Rest and Stay Alive – Sunday 9th July

Romans 7:15-25a & Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Romans 7:15-25a

15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.


Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17 “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” 25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

A young mechanic was on his lunch break in the main street and was seen with a large “K” printed on his T- shirt. When someone asked him what the “K” stood for, he said, “Confused.” “But,” the questioner replied, “you don’t spell “confused” with a “K.” The student answered, “You don’t know how confused I am.”

This word in Romans 7 describes a kind of confusion we experience as followers of Jesus. It’s a confusion that comes from the frustration we experience when it hits us in the face that our body with all its drive and complexity constantly fails to respond faithfully to God’s good and pure will as he reveals to us in those 10 commandments – Love the Lord with all you heart, mind and spirit and love other people with his kind of love – self-giving, self-sacrificing love…. By hearing his Word, resting in him regularly, avoiding half-truths and sticking to the truth of things, trying to speak well of people as much as you can, being content with your stuff and not trying to get stuff by any underhanded means and so on.

But Paul speaks the struggle so clearly.

When we really want to honour God we just can’t do that all the time.

When we want to honour and love God by telling the truth about a thing, we sometimes just don’t, and that is lying;

We want to help people improve their possessions and job, but, we get envious,

We want to speak well of people and defend those misunderstood by another, but We join in the gossip… especially when it is now so common and so easy via digital means, and so it goes.

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate”.

Here’s our common struggle. Luther famously names it simul ustis et piccartor: we Loved people of God are still simultaneously saint and sinner in the one person! We are free and forgiven and right with the Lord and yet we remain in this struggle to live in his grace.

And we know this is true in our experience and from this Word in Romans:

Those things which we as Christians despise we find ourselves doing. Those things which we as Christians desire we fail to accomplish. No matter how much we may wish to serve God in our heart, we find ourselves sinning in our mind and body.

As Paul describes his frustration in Romans 7, with his heart and mind he desires to serve God. So, we agree with God’s law and rejoice that God shows us how to live well in his law. But we find ourselves watching ourselves, almost as a third party, as sin sends a signal throughout our body, and as we find ourselves responding, by just refusing to obey the Word of God and instead quickly and eagerly responding to the impulses and desires aroused by the idols we make and chase for selfish gain. Not a good place to be!

Paul knows this and says it well. Good news is that Jesus knows this. Jesus knows us. He describes our frustration with ourselves a little differently.

He says we are like kids playing at the train park.

We are confused. We don’t know whether we should join in a sad song of lament and loss – a funeral dirge, for this lack of understanding and ability we find ourselves in, or to join in a party song of happiness to make it all go away – a wedding tune. We are critical of both those who mope around all day speaking about despair and hopelessness and death and sin and darkness. We are cheesed off with the ‘positive people’ who find good in stuff when there is no good in a thing.

Jesus puts it in his terms. We are critical of John the Baptist who severed all normal links with people and became a religious zealot speaking the doom and gloom of God’s righteous judgement on the world (like all the prophets did). And we are critical of Jesus who announced the coming new grace-kingdom of God as he embedded himself with people, eating and drinking to the extent that we might call him a boozer and a glutton.

So we just sit there, either settling for less and giving up on hope in possibly good change and personal growing in understanding in faith; quite paralysed by our confusion and frustrated by our inability to honour and love the very Lord whom we dearly want to love and serve!

It feels as if some malicious power holds sway over us, preventing us from moving forward. There is such a thing.

“It is not I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (7:20).

Sin is not just bad things you do or say but a disease within that has spiritual power to affect you – and does.

With the force of a frustrated footy fan at the mistakes of the team, Paul, and we, yell out that question we call must come to: “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

Who will get me moving again? Who will get me understanding again? Who will help me sing the best song for the right time in all the changes of life so that I am honouring and loving the very God who I know honours and loves me in Jesus?

Who will take this heavy burden of trying to make sense of myself and fix my inabilities and my shame that comes from all the bad behaviour and bad words and thoughts I speak and do – all by myself?

Who will help me be as committed and honest as John and as loving and human as Jesus? Who will show me another way to live with purpose, faith, trust, love, generosity, honesty, humility and all the things the Law of God rightly calls me to be?

Ahhh. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”, cries Paul.

Yes, for the confused, the guilty, the fearful and the earnest and the prideful wanderer searching for some resolution, some peace, some … rest within this spirit personality we live in for the time being…

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Rest will move us. Rest in him will make us get up and walk again.

Grace is his yoke. Forgiveness, healing, love, – easy thing to carry. Things you long to experience and show. Like a job you do that does not even seem like ‘work; toy you as you scratch your head everyday and ask, ‘Why do they pay me to do this? It is what I love to do….!”.

That is our place today, friends. This Sunday morning gathering or Wed morning, or Wednesday night or wherever two or three are gathered in Jesus’ presence is Rest:

To live in the struggle, rest here in his gifts. Rest here among his people. Rest here in his presence where two or three of his other children gather.

  • Rest: the sign of the cross over your body – re-establishing your baptism and shaping your wayward body.
  • Rest: the voice of the people in prayer, in song, in conversation, carrying you along – especially when you just can’t pray or sing today….
  • Rest: the sign of the cross over our body with the word of the Saviour – “I forgive you”.
  • Rest: the voice of the Saviour powered by his Spirit bringing clarity and relief to your worried mind and shamed soul … again and again.
  • Rest: hands out with nothing to offer and so much to receive as the One who lived the struggle, though innocent, surrounded by everything else and everyone else who did not and could not – willingly taking on all of that sinner turmoil into his own body and ‘becoming sin for us’ to remove its power from us.
  • Rest: holding out hands receiving the body and blood of the Saviour and his forgiveness, removal of shame, healing of the body, renewing of the mind around the communal altar.
  • Rest: Sent to live in the rest of his blessing on your work, your marriage, your relationships, your study, your time.

Jesus: rest in the sinner/saint life until the fulfilment of this kingdom when there will only be saint ‘you’ – holy one, dear and loved without the shadow of death, the sting of death, just life upon life, upon life in this new earth.

In the sad song of loss and lament and shame

Jesus is our rest.

In our attempts to gloss over our sins and deny our inabilities.

Jesus is our rest.

To fulfil our need to be clear, be consistent, be honest, be open and keep growing and living in faith together.

Jesus is our rest.