Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
July 6, 2008
Text: Matt. 11:25-30

We human beings are restless, every one of us. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. You’ve undoubtedly experienced this restlessness at one time or another in your life. Maybe you’re experiencing it now. By restlessness, I mean the feeling of uneasiness that accompanies the knowledge that all is not well. There is a big, gaping hole in every heart of flesh, and we yearn to fill it. Every human being since Adam, including you and me, is born with this birth defect. We need something to fill us, to fulfill us. We’re just not sure what that something is. So we try to fill ourselves with the things and the pleasures of this life. That ever-present lust for more stuff or more money comes as a result of our seeking to fill that hole. Our culture’s obsession with casual sex is an indicator of that hole in the human heart. We substitute sex for love, and so think we will be fulfilled. Gluttony, drug and alcohol abuse, and any of the addictions that enslave us are attempts to fill that hole. And of course, none of these things does the job. None of these things lives up to their promise to fill us and fulfill us. They may give us the momentary illusion of rest and fulfillment, but in the end, we’re still the same restless human beings with the same gaping hole in our hearts. And the truth is that all of these things ultimately lead to death.

This hole we need to fill is a symptom of a dread disease, the disease of sin. Sin has separated us from God. It has driven a wedge between us and God, created a chasm between us and God. It has made us, in fact, blind, dead, and enemies of God by birth. The hole in our hearts is a God-shaped hole, and only God Himself can fill it. So we are restless, searching for God, searching for a way to heal the breach in our relationship to God. That is why there are so many religions in the world. Man knows by nature that he needs God. There are very few true atheists, if any. My guess is that every atheist is lying both to himself and to the world. Deep down, even the atheist knows there is a God, and that that God will judge him in the end. But the denial of God gives the atheist the illusion, at least from time to time, that he is no longer restless. Still, deep in his heart, the atheist has to wonder if this earthly life is really all there is. You see, human beings are religious by nature. Notice, not Christian by nature, for Christianity is anything but natural to fallen man, but religious by nature. Again, man knows that he needs God. St. Paul writes, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19-20; ESV). So also the writer to the Hebrews, “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God” (Heb. 3:4). The very creation is proof that there is a creator. So there are any number of religions in the world that attempt to explain who that god is and how we, who are separated from him, can once again gain his favor, come into his good graces, and thus stand before him in the judgment. Man knows this by nature. Man knows he needs God. Man knows that he is separated from God. Man knows that God will judge him in the end. Therefore man is restless. St. Augustine wrote, “our heart is restless until it rests in you.”[1]

Jesus knows that we are restless. So He invites us this morning, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). All the religions in the world, save one, tell you that you have to earn your rest by your own good works. Well, where’s the rest in that?! All religions, save one, are therefore inadequate. But Christianity does not bid you to earn your rest. Christianity bids you receive your rest from Jesus Christ. Jesus earns your rest. Jesus gives you rest freely. Jesus knows our need for God. He is God in the flesh, the incarnate Son of God, who reveals the Father to us and restores us once again to a relationship with God by wiping out our sins on the cross. In this way we can stand before God in the judgment as perfectly righteous, not with our own righteousness, but with the righteousness of Christ. We can face the judgment confidently, knowing we are covered by Jesus’ blood. For the Son has revealed the Father to us as a loving God who gave His only Son for our redemption. “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (v. 27). The great and blessed mystery is that the Son has chosen to reveal the Father to you, even while you were lost in sin. He doesn’t reveal the Father in wrath or judgment. He reveals the Father in love as your Father, as the Father who loved the world, including you, in this way, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

That is the cure for your restlessness. The cure is Jesus and the rest and forgiveness and salvation that He has procured for you by His holy, precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death. The cure is the rest and forgiveness and salvation that Jesus brings to you this morning and always through His holy Word and blessed Sacraments. The cure for your restlessness is where Jesus meets you with His abundant gifts in the means of grace. The cure for your restlessness is in this sermon and all Christian preaching; in the Absolution pronounced upon you each Sunday and whenever you come to confession, where all your sins are forgiven in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; it is in every remembrance of your Baptism where all your sins were washed away, you were cleansed and made God’s own child, and incorporated into the death and resurrection of Jesus; and this cure for your restlessness is placed on your tongue as powerful medicine every time you eat and drink Jesus’ true body and blood in the blessed Sacrament of the Altar. So, too, this cure for your restlessness is available to you every day in your home Bible reading and devotions. This cure is given to you in Sunday School and in Bible classes throughout the week. Are you restless? I know you are because I’m made of the same flesh you are. Adam is our common father. I know you’re restless because I know you’re a sinner, that you are infected with original sin, that you commit all manner of actual sins and that these sins wreak havoc in your life and cause you all sorts of difficulties. I know this because the same is true for me. But here’s the good news. Jesus died for you. Jesus died for me. He suffered all hell for you and for me on the cross, the punishment we deserved. As a result, all our sins have been forgiven, our rest has been won. Yet Jesus is not dead! He is risen, just as He said, and even now sits at the right hand of God where He ever intercedes for us and continues to reveal the Father to us, again, by means of His Word and Sacraments.

