First Reading: Zechariah 9:9-12
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war-horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.
The Word of the Lord.
The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
LORD, you are good to all,
and your compassion is over all your works.
All your works shall praise you, O LORD,
and your faithful ones shall bless you.
They shall tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your power,
that all people may know of your power
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; your dominion endures throughout all ages.
You, LORD, are faithful in all your words, and loving in all your works.
The Lord upholds all those who fall
and lifts up those who are bowed down. Amen.
Second Reading: Romans 7:15-25a
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.’
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
The Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel According to Saint Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
[Jesus spoke to the crowd saying:] “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I am a home body. Which is why I have found the oldest McFarland son to be so downright puzzling over the years. Jack and I have many – many things in common (sorry about that – honey). But one big thing Jack got from his dad is an amazing spirit of adventure. Ever since he was a tiny guy (and I do mean tiny) Jack has accepted every invitation he could to hang out with his extended family.
Jack was just 9 months old the first time he gleefully accepted an invitation to spend an entire week with his Mimi & Papa and Auntie & Uncle. Jack hadn’t yet mastered walking – but he boarded a plane in Fargo, North Dakota and flew all the way to Indiana with his Papa and Uncle and never looked back. That was 900 miles away from me at just 9 months old – and none of them missed me – AT ALL!
Jack has even conspired to teach his little brother to accept these invitations. And together the McFarland sons accept many – many invitations. So much so – that there are people who think their Auntie and Uncle have 4 children! (I am not kidding.) And I find myself saying things like – “Actually – those 2 over there. Yes – those 2. The ones who look like my husband! They actually are NOT John and Elizabeth’s kids. They are MINE!”
Or sometimes I find myself standing toe to toe with John – (and he is a big guy – something like 6 ft. 5 in. tall) and saying – “Give us back our children – NOW!”
But sadly – I usually lose because Auntie and Uncle are way – way cooler than I am!
Even if we aren’t quite as busy with invitations as the McFarland sons are – we all receive invitations from time to time. (Or at least we used to receive invitations before COVID-19 . . .) So we can remember what it was like to receive invitations.
We have received invitations to birthday parties and to anniversary celebrations like the wonderful gathering Phyllis and Charlie Boston had here at Saint Stephen last year to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary and events like our Big Band Nights at church.
We have received invitations to weddings and graduation celebrations and baby showers.
And now – in this COVID-19 world many of us are being invited to Zoom meetings. Or to socially distant hangouts which may seem a bit strange – but are a welcome opportunity to see a few of our long lost friends our hearts have been longing to see for months now!
No matter how an invitation arrives – every invitation has the same purpose. Invitations encourage you to be a part of something – they extend a warm welcome – and let you know you are wanted.
In our Gospel reading for this week we all heard an incredibly important invitation from our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ. Jesus declares this invitation is for anyone who is weary – or carrying a heavy burden. It is for anyone whose soul needs rest.
And I am guessing that when you heard those words from Jesus – (if you were anything like me) – you said “Yes – please. Count me in! I am sooooo totally there!”
Clearly – Jesus’ invitation is for every single person in the entire world. Because who hasn’t been weary? Especially after these past three and a half months!
I – for one – am exhausted. I am so stinking tired of living in a world in which COVID-19 exists. I have had enough of social distancing and masks and hand sanitizer and careful isolation and missing my friends. And missing my sisters and brothers in Christ! I am tired of doing risk assessments in my head every time one of my sons asks to do something. I want to sing the Happy Birthday song at an actual birthday party and not just because I am washing my hands for the 10,000th time that day! I am weary of worrying. I am – well – I am just plain weary.
And I doubt I am alone in having these feelings. Who isn’t carrying at least one heavy burden? Who can say their soul doesn’t need rest?
And so – know this – Jesus is inviting you to come to him. Your Lord and Savior is inviting you to draw near to him.
And if you accept Jesus’ invitation to come to him – Jesus promises you that he will gently and humbly care for you. Jesus wants you to know if you come to him and you are weary or carrying heavy burdens – he will give you rest. Jesus promises to surround you with his love.
Jesus sends you this amazing invitation, because he loves you. And because he knows what it is like to be a human being. Jesus knows what you need and what you long for most. He knows what is in your heart and on your mind. Jesus gets it. After all – Jesus is just as human as you are. Jesus has walked in your shoes.
Jesus knows what it is like to have a family. Jesus knows the joys and the stresses of having parents and brothers and sisters.
Jesus has spent a whole lot of time with the same people. Day after day after day with the same people . . .
He knows what it is like to have friends and neighbors and co-workers who expect a lot from you. Jesus knows what it is like to be surrounded by people who need or want something from you ALL OF THE TIME!
Jesus knows what it is like to have an incredibly demanding job. Jesus knows what it is like to feel like your work is never done!
He knows what it is like to have people angry with you because you do not meet their expectations or do what they want you to do.
Jesus knows what it is like to be frustrated – tired and weary.
Jesus knows what it is like to suffer and to be afraid.
Jesus knows what it is like to mourn when a loved one dies.
Jesus has dealt with the burdens of being human in this broken – messy – complicated – often painful world. Jesus knows. He understands. Jesus gets it.
And Jesus cares. Jesus cares a lot! Jesus loves you so much that he invites you to share your life and your burdens with him. Jesus promises to help you carry your burdens – so they will not be so heavy. Jesus promises to be your partner in this life – to help you – to share in each and every moment of your life.
To believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior – does not mean your life will not be touched with difficulties – sorrow – and pain. Jesus does not promise you that – but Jesus does promise to be present with you throughout your lives.
Jesus will share your greatest joys – your deepest suffering and sorrows and everything in between. Jesus will strengthen you and encourage you. Jesus has promised to be with you for all eternity. You are never alone – not even for a second! Your loving Lord is with you always. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.