Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (A—Proper 9)
July 6, 2014
Text: Matthew 11:25-30
We are children of the heavenly Father. That is our posture toward Him. Little children. That means that we are utterly helpless apart from His care and providence. We can do nothing for ourselves. We need Him to feed us, cloth us, put a roof over our heads, keep us safe, comfort us when we are hurting or in distress, nurse us back to health when we are sick. We need Him for everything. And most especially we need Him to rescue us when we are in mortal danger, for we cannot save ourselves from sin and death any more than an infant can rescue himself from the clutches of a violent predator. God must do everything for us. So that’s what He does. He created the world and everything in it, the universe and all that exists, created it all out of nothing, by His almighty Word. And in this world He provides for all our needs of body and soul. He gives us, as every Catechism student learns to recite: “clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil” (Luther’s Small Catechism [St. Louis: Concordia, 1986]). He rescues us from that violent predator, the old evil foe, from sin, and from the very jaws of death. For He sends His Son, Jesus, who (again, as we learn in the Catechism), “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” And that we may receive all of this, know that it comes from our gracious God, and believe in Him and trust Him for help and salvation and every need, He gives us His Holy Spirit, who “has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”
As is often the case with children, we take for ourselves much of the credit that properly belongs to our heavenly Father. We’ve earned this. This stuff is ours. We can provide for ourselves. We can protect ourselves. We know what is good for us and what is bad for us. And so we get a little too big for our britches. Children always point out the stuff that belongs to them as if it weren’t Mom and Dad who actually paid for it. They act as if they own the house, the food magically appears in the refrigerator, and the money for all their stuff grows on trees. They think they can do just fine without Mom and Dad’s wisdom, Mom and Dad’s protection, Mom and Dad’s rules, but even when they go off to college, they’re more than happy to have Mom and Dad buy some groceries, do some laundry, take them out to a nice restaurant. But you know what, Mom and Dad are happy to do that, because they’re Mom and Dad. That’s their job. That’s their office. Whether the kids recognize it or not. And so God our Father in His dealing with us. We think we don’t need Him. Except when we do. And it is in those moments that we realize we always need Him. And He always provides. He always helps. He is always God for us. He is always our Father. He reveals this not to the wise and learned, those who think they know enough on their own and don’t need Him. He reveals it to little children, you, when your labors and burdens bring you to the end of yourself and you realize how utterly dependent you are upon God for every moment, every breath, every beat of your heart.
God must do everything for you, as a Father for His infant. And He does it through His only-begotten Son, Jesus. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who took on our flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. He became a little baby for us. He was utterly dependent on His mom, for us, who are utterly dependent on His Father. He is the Word through whom the Father created all things (John 1:1-3). He is the Word by which the Father sustains all things (Heb. 1:3). He is the Word by which the Father cares for you, the Divine Wisdom by which the Father teaches you (Prov. 2:6, etc.), and it is He who became flesh, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, to redeem you, to pay for your sins by His death, to give you eternal life. Now He is risen in that same flesh, and has ascended to the right hand of the Father. And the Father has handed over to Him all things. He rules all things for us and for our salvation. And He reveals His Father to us by sending His Spirit, who works right here in His Church, in the preaching of the Word and in the holy Sacraments. The Son reveals God to us, not as a God of wrath, not as a God far removed, but as “Our Father who art in heaven.” Our God, for us.
And that takes all the burdens off of us. I think about this sometimes, how there were times when I was a child when I was literally without a care in the world. Because Mom and Dad took care of everything. Those were great times, if only I had recognized it then. For example, when we would go on a family vacation, Mom and Dad paid for everything. I had no idea it even cost anything. They just took care of it. They drove. They made sure we got where we were going safely and efficiently. They made sure we were well fed. They made sure we had a place to sleep. None of this was ever of any concern for me. I wish my kids knew how wonderful this whole thing is they’re about to experience. Now I’m the dad, and I have to worry about all of it. Except I don’t. Not ultimately. Sure God has called me to be responsible for all of this for my family, humanly speaking. But ultimately, who is responsible for all of this, right down to the last detail? God is. Our Father is. He takes care of it. I suppose as a kid I thought I had a few things to worry about. Would we get to go to my favorite restaurant? Would I get the souvenir I really wanted? But when we grow up, we realize those aren’t really cares. In those moments when we realize God, our heavenly Father, has it all covered, we also recognize that we don’t really have any cares. We don’t really have anything to worry about. He’s got it. Just trust Him. He’s in the driver’s seat. We just buckle up, and go for the ride.
This is what Jesus means when He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28; ESV). You can rest knowing that it is ultimately Jesus who bears your labors and your burdens, that He bore them already to the cross where they have been baptized by His blood, sanctified, made holy, all sin having been washed away. He would have you take up His yoke, which is His Name given to you in Baptism. We’ve been talking about that yoke the last couple weeks in terms of persecution. I suppose that is burdensome. He would have you learn from Him, learn His Word, come to know it by heart so that it just becomes a part of you. I suppose that is laborious. But His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Because He is the one who ultimately does the labor and bears the burden. He does that on the cross. And He gives you rest. Rest in Him. Rest in His Father. Rest as a little child who simply trusts in your God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
It has been a tough week for our congregation, and I can tell you one very important thing about our two dear sisters as they lay on their death beds. There it became clear to them that they are little children of the heavenly Father. They could do nothing. But that’s okay. Because Jesus has done everything. And He continues to do everything, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit. All they could do is trust in Him and rest. And so you. Trust your Father. Trust Jesus. Come to your Savior with all your labors and burdens. Come here to His Table. For here He gives you rest. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.