Monday, September 10, 2012

Bethany Bullet - September 10, 2012

Yesterday in worship our ‘Children’s Message’ involved a blessing of backpacks and more importantly a blessing of backpack bearers.  I for one am very glad I no longer need to lug around a backpack. In all honesty I’m not sure that mine were ever as heavy as the ones I’ve seen my kids (and yours) wearing on their way to class each morning. Perhaps that is because school is more strenuous or could it be that I was less studious?  Whichever the case, the truth is we’ve all seen our children, grandchildren, or ourselves fighting to bear up under the weight of a stuffed backpack. In fact, many of us who’ve been out of school for years picked one up every morning. Somewhere between the first step on the floor and the last step out the door we grab a pack, get it loaded up, and get ourselves loaded down.

A backpack of burdens, a duffle-bag of doubts, weighed down by worries, or lugging around loneliness we’ve got grief tucked under here and fear tucked under there and we are weighed down.  Yet, in Christ, we hear God say, “Come to me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)  There are two things in here for us to unpack! Two realities in our text that we need to digest if we are to find rest.

First, God invites us to come to Him!  In fact Bethany’s Parish Theme this year, “An Invitation to a Holy Conversation” is based upon this text where we learn that our Lord desires that we approach the Throne of Grace and find help for our time of need. God wants to engage us in conversation. Now you’re gonna read a dozen or so Bullets revolving around this theme – so let’s do a little ground work here.  There is a world of difference between a conversation and a lecture or even a speech. There is more of a difference between a conversation, a monologue, and/or a diatribe than there is between how much information a backpack can hold and how much information an I-pad can hold.

Conversation does not prohibit the possibility that one of those engaged therein might be “wrong” and another “right.” Nor does it mean that every opinion shared is equally valid or every thought is just as true.  God was in conversation with Moses, but Moses’ words didn’t carry the same gravity as that of the One who created gravity. Yet, at the same time, conversation does mean that everyone engaged therein is equally welcomed to participate and everyone engaged therein is equally valued. God welcomes and values conversation with us and that begins today with the second item to unpack from our text, an honest admission that at times we fear or are at least tempted to fear that God must not be listening because He isn’t lightening our load enough. 

Whether on our campus or another, I am sure you have seen kids come out of classroom and then pass their loaded down backpacks into a parents arms; arms that are longing for rest. Of course the next morning it goes back on and the next afternoon it might even be fuller than it was the night before – as a student you can’t always avoid the burden of a heavy pack.  The same can be said for the Christian. We can’t always avoid burdens, we can’t always choose that which is assigned us, nor can we simply pretend it doesn’t exist.  Yet, we can choose to take our burdens to the Lord trusting that He longs to listen and He promises to lighten. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

There are those we know who have experienced this in dramatic fashion. Like Abraham, they’ve been burdened and have come to God in conversation. The patriarch was weighed down by worry that God’s wrath would wipe out Lot and his family along with the rest of the citizenry of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Pondering God’s plan he opined, “You won’t destroy the righteous with the wicked will you?  You won’t wipe out an entire community without regard for the personal purity of a few will you?”   

Abraham gently queried and finally boldly sought; God listened and “lightened”. All the while Sodom and Gomorrah were no more – Lot and his family was spared.

Still there are others among us who are thinking, “I’ve inquired of God more times, than I can count. I’ve talked to God more than I care to recount; I’ve pleaded with God till my face was covered in tears and I’ve yelled at God till it turned blue. The simple truth is that while I am sure He’s listening, I am just as sure He ain’t ‘lightening’.” 

That is probably how St. Paul felt for a time. The concern he ferried was a thorn in the flesh. We don’t really know what the thorn was formed of. Perhaps physical ailment, maybe regret, or guilt over past acts maybe disgruntlement with current co-workers in the kingdom, bitterness about present conditions – we aren’t told.  What we are told is that Paul pleaded with God to remove it. Mind you the way in which Paul writes indicates that his plea was made with the willingness to be submissive to God’s will.  “Lord this is a load I don’t want, it is too heavy for me, take it from me please, if it be Your will – lighten this load.” 

The Lord we desires His people to come to Him, opened the way for Paul to do so.  The Apostle to the Gentiles did just that and God listened with compassion and love to Paul’s plea to be set free, yet the thorn remained. 

Why?  Paul said he believed it was to keep him from becoming conceited. Maybe you think you’re just being kept from being completed or contented or comfortable. But are you being ignored? Could it be, like the thorn bearing saint, the Lord has chosen to lighten your load by listening to you and letting you know that His all encompassing grace is yours and He will carry you even as you continue to bear said burden.

If you look at the text closely, Jesus never promises to take away that which wearies or the burden that weighs but He promises to grant us rest.  It may be His will, as in the case of Abraham, that our conversation ends with our weight being lifted as our request is answered as it was offered.  It may be His will, as in the case of Paul, that our conversation ends with our request being met with an answer other than the one we desired, but our weight being lifted none-the-less as we are promised that He is with us and His is for us and that will do us!  For His grace is sufficient for us.
-Pastor Kevin Kritzer


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