Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost                                                                    6 July 2014

(Zechariah 9:9-12   Psalm 145   Romans 7:15-25   Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30)

“Bumps, Bents, Bruises, and Bunches of Bargains!”

This weekend is an exciting time in the life of Laura Haupt and her family.  It is also an exciting time in the life of this congregation!  For both, it is a time of new beginnings, and although Pastor Laura began her ministry here at St. James five weeks ago, today we formally install Laura as our Interim Pastor.

As with any beginning, there is excitement, but there are also unanswered questions.

For Laura and her family, the excitement is, that finally, after four years of seminary study, a young marriage, two small children, coming into an active and exciting congregation, new ideas, fresh energy, Pastor Laura can begin to live her dream and call of serving as a pastor.

For Laura and her family, the unanswered questions are, that finally, after four years of seminary study, a young marriage, two small children, coming into an active and exciting congregation, new ideas, fresh energy, Pastor Laura can begin to live her dream and call of serving as a pastor.

And, for us as a congregation, there is also excitement and there are unanswered questions.  Our excitement as well as our unanswered questions are similar:  getting to know a new young pastor, a new family, different and fresh perspectives, an individual who is finally able to begin living her dream and call of serving as a pastor.

Excitement and unanswered questions—both always front and center at the beginning of any new venture!

In today’s Gospel text, Jesus is pretty much at the beginning of his new ministry.  He has called his disciples and finished his Sermon on the Mount by the time we begin Chapter 8.  In Chapter 10, Jesus has sent out his disciples for the first time. So today as we arrive in Chapter 11, Jesus has regrouped with his disciples and is speaking to them and to a crowd.

Jesus speaks in a specific tone, “come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, for I am gentle and humble in heart.”  As you know, Jesus does not always speak in that tone.  But here he does.  Here there is no coercion, no rigorous discipline, no big buck quotas.  Here Jesus claims no “deeds of power.” He only offers an invitation, “Come to me.”

It is not an altar call.  It is a call to an alternative existence, away from weariness, control, domination and success.  The invitation is to the innocent and vulnerable, to those capable of trusting in a different way of living life, trusting in a life of well-being with the Risen One.

So what is it that makes people weary?

Certainly there is physical and emotional weariness that comes from normal engagement with life.  But there is another type of weariness that comes from living a life that is against the grain of what we are called to be in Christ, so that how we live contradicts what we know best of our ourselves and love most about our life as children of God!  Exhaustion comes from the demand that we be, in some measure, other than who we truly are as God’s children.

So, Pastor Laura, and all who are here this morning, consider this!  We are the weary ones who Jesus invites into a different way of living, away from weariness, anxiety, control and success.  We are the ones Jesus invites beyond the belief that one more pastoral call, one more committee meeting, one more staff review, one more checking to make sure all emails are answered, one more anything, will enhance our sense of being a pastor or being a child of God.

And, of course, it is never enough, so we are left to be the weary ones because in the end, we can guarantee the life of no one and certainly not the life of St. James, or the life of the larger church.

So how do we move beyond weariness and carrying heavy burdens?

By standing with Jesus and becoming tellers of the truth—the truth being that the burdens of the world don’t need control us; the truth being that our church does have the resources and energy for mission; the truth being the staggering certainty that Christ is risen and that the Holy Spirit has come, that there is new life God is now giving.

Jesus invites Pastor Laura and every one of us this morning!  But it us not a free lunch!  There is a yoke.  It is the yoke of trusting discipleship, for us to become who we are called to become.  It is the yoke of embracing the abundance and the freedom of the Gospel so we can bring hope to the world!

When I was growing up in Lebanon, there was a store close by that my Dad loved to go to on Saturday mornings, one of those places where they sell canned goods with minor damages—you know:  dented cans, generic brands, cheap prices. There was a big sign outside the store I’ll never forget that read:  “Bumps, Bents, Bruises and Bunches of Bargains.” 

Pastor Laura, this is a most appropriate description of the ministry with the church into which you have been ordained, and the ministry with this congregation into which you are soon to be installed!

So, today, surely is about installing a new pastor, but today is about much more—it is about how we together can do the work of God into our future. And be forewarned!  We are most deeply and most faithfully the church when we are serving others.

The Installation Ceremony that will be used in just a few minutes gives us an understanding of ministry and what this day is all about.  Listen carefully to the questions Pastor Laura will be asked.

Please hear from deep within you the gravity of these words as we bind ourselves to each other, as we commit ourselves to each other in witness and service and trust and faithful love proclaiming Jesus Christ. 

So, Laura, my colleague in ministry, and to all the good people of St. James, today we celebrate the beginning of a new partnership of service and love.  The best I can say is this:  may we commit ourselves together to Jesus Christ.  May we promise to love—with all the excitement and all the unanswered questions, and most especially with all the bumps, bents, bruises, and bunches of bargains—and in all this, together we will become most deeply and more clearly the church.  Amen.


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