5th Sunday after Pentecost
This last week Lucia decided to become helpful.
She’s putting paper in the recycling.
She’s arranging cups in the bottom drawer.
And on Wednesday she tried to take out the garbage.
She’s seen me do it, and so she wanted to give it a shot as well.
First she tried to push it.
When that didn’t work, she tried to pull it;
But it wouldn’t budge.
She couldn’t handle the weight of it.
She couldn’t even get her arms around it.
It was too big for her.
And she knew it.
That’s why she looked up at me and said two words:
Lucia is learning more and more every day.
And as a dad I’m grateful to see that among so many other things, this thing has been revealed to her:
That contrary to the encouragement of many well-intentioned people,
She cannot, in fact, do anything.
There really are some things she cannot do.
Some things not now, and some things not ever.
Some things she’ll never be able to get her arms around.
Some things will always be too heavy.
Some things are stuck and she’ll never be able to get them unstuck.
For those things, she will always need help.
On its face, that seems like common sense, but it isn’t.
In fact, it is so uncommon, that Jesus prays this way:
“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will…”
This prayer came at the end of a sermon in Matthew 11, where Jesus denounces the people around.
They have rejected the preaching of John the Baptist,
And now they are rejecting him.
Jesus has come to them preaching and healing, and forgiving, but they will not have it.
They are too smart to believe that forgiveness of sins would be given to them for free.
‘Cuz nothin’s free.
They are too strong to think they need any help.
They are self-sufficient.
They’re wise and understanding.
So they will labor and sweat.
They will push and pull.
But the weight of God’s Law is and will remain too much.
It will not budge.
And so they will remain unrepentant, and stuck in their sin.
And so were all of you – wise and understanding, self-reliant, proud.
But the God of all grace has made you children in His Son.
To all of you, the Holy Spirit has revealed the Son.
To all of you, the Son has revealed the Father.
And in Holy Baptism, God has made you little children – HIS little children.
By God’s grace alone you trust.
By God’s grace alone you have faith.
You are the little children of God, and you want to live as children of God.
You hear what Jesus says and you want to repeat, just like a baby does with his parents.
You see what Jesus does and you want to do it – like Lucia with the garbage.
Because that’s who you are.
But most of the time you don’t live that way, as God’s own child.
It’s not a new problem, but it is a problem.
And it’s exactly what the Apostle Paul writes about this morning in the Epistle:
“I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
You are here because Jesus has been revealed to you.
You are His, because He has baptized you.
And as children of His father, you desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
That’s why some of you want to enjoy the benefits of marriage, but you’re not married.
That’s why some of you want to be generous, but do not give.
That’s why some of you want to grow in your faith, but do not come to Bible Study.
That’s why some of you want to do good for others, but mostly serve yourself.
That’s why we hang on to our favorite sins like a childhood blanket.
What then shall we do? St. Paul concludes:
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
That last part might be tricky, so Luther sums it up this way in the LC:
“The old man is infected with all vices and has by nature nothing good in him. Now, when we have come into Christ’s kingdom, these things must daily decrease. The longer we live the more we become gentle, patient, meek, and ever turn away from unbelief, greed, hatred, envy, and arrogance.”
This is God’s gracious work in us:
That He reveals Himself to us in His Son, crucified and risen;
That the same Son gives Himself to us in the preaching of the Word, in Holy Baptism, and in His Supper;
And that daily we grown in grace, faith, and holiness.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for 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.”
If you aren’t familiar with a yoke, it is a device that links two cattle or two horses together.
It joins them together so that they’ll labor together.
But when Jesus yokes Himself to you, when Jesus joins Himself to you, the work is all His.
It’s really more like when Lucia looked up at me and said:
And I picked her up with one hand, and dragged the garbage to the curb with the other.
Jesus’ yoke is not the Law, but the Gospel.
Jesus’ yoke is not a demand, but a Gift.
You who are in Christ, who are yoked to Him, no longer no longer labor for your own salvation,
Because Jesus has labored for your salvation.
You need not be heavy laden under the weight of your sin,
Because Jesus has borne it all to the cross for you.
You will learn from Him. You will grow.
You will in your life, more and more, by God’s grace, say as Jesus says and do as Jesus does.
That’s how He gets His everything to everyone everywhere.
So come now to Him who has labored and been heavy laden, and He will give you rest. Take His Body and Blood into you, and be fed by Him, and you will find rest for your souls.
His yoke is easy and his burden is light, for He carries it even as he carries you.