Monday, July 4, 2011

Jesus Is Our Sabbath

3rd Sunday after Pentecost – July 3rd, 2011
Text: Matthew 11:25-30; Zechariah 9:9-12; Romans 7:14-25

In the Name of Jesus + Amen.

    In a country that prides itself on rugged individualism, independence, self-sufficiency, and autonomy, infants appear to be lazy. All they do is eat, sleep, poop and repeat. Infants are utterly and completely dependent upon their parents. When was the last time you saw an infant change their own diaper? Dress? Bathe? Feed? Rock themselves to sleep?

    Christianity is full of similar paradoxes: sinner and saint. Church militant and triumphant. God is three and yet one. Jesus reveals his teaching to infants; it's little children who inherit the kingdom of heaven – even when they sleep through their Baptism.
    “I praise you heavenly Father, Lord of heaven and earth that you have kept these things from the wise and understanding and given them to infants.”
    According to Jesus, infants are the wise ones. “But they don’t do anything,” you say. Exactly. That’s His point. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. For unless you become like little children – like infants - you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. But in Christ that’s who you are – born again by water and the Spirit: Jesus takes your sinful, excrement filled garments and washes, cleanses and restores you. In Baptism you are bathed in forgiveness. Clothed in Christ.  Once you are bathed and clothed, you are fed in His Supper. Blessed are you, saints of God, His infants, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
    Individual liberty, hard work and autonomy may work well to govern and order sinners in secular society, but these are lousy words for describing the Christian faith. Not just lousy – false. You simply cannot find the words individualism and self sufficiency, do-it-yourself or autonomy in the Scriptures. The Bible is not a choose-your-own adventure book.  The Christian faith – and our Triune God – is opposed to this kind of self-centered vocabulary. Where secular society cries out: “I am my own person; it’s all about me.” The Scriptures and our Christian faith cry out: “you are not your own you are bought with a price.”
    The fact that you have a belly button proves that you are not self-sufficient (and don’t bother asking me about whether or not Adam and Eve had them). And as children we often say, “We know better. No! I can do it myself.”
    Really? How’s that 10 commandment to-do list going? Doesn’t the cost of discipleship ever weigh on you? Have you kept the Sabbath by listening and hearing the Word daily? What about showing mercy and care the neighbors you don’t love? Care to post your daily life on a live video feed in Time’s Square? I sure wouldn’t. 
    We think we are so wise and understanding, don’t we? And yet we are fools. The yoke of Moses is far too heavy. The burden of Sinai is oppressive and overwhelming. We’re worse than misbehaving children in need of a timeout or a naughty chair; we deserve everlasting punishment. We are guilty.
    What’s wrong with the world these days? Me. “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want – that is what I keep doing. For I delight in the law, the teaching of God, but I see in my members another law waging war against my mind making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in me. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

    Lo and behold an infant comes to your rescue. Jesus: your deliverer in diapers; your swaddling Savior in a shepherd’s stall. Jesus knows this dependent life – your life. He lived it, suffered it, was crucified and buried because of it, all for you. He who is eternally begotten of the Father before all worlds, was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate.
    It is He who declares to you this day: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, Jesus says. “For you are not learning from me how to refashion the fabric of the world, nor to create all things visible and invisible, nor to work miracles and raise the dead. Rather, you are simply learning of me: “That I am meek and lowly in heart.” If you wish to reach high, then begin at the lowest level. [Begin at the manger and go to the cross]. If you are trying to construct some mighty edifice in height, you will begin at the lowest foundation. This is humility.” (Augustine)
    Christ humbled Himself by being made man – that’s why your pastors bow at that part of the Creed - he was made man. For it is through our humanity that Christ redeems all humanity from sin, death and hell. By flesh and blood He comes with life for your flesh and blood.
    It is for you who are you heavy laden with sin, guilt and shame. You who struggle daily – or fear that you’ve given up the struggle - with that Old Adam clinging tightly around your neck. For you, the sinner, the outcast, the doubter, the fearful, the burdened - Christ comes for you.
    Jesus pulls a reverse Tom Sawyer: you stand and watch while He does all the work for you. Christ labors under your burden and He gives you His easy yoke of salvation.  Jesus straps our yoke of sin and death around His neck, His arms, His feet and you receive all His benefits.

    Christ shows us pity where we deserved punishment. Victory to the defeated. Life for utterly dependent children. Christ releases us from bondage to sin, death and the devil with words of consolation: Come to Me all you who are laboring and heavy laden, for my yoke is good for you and my burden is light, free. Free life. Free forgiveness.
    “Oh, what a very pleasing weight that strengthens even more those who carry it. For the weight of earthly masters gradually destroys the strength of their servants, but the weight of Christ rather helps the one who bears it; because we do not bear grace; grace bears us. It is not for us to help grace, but rather grace is given for our desperate aid” (anonymous church father: homily on Matthew).
    Our infant song of praise echoes Zechariah. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Rejoice, O sons and daughters of Redeemer. Behold your King has come, righteous and having salvation is He. In humility He rode into Jerusalem for you. Humbled and mounted on the cross; He died for you and now He lives for you. His saving work complete. Accomplished. Fulfilled.
    After Jesus had finished his work, He rested from His labors on the Sabbath day, only to rise again on the first day of the week. The 8th day. The new day. And this will be for you a holy day for all generations: an eternal Sabbath day of rest in Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus is Lord, even of the Sabbath. And He has made this Sabbath day – a proclamation of His sacrifice and forgiveness – His mercy and love – for you.
    Sabbath was made for man. Which is why Jesus’ eternal Sabbath rest comes to you whenever you inwardly digest His Word, whenever you come to His table to eat and drink, as you live daily in your Baptism. You are changed. Bathed and clothed. Fed and folded into Christ’s pierced arms forever.
    Sabbath is just another way of saying Jesus leads you to Himself. Jesus is your Sabbath, your rest. Come to me all who are laboring and heavy laden for I give you myself.

In the Name of Jesus + Amen.

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