My scripture text today is Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
My sermon is called: Your Grace Is Enough!
"Several years ago in a large city in the far West, rumors spread that a certain Catholic woman was having visions of Jesus. The reports reached the archbishop. He decided to check her out. “Is it true, ma’am, that you have visions of Jesus?” asked the archbishop. “Yes,” the woman replied simply. “Well, the next time you have a vision, I want you to ask Jesus to tell you the sins I confessed in my last confession.” The woman was stunned. “Did I hear you right, Bishop? You actually want me to ask Jesus to tell me the sins of your past?” “Exactly. Please call me if anything happens.” Ten days later the woman notified her spiritual leader of a recent apparition. “Please come,” she said. Within the hour the archbishop arrived. “You just told me on the phone that you actually had a vision of Jesus. Did you do what I asked?” “Yes, bishop, I asked Jesus to tell me the sins you confessed in your last confession.” The bishop leaned forward with anticipation. His eyes narrowed. “What did Jesus say?” She took his hand and gazed deep into his eyes. “Bishop,” she said, “these are His exact words: ‘I can’t remember.’”
Salvation happens when we accept with unwavering trust that our sins have not only been forgiven but forgotten, washed away by the blood of the Lamb! Thus, as the saying goes, “A sad Christian is a phony Christian, and a guilty Christian is no Christian at all.”
I remember in college, walking around the campus trying to deal with larger than life guilt. My self-esteem was shattered by guilt. My joy was shattered by guilt. My ability to get over myself and move on was shattered by guilt. I was left depressed, lonely and desperate. I felt my life was a sham. Just when I was feeling my worst, I happened to walk into the campus record store and coming from the speakers I heard the voice of Billy Joel singing the lyrics, “I love you just the way you are.” And at that moment, I felt as if God were speaking to me saying, “Karen, I know you are not perfect! I created you. But you know what? You may be amazed by this… …I love you just the way you are! There is nothing you can do to cause Me to love you more; there is nothing you can do to cause Me to love you less. This unhealthy guilt you feel over simply being a human being does not come from Me…It is of Satan…It is not real--nor is it Reality!!!Karen it’s time you started living. Karen it’s time you were finally happy! What I heard was God telling me, “Get over yourself!” Come to me you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. I love you just the way you are.” Unhealthy guilt holds us in bondage. God’s grace sets us free to be who we were created to be!!! Are we to feel guilt over sins, yes, but conviction might be a better term. A healthy conviction is one which causes us to acknowledge the wrong done, feel remorse, but then frees us to embrace the forgiveness that is offered by God through Jesus Christ. And once we embrace God’s forgiveness the focus of our lives shift from our badness to God’s goodness, and the question becomes not “What have I done?” but “What can God do through me?” Freedom can occur. We can forgive ourselves because we are forgiven. We can accept ourselves because we have been accepted. And we can begin to accept and love others as well!
Author Mark Scandrette writes, “You are free to dance when you feel accepted, supported, and loved. And learning to love is the essence of making a life in the Way of Jesus.” We Christians ought to be celebrating constantly. We ought to be busy having parties, banquets, feasts and merriment! We ought to be engulfed in inexpressible joy because we have been liberated from the fear of life and the fear of death! And our joy ought to attract others to Christ and to this church, quite literally, by the fun there is in being a Christian!!! In the words of Teresa of Avila: “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, spare us, O Lord.”
In our Gospel Lesson Jesus questions: “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.’” In other words, John the Baptist was a stern and threatening figure… …and people wouldn’t listen to him because his message was too hard. Then Jesus came, not threatening anyone, but instead talking about love and forgiveness and celebrating life. People rejected Jesus because they thought Jesus’ message was too easy.
The plain fact is that when we don’t want to listen to the truth, we will easily enough find and excuse for not listening to it! This world…and often even the church is filled with grown men and women who act a lot like spoiled children. They refuse to play and dance in the freedom and love of the Kingdom of God no matter what the game is… …and thus, there is no good news for them. Life is glum. Doom and gloom persist. Anger and resentment grow with every passing year. Depression offers no way out. And what a waste!!! Life does not have to be this way! Jesus said that He came to give us life and give this life to the full!!!
“Come to me…”
…”and I will give you rest.”
What a word of hope for all of us who have been tired, sick, defeated and discouraged!!! “Come to me. I love you just the way you are!” But Jesus doesn’t end there. He goes on, “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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
This is our invitation to follow Christ into the REAL LIFE!!!
To take a yoke upon oneself is to bow one’s head like an ox and to accept the harness that makes it possible to pull the heavy load that life and faith place upon us. That might not sound so good to many of us until we give it a try. For when we do give it a try we find that it is easy to pull Jesus’ yoke, because Jesus is always alongside us sharing the struggle!!! The unbearable weight of guilt comes from Satan--but rejoice!!!
Grace comes from God!!! And with God—all things are possible!!!
So…right now….this morning….Won’t you come?