Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bethany Bullet - October 20, 2009

“Stop in the name of Love,
Before you break my heart…” (The Supremes)

Perhaps you have heard this song by The Supremes. Perhaps you have even stopped for love once or twice in your life but in this day and age it is hard to stop. The tyranny of the calendar dominates our lives.

In our house we have three white board calendars in the office on which we try to plan ahead. There are times we just stand in the back of the house and stare, trying to figure out who will be home, when/how to cover childcare, when the next birthday party or wedding is, and the list goes on. Perhaps for you, it is the calendar at work, filled with requirements and appointments, or the kid’s calendar with soccer practice, play rehearsal, dentist appointments, and dance class.

Even when we go on vacation we don’t stop. We are so busy on our time off we seldom rest. I am sure that some of you have not stopped this morning. Some of you are already thinking about the work that awaits you when you get to the office. Some of you are thinking about the homework you need to do before class, or that honey-do list that needs to be accomplished today, or what you will order at IHOP after church.

Stopping—mentally and physically is not something we tend to do.

We find it hard to stop in our spiritual life as well. There are some who do not know Jesus who are trying to live a good life or fulfill a set of required activities in order to receive blessings. Even those in the body of Christ get so busy volunteering for the next project or event that service gets in the way of rest. We find it hard to stop when we come into worship as well. With the distractions of the Chimes or the child behind us our minds do not come to a stop to hear the Word of God.

But the writer of Hebrews calls us to stop! (Sunday’s New Testament reading was from Hebrews 4:1-13 [NCV]) Now we don’t find the word stop in our English Bible’s, but the literal meaning of the word translated as “rest” is a “complete stop” or more accurately a “calming of the winds.” It is used 8 times in the Book of Hebrews and only one other time in the New Testament.

Our text begins with the promise of rest and a warning.
“Now, since God has left us the promise that we may enter his rest, let us be very careful so none of you will fail to enter.” Hebrews 4:1

There are a number of meanings of “rest” that our text deals with; however, our text speaks of “God’s rest”. This was a promise to the people of Israel under the leadership of Moses and Joshua.

The people of God were not at rest, they were in slavery in Egypt. But God led them out of oppression and promised them rest in the Promised Land. But, you know the story; they did not enter into that rest right away. Why? Disobedience! And because of it the people did not stop wondering in the desert for 40 years. Eventually Joshua led the people into the Promised Land and finally the people had rest. War had stopped, but the people did not stop to rest in the presence and promises of God. Soon they began to work for their own pleasure. They ran after idols and riches. Rest was theirs, but they did not stop. They had heard the Good News of God, yet continued to disobey. The people of God lost that rest by their own disbelief and many were sent into exile. While God’s rest is perfect, the rest given by Joshua was only temporary.

It is a story not unlike our own. We are slaves to sin. And we too have been promised a land of our own to rest in, namely heaven. As our text says, “We who have believed are able to enter and have God's rest” (Hebrews 4:3). God’s rest is a present reality. We have heard the message of God’s perfect rest, but we do not stop either. In our sinful nature we do not stop sinning. We continue in the pattern of the people of Israel. We disobey, we fall short, and by our actions we shall not enter into the “complete stop” of God.

There is another other idea of rest here in the text. We continue with verse 4, “In the Scriptures he talked about the seventh day of the week: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his works." God gave us the first example of rest. After He was done with His work of creation, He rested. This rest is not a complete cessation of activity. For we know that God continues to be active in the world through means, through His Son, and by His Spirit.

God’s rest was the beginning of setting a day aside for worship, for resting in the presence of God. For stopping our regular routines and being gathered into this place. As the people of Israel had a Sabbath rest, verse 9 of our text from the NIV reads, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.”

What is this Sabbath Rest?

It is different than the Sabbath of the people of Israel. For Jesus, Himself, did not follow the Sabbath the way the Pharisees saw fit. Through the Gospel we see Jesus healing on the Sabbath and His disciples gathering grain, both of which were condemned by the teachers of the law. When confronted on the topic Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

So what is this rest all about? To REST means to:

As we receive the faith given to us by the Holy Spirit, we come to an understanding of who God is. As we receive the grace offered, we stand as forgiven children of God.

Eternity’s solace is the hope of our place in heaven secured by Christ for us. The dictionary describes solace as the alleviation of grief or anxiety and a source of relief and consolation.

Solace comes as we hear the Word proclaimed in God’s house. Here we find alleviation of grief in the person of Christ; as we receive eternity’s solace in bread and wine, in His body and blood the anxiety of sin is taken away. It is a source of relief and consolation as we come to REST in Him. This is how we are able to rest on the Sabbath.

Martin Luther once wrote, “We begin to keep the true Sabbath when our old Adam ceases to perform all his works…But we shall not keep this Sabbath properly until we are dead.”

While it is true that we cannot truly keep the Sabbath, truly rest, and stop the effects of sin while the Old Adam, our sinful nature still clings to us; we know that this day is coming and our possession of eternity’s solace is not just a future reality. We can, with joy, know that those in Christ receive eternity’s solace today.

Jesus rested on the Sabbath too. He wrested the effects of sin as He gave sight to the blind, healing to the crippled, and life to the dead. He wrested sin from the entire world as He felt the punishment of the cross and separation from His Father. And He rested behind a stone after He cried out, “It is finished”. His resting and His wresting make us able to Receive Eternity’s Solace Today!

So, are you tired? Are you weak? Are you burdened? Do you need some rest? Then listen to the Words of our Savior, "Come to me, 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

In a world that doesn’t seem to stop, in situations where there is no rest, Jesus calls us to Himself to Receive Eternity’s Solace Today.

So, rest at the foot of the cross laying down your burdens, rest from your feeble attempts to make restitution for your actions, rest in the knowledge that Jesus will not rest until that final trumpet blows and all His followers are called to eternal solace.

Jesus Himself stopped in the name of Love so that we can be in His heart forever.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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