“The Unforced Rhythms of Grace!”

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Lectionary 14) 9 July 2017
(Zechariah 9:9-12 Psalm 145 Romans 7:15-25 Matthew 11:16-19; 25-30)
“The Unforced Rhythms of Grace!”

The other day I was talking with a family who was getting ready to leave for vacation this weekend and they were saying how much work it is just to get ready to go away for a week. And then I ran into a family who just got back from the beach and the first thing they said is, now that they are home they need to rest up from their vacation.

One of our 94-year-old homebound members says over and over how tired she is. I’ve been thinking about all we have been through as a congregation this past month.
In every one of these situations, somewhere is embedded the theme of “weariness.” Lots of people are weary these days! We hear it over and over and over again!

“Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens. . .”

Breathe deeply and hear these words yet again:

“Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens. . .”

There is not a person here in this church this morning who is not carrying some burden at this very moment.

At the Friday Bible Study at the prison, when I asked the inmates to name a burden they were carrying, two of them immediately tried to hide tears. And then, almost to a person they said that their greatest burden always has to do with making an irresponsible decision they now regret–one unable to be with his dying mother; another one with an autistic son unable to be there simply to love his child.

For many of us the heaviest burden we carry is that we believe we did not do enough, or currently are not doing enough—keeping a daughter away from drugs; keeping a son away from alcohol; keeping a marriage together; keeping a mother out of a nursing facility. Regrets then become burdens.

So here’s what I’d like you to do this morning: breathe in deeply enough to taste the gift of being alive. Wherever your feel your weariness and however you carry your burdens, I need you to know that everything in your life is not broken. And also to know that the “rest” offered by Jesus is not simply a “pause” in the chaos of life, but rather, it is a new relationship with life altogether.

Let’s hear how Eugene Peterson translates these verses in The Message:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Come away with me and you will recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me; work with me—watch how I do it.” I really like his translation of this final verse. We heard, “…my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Peterson paraphrases it as: “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” [28-29].
“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace!”

To learn and experience the rhythms of God’s grace in the midst of our weary lives! Isn’t that the real gift of being in relationship with Jesus?
This section of Matthew’s Gospel is the final lines of what is called the Great Commissioning Discourse. We’ve heard it the last few weeks. Jesus called his disciples and then Jesus sends them out, warning them that discipleship will be a difficult venture.

The tone of this Gospel text begins to change, as it sets in motion talk about God’s Kingdom and God’s activity in our lives today. Both John and Jesus are rejected because of their deeds—either eating or drinking too little or too much with the wrong people. It is what they do that gets them in trouble. The things we do are better indicators of what we believe than just the things we say. Our deeds witness to what we believe. I don’t want to lose sight of this important part of the Gospel.

Part of this Gospel is about what we do as disciples, how we respond to the world around us. I think about the article in this past Monday’s Gettysburg Times by Megan Shreve, the chief executive officer for SCCAP, how recent budget cuts will drastically impact the homeless population, so many vulnerable individuals here in Gettysburg. That’s part of the message this morning.
I want us to be a congregation passionately involved in this community and beyond, in issues of social justice; but I want, no less, to be a congregation passionately rooted in prayer, in order that we might notice, what Peterson calls “the unforced rhythms of grace.

Thomas Merton, the 20th century monk, writes marvelously about this very balance when he says “There is a pervasive form of violence to which we most easily give into. This violence comes from the rush and pressure of modern life, in the form of overwork. The frenzy of our lives destroys our own wisdom which makes our work fruitful.” 1

What Merton is saying is that even when we are doing good things, these good things turn violent without the inner wisdom that only comes in prayer. “Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens. . .

If your prayer goes deep, your whole view of the world will change–from fear and reaction–to deep and positive connection—because then you realize that you don’t live inside a fragile envelope any longer.2

In today’s Gospel, we are being asked that in our worst and most weary moments to submit to an astonishing deepening of faith, to be yoked with Jesus against those parts of the world where human beings are noticed, respected and valued least.

To do this work well is to know with Whom we are yoked, with Whom we walk, most especially when we become wearied by the magnitude of the job to which we have been called. The rhythms of grace abound! The rhythms of grace abound!

“Come. . . bring your weariness and your burdens. . . give them to me. . .and you will find my rest.” Amen.
1 Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. Thomas Merton.
2. Richard Rohr, daily meditation blog, July 6.


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