Rest. You have it in Jesus Christ. Bring all your burdens and cares and woes, along with all of your sins, and place them at Jesus’ feet. For “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Is. 53:4). Commit all to God in prayer, trusting that He will take care of you for Jesus’ sake, and then receive rest in Jesus Christ through His living and active Word. This is not to say, though, that you won’t continue to face trials and tribulations in this life. The Gospel lessons from the last few weeks bear witness to that. You will have to face persecution, even on the part of loved ones. You will have to deal with sickness and injury and death. You will face the loss of possessions, perhaps even suffer imprisonment, and martyrdom. And of course, in the flesh you have to continue to deal with sin, as St. Paul points out in our epistle lesson (Rom. 7:14-25a). Jesus is honest about the struggles you will have in this life, even as you follow Him as His disciple. He urges you, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me” (Matt. 11:29). There is a yoke to be borne, the yoke of the cross. Yet He promises, “I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (vv. 29-30). The great promise for you is that when you have to take up your cross and follow Jesus, when you bear persecution, loss, sickness, suffering, death, and that ever present battle with sin, Jesus bears you. No matter how heavy your burden, Jesus is gladly burdened with you. He carries you in the palm of His pierced hand. So in the end, nothing can harm you. Nothing. If you are with Jesus, your rest is eternal. In the end, He banishes your restlessness, because He has defeated sin, He conquered death in His resurrection, and hell has no claim on you, because Jesus has bought you with His own blood. “And take they our life, Goods, fame, child, and wife, Though these all be gone, Our vict’ry has been won; The Kingdom ours remaineth” (LSB 656:4)!

Jesus fills the hole in your heart. Jesus alone can fill the God-shaped hole in the human heart. Because He doesn’t just provide temporary relief of the symptom. He’s not just a temporary fix for the restlessness. He obliterates the disease. He obliterates sin. And He continues to care for you and treat you with the medicine of immortality in His Word and Sacrament, preserving you for that day when you will be free of all restlessness, at His coming again in glory. You no longer need to seek rest in the things that lead to death. Your rest is given you eternally by the Lord of life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Saint Augustine, Confessions, Henry Chadwick, Trans. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991) p. 3.


Blogger Rafael said...

