. 

    Kimberlee Ireton (2006) tells about a time when she was depressed.  After the birth of her son, she fell into a prolonged depression.  She said that for months she felt as if she was in a dark cloud that had settled over her world where all she wanted to do was curl up in her bed and pull the covers over her.  One day she was standing at the kitchen sink washing Swiss chard.  As the sun’s rays came through the window and fell on the chard, its intense beauty came alive for her.  Kimberlee was struck by the vivid colors - deep red veins and crinkly green leaves.  The heavy, dark cloud lifted, and for a moment, Kimberleesaw a lighter, brighter reality.  She says that she has washed Swiss chard many times since then, but she has not had that experience again.  However, this one encounter was a turning point that helped her slowly begin to find joy and wonder in life again.  The Divine revelation is a gift that can free us and ease our burdens.

    For many years I have taken a retreat at a Benedictine monastery.  I don’t stay for a long time, but I do find that even a few days brings a rest, a shifting of gears from the rush of the world.  Every time I go, I experience The Great Silence – it is that initial, uncomfortable period of letting go of the busyness of our lives.In the stillness and quiet of the monastery, it is a time to decompress, to stop the hectic pace, slow down, disconnect.  I am always surprised how difficult this can be. At first, there is that automatic impulse to pick the phone up and talk to someone; or check e-mail even though there is no phone service or internet.  All of sudden you find yourself being with yourself.  The Great Silence can be profoundly isolating at first, yet it is a good place to rest and be open to what God is doing in our lives.

    How do we rest? We live out of faith. Theologian James Alison says faith is relaxing. It is like enjoying the company of a dear aunt or uncle or being with a grandparent.  We can laugh and be at ease.  When we are the beloved, we can be ourselves.  This is in contrast to the way we would act if we were being interviewed for a job where our anxieties would be high and we would be monitoring our every move or response, wondering if we are acceptable or not.  In the presence of a God who loves us; where our worth is assured, we relax.  I like the image of floating in water – once we stop flailing our arms and let go of control, we discover a buoyancy that holds and sustains us.   In faith we discover rest for our souls; a buoyancy that is pure gift.

     

    Several years ago when I first began my clinical pastoral education at the hospital, CPE as it’s called, I was perfecting my listening skills, I was learning procedures about how to appropriately enter the patient’s room, the kinds of cues to look for in the room, how to interact with the family members present, and details that gave me information that could improve my understanding of the patient’s condition and emotional state.  Initially, I felt like I was checking off a list of “dos” and “don’ts.”  The first three steps were to knock on the door, introduce myself, and ask for permission to enter the patient’s room. Then there were the guidelines for being present and listening to the patient.  One day my CPE supervisor said to me, “You really seem to be working extremely hard in this chaplaincy role.”  I agreed that it really felt like work; I wanted to utilized my skills and make the visit the best I could have with each patient.  My supervisor said “The skills and guidelines are important, but what is more important is to be available, totally present to the patient. You can’t be available when you are preoccupied.  Be available with the patient to enter that holy space where God’s presence is felt and God acts; where healing is experienced.   That was the most important insight from my CPE training – to live in faith; to trust what God is doing in the moment.   What a relief!  It wasn’t up to me to take charge of God’s work.  You and I discover rest in the goings and comings of our lives when we let go and live the faith God gives us.

    How do we rest? We become disciples learning from Jesus the Teacher; we are open to divine revelation, and we live in faith where the yoke is easy and the burden light. 

     

    References

     

    Alison, James. (2013).  The difference Jesus makes.  In Jesus the forgiving victim:  Listening for the unheard voice. (vol. 3).  Glenview, IL:  Doers Publishing.

     

    Ireton, Kimberlee Conway. (2006).  Waking to mystery.  Weavings, 21 (1), 18-22.