Come to Me All Who Are Weary

Come to me,” Jesus says, “all you who are weary and burdened, 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.”

As we gather together this morning, there are so many things that make us weary, that wear out our souls and minds and bodies and so Jesus says to us, “Come to me.”

This invitation is not an altar call but rather a call to an alternative existence, away from control and domination, success and eternal restlessness.

Jesus, who himself takes naps and goes off alone to pray, says to us,

Come and I will give you rest.”

Jesus’ invitation to respite is not a new one but an old one, one that goes all the way back to God’s commandment to the Israelites to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

When God invites the Israelites to honor the Sabbath as a day of rest, God is calling the Israelites to a way of life that stood in direction opposition to the one that they had experienced under Pharaoh, who had a voracious appetite that could never be satisfied and demanded that the Israelites work without ceasing and without rest.

Pharaoh himself was tormented with anxiety. Prior Pharaohs before him had been startled awake with nightmares of terror, dreaming of famine and anticipating that creation would not yield enough food. Pharaoh’s fear had driven him to demand an endless supply of grain, beyond what he needed. Continually he had demanded additional grain be gathered and additional granaries for storage be constructed out of bricks. The more granaries he had, the more powerful he seemed, and so the cycle continued. (Source: Sabbath as Resistance by Walter Brueggeman).

More, he demanded, more, more, more.

The Pharaoh’s restlessness permitted no Sabbath and no break.

The story of Pharaoh and the Israelites may have taken place over three thousand years ago but it is not too different than the one we experience today. It often seems like one more electronic gadget, one more thing acquired, one more action taken, one more check to make sure the lights are out and the dishes washed and the mail answered, one more anything will make this a better place and enhance our sense of self.

But of course, in the end, it is never enough, and instead of finding ourselves satisfied, when we are finished, we simply finding ourselves dreaming of what else needs to be done.

Like Pharaoh.

In the words of Walter Brueggeman, “Pharaoh is a hard-nosed production manager for whom production schedules are inexhaustible.”

When Moses asks if the Israelites can take a three day journey in order to worship and be with God, Pharaoh responds saying, “Why would you take people away from their work? Get to your labors!!” Pharaoh, consumed by the world of brick-counting and brick-hoarding, actively scoffs at the idea that Moses wants the people to stop working.

After Moses leaves, ever full of spite, Pharaoh says to the Israelites: I will still require you to make the same number of bricks but now I will not give you any straw; you will have to go and collect it yourself. This meant any little free time that Israelites had had was now spent gathering straw. Literally, there was no rest for the weary. When the Israelites could not keep up with the impossibly high production numbers, they were punished. It seems, there was no room for forgiveness or even a little grace in Pharaoh’s world either.

Come to me, Jesus says, come to me, you who are weary.

Aren’t we too worn and exhausted from the world that we live in?

Aren’t we too tired of not being enough or doing enough or having enough?

Don’t we too, like the Israelites, gather together, filled with a longing for Sabbath?

The gods of Pharaoh had demanded a relentless production cycle. All grain surplus was a sign of their favor and so to increase divine favor, Pharaoh had required endless work.

In opposition to these demands, God leads the people out of Egypt to Mount Sinai and says to them “I am calling you to a whole new way of living and loving.”

As a side note, at Sinai, troubling words were also recorded about punishing children for the sins of their parents … I just wanted to note that one commentators that I read noted that this phrase was likely relating the truth of the time that the Israelites lived in a society with little margin for error and that what the parents did would have consequences felt by their children because there was no safety net in that day.

But that is not our focus for today. Today, we are studying the Sabbath commandment, in which God reminds the people that God created the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them and, on the seventh day, God rested.

In the words of Walter Brueggeman, “On the seventh day, God absented God’s self from the office and did not come and check on creation in anxiety to make sure everything was functioning correctly. No, God had no anxiety about the living giving capacity of creation … God knew the world would hold, plants would perform, the birds and animals would prosper and humans would govern the earth in a generative way.”

Just as God rested, God call us to rest too.

Honor the Sabbath,” God says.

Honor the Sabbath as a way to resist the cycle of anxiety and endless brick quotas.

Honor the Sabbath as a way to say that we are not pawns of a production cycle to be reduced to slaves or competitors, threats or rivals, we are human being; we are people made in the image of God’s own self and we deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Honor the Sabbath as way to center your life on the rest of God rather than the restlessness of Pharaoh.

Honor the Sabbath that you might be to rest, to pause, to taste and to reflect on what really matters.

There’s a movie that relates back to this theme of finding Sabbath called Waking Life. Has anyone ever heard of it? It was produced in 2001 and the characters in the movie explore the ways that they have sleep-walked through parts of their life, worn down by its demands and everyday grind, struggling to wake up and live a meaningful life.

In the process of waking up, one character proclaims, I don’t want to be crammed into a rat maze. I want freedom. That’s what I want. It’s up to each and every one of us to turn loose from the greed, the hatred, the envy and yes even the insecurities that plague our world.

The man goes on to say, “Resistance is not futile, we’re gonna win this thing, humankind is too good, we’re not a bunch of underachievers, we’re gonna stand up, and we’re gonna be human beings! We’re gonna get fired up about the real things, the things that matter …”

Although not a person of faith, the man from this film has a sense of the Exodus narrative, that we have been held captive to Pharaoh land but that we are being lead to a place of freedom … we are journeying from a place of bondage all the way to the promised land … and one of the ways that we are going to do that is by pausing and resting on the Sabbath day, saying that Pharaoh has no claim on us. We journey to the land of liberation by pausing and remembering the things that matter.

Isn’t that why we gather together on Sundays? That we might pause and remember who we are, what we know and taste together the gifts of eternity.

We gather together on Sunday to physically embody a new way of living and loving; to put our values into action.

So my question today is: What defines us – FBC – as a Christian community? What are our values that we celebrate and embody as we gather together?

Radical Hospitality – Seeing each other as neighbors and human beings rather than competition, creating a space where people can rest.

Loving one another – taking care of one another, see each other’s value and worth

Grace/forgiveness – as opposed to “as many bricks as possible” mentality, unrelenting Pharaoh vs. God of grace

What would you add?

Hear the words of Jesus anew:

Come to me,” Jesus says, “all you who are weary and burdened, 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.”

Come, Jesus invites us, and experience grace and forgiveness, rest and welcome.

Come, Jesus invites us, to taste and see the grace eternal, taste and see that God is good.

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