Is there a God? I will not try to say yes or no to this question. Rather, I will make this place a law court. I will ask you to be the judge, and I will be the prosecutor. The work of a judge is to make decisions, to approve or disapprove the truth of statements; the work of a prosecutor is to present all the evidence and arguments that he can possibly gather. Before we proceed, we have to be clear about one fact: all prosecutors are not eyewitnesses of crimes. They are not policemen. A policeman may personally witness an event, whereas a prosecutor obtains his information only indirectly. He places all the charges, evidence, and arguments collected before the judge. In the same way, I shall present before you everything that I can possibly find. If you ask whether I have seen God or not, I would say "no." I am reading or demonstrating what I have gathered. My job is to search for facts and to call for witnesses. You are to arrive at a conclusion yourself.
First, looks at nature, the world that is before our eyes and every phenomenon in it. We all know that scientific knowledge is the rational explanation of natural phenomena. For example, there is an observed drop in the temperature of a patient. The drop in temperature is a phenomenon, and the explanation for it is scientific knowledge. When an apple falls from the tree, it is a phenomenon. Why does an apple not fly into the air? The explanation for this phenomenon constitutes knowledge. A man with knowledge is a man who has the proper explanations.
The universe displays countless phenomena of diverse forms, colors, shapes, and nature. We cannot fail to notice these phenomena before our eyes. The explanation for all these phenomena is known as knowledge. All thoughtful persons have only two explanations as far as the origin of the universe is concerned; there is no third explanation. You have to take one or the other of them. What are these two explanations? The first says that the universe came into being through natural evolution and self-interaction; the second attributes its origin to a personified being with intellect and purpose. These are the only two explanations presented by all philosophers of the world. There is not a third one. Where did the universe come from? Did it come into existence by itself or through chance? Or was it designed by the One from whom we derive the concept of God?
What are the characteristics of things that come about by chance? First, we know that they are unorganized. At the most they can be partially integrated. They can never be totally organized. One can achieve a specified goal by chance once, but he can never achieve a specified goal by chance all the time. Anything that comes together by chance can only be integrated partially, never totally. For example, if I throw this chair to the other side of the room, by chance it may come to rest at a perfect angle. If I do the same with a second chair, it may also lie neatly beside the first one. But this will not keep on happening with the third and the fourth and so on. Chance can only provide partial organization. It does not guarantee total integration. Furthermore, all random interactions are aimless, disorganized, and purposeless. They are without order and structure; they are loose, formless, disorderly, and not directed toward any meaningful purpose. Briefly, we can say that the characteristics of chance events are disharmony, irregularity, inconsistency, purposelessness, and insignificance.
Now let us compare the things in the universe with these characteristics. Take, for example, the human being. He is carried in his mother's womb for nine months and delivered; he grows up and eventually dies. This cycle is repeated for every single individual. Consistency can be observed. It is not a wild game of chance. Again, look at the sun above your head. It does not exist purposelessly. Rather, it has its purpose and significance. Look at the moon, the stars, and the myriads of galaxies through your telescope. Some stars have their own planets. They all follow definite tracks and patterns. They are all organized. Their manner of motion can be calculated and predicted. The calendar in your hand is derived from them. Even next year's calendar can be printed before this year is past. All these show that the universe is organized, consistent, and purposeful.
Let us turn to the micro-world or quantum mechanics. Take a thin slice of wood. Put it under a microscope and observe its grain and structure, all meticulously regular and rhythmic. Even a blade of grass and the petal of a flower are finely fashioned. Nothing is unorganized or confused. Everything is disciplined and functional. All these things witness one fact to you: the universe, with its macro (the whole universe and galaxies) and micro aspects (quantum), is purposeful and meaningful. Can you say that all these came into existence by chance? Surely you cannot.
The universe has to be created by someone with profound wisdom, vast knowledge, and intricate design. If you cannot accept the concept of random formation of the universe, you have to admit that it was created by such a God. There cannot be a third explanation. The choice is left to you. You have to decide if the universe came by chance or whether it was created by God.
One witness may not be enough. I will call in another. This time we will consider man's heart. Before doing so, we should also observe one fact: wherever there is a desire, there must first be an object for that desire. For example, an orphan who has never seen his father naturally has a desire for a kind of paternal love. I have asked many people who were orphans, and they all have felt this irrepressible yearning. By this we can see that every desire of the heart arises out of an object in the world. As human beings we have a need for social belonging. We need companionship and mutuality. If you put a boy on a deserted island and he grows up alone, he still has the yearning for companions, for beings like himself, even though he has never seen a human being. This yearning or desire is the very proof that somewhere in the world there is something known as "man." At a certain age, man begins to think about posterity; he starts desiring children and grandchildren. This is not a mere fantasy. This desire stems out of the existence and possibility of offspring. Hence, where there is desire, there is an object for that desire.
Do we have any desires other than social identity and self-propagation? What other cravings do we have? Deep in everyone there is a craving for God. Whether they are highly civilized races, such as those among the Caucasians, or the ancient civilizations, such as the Chinese civilizations, or the African natives and uncultured aborigines, they all have a common craving --God. As long as they are men, they have a yearning for God, no matter what race or nationality. This is a fact. You cannot argue against it. Everyone is seeking after God. Everywhere man is craving for God. This is very clear. By applying the principle that we just mentioned, we can see that since our heart feels the need for a God, there must necessarily be a God in the universe. Since there is a need for God in the heart, there must be the existence of God in the universe. If no God exists, we would never have such a craving in our heart. We all have an appetite for food. In the same way, we all have an appetite for God. It would be impossible to live if there was only an appetite for food but no food. Likewise, it would be impossible to live if there was a capacity for God but no God.
Once, an atheist rudely rebuked me in a loud voice: "You said that a man has the psychological need for a God. But there is no such thing, and I do not believe in it." I said, "Well, do you mean to say that you never think about God? In fact, even while you were talking, you were thinking about Him. This indicates that you do have a capacity for God. There is no one who has never thought about God. He may try not to think much about Him. Since this thought is in you, there must be such an object outside of you.
A young man once came to me to argue about God. He was vehemently against the existence of God. He gave me one reason after another for saying that there is no God. As he was enumerating the various reasons why God should not exist, I listened to him quietly without saying a word. Then I said, "Although you insist that there is no God and support yourself with so many arguments, you have lost your case already." He said, "What do you mean?" I went on to explain: "Your mouth can say as much as you want about there not being a God, but your heart is on my side." He had to agree with me. Although one can give all sorts of reasons in the head, there is a belief in the heart that no argument can defeat. A stubborn person may give a thousand and one reasons, but you can have the boldness to tell him, "You know better in your heart that there is a God. Why bother to look for evidence outside?"Now what would you say? After looking at nature and the universe, after checking with your inner feeling, it is up to you to decide whether or not there is a God. But you should not be irresponsible; your attitude must be sober because everyone has to meet God soon. One day you will all stand before Him. Everything concerning you will be laid bare. On that day you will know God. But now is the time for you to be prepared. We should all be prepared to meet our God.
Finally is there is a God. Who is he? Who among the most ancient religions claim to be God’s son?
As well there must be a written record of God and God’s son. Among all the ancients’ written records is there such a book?

10:48 PM  
Blogger Elijah the Tishbite said...

Get yer own blog.


9:12 AM  

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