St. Matthew 11:28-30
Our Lord Jesus says,
Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden in light. [St Matthew 11:28-30]
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Dearest People of Hope Lutheran Church, and to all the Saints of God,
It is my delight to be here with you, this morning, rejoicing in the Lord's great gifts, and preaching my first sermon as a pastor in the Lord's church. I am especially thankful to you all, the members of Hope Lutheran Church, for the call that you extended to me, for the Lord was pleased to use that call to make me a pastor, and for that I will be eternally grateful. And what wonderful welcome and gifts you have already given to Keri, and I, and Hannah and Andrew, and our whole family. You have given wonderful gifts.
And isn't that how it is in the Lord's church? Giving gifts and rejoicing in those gifts. We, dear people, have a generous and gracious God, who is always pleased to give us His gifts.
The old Lutheran teachers actually have a lot to say about what a pastor should preach on in his first sermon, and one of the things that they what to make sure is said is that the pastor tells the people what they should expect of him, their new pastor, and also what he expects of them.
I hope that our expectations of each other are built around the gifts of God. That we all see this place, this church, as the place where the Lord is pleased to come and speak and deliver His gifts. That you, the dear people of Hope, expect me to be a pastor who comes with the gifts of God, not my own gifts, but the gifts from heaven, the good gifts of life, salvation, and the forgiveness of sins.
“Pastor, teach us the Scriptures, give us the Lord's Supper, speak to us the forgiveness of sins, comfort us with God's promises. Pastor, give us more Jesus.”
This is what I pray you expect of me, and I will, with the help of God and by the aid of your prayers, endeavor to do the same, and always fill your ears and mouths and hearts with Jesus.
May God grant it to be so.
And I do have some expectations of you all, mainly one. I pray that you all, in fact all of us, would have hearts eager and ready to have God's gifts. That we all would delight in hearing His Word, and learning it, and confessing it. That we would earnestly seek after the Sacraments, and rejoice in the forgiveness of our sins that the Lord delivers here from His altar. I expect you to rejoice in the gifts of God, in the Gospel, the good news of Jesus' death and resurrection for you, and in the sure promise of the forgiveness of all of your sins.
May God grant it to be so.
These expectations, these responsibilities of pastor and people, they are not heavy and burdensome, but full of joy and happiness and rejoicing, for the yoke that the Lord places on us is the yoke of Jesus, and He has promised, “My yoke is easy; My burden light.” This, of course, makes no sense. If something is light, is it, by definition, not a burden. If something is easy, it is no yoke, a collar for pulling and doing hard labor, but this is how it is with Jesus, with the Gospel, everything is turned on its head. Yokes become easy, burdens become light, death becomes life, the grave becomes a bed, despair becomes hope, fear becomes faith, sin is forgiven.
How does this happen? Jesus, on the cross, turns God's wrath and anger on its head, and gives us His grace and mercy; God's frown is turned into a smile, and He does it by taking our yoke upon Himself, our heavy yoke, the yoke of the Law, the yoke of sin and death, the yoke of guilt and anger and bitterness and pain, He takes the yoke that was not His, the yoke of hell, and He bears that cross shaped yoke for you, in your place. He gets the heavy yoke, the burden so heavy that it pushes Him into hell and drives Him from the Father's face. That yoke, your yoke, that burden, your burden, He takes it off of your back, and He bears it on His shoulders.
And you, you get His yoke, His righteousness, His holiness, His calling God, “Abba, Father.” His kingdom, His heaven, His joy and peace, and all that is His in the forgiveness of your sins, that's His easy-yoke, His light-burden. And it is yours, for our Lord Jesus is the bearer of the yoke of the Law and the burden of sin, and by the forgiveness of all sins Jesus is pleased to call you “brother, sister, friend.” He gives you His easy yoke.
He gets what is yours, and you get what is His. And, dear people, there is no better news than that.
Unfortunately, Jesus is not the only one calling for us. The shiny voice of the world, the flesh and the devil also calls out, “Come to me...”, but this is a much different invitation. “Come to me, and I will give you work. Come to me, and I will give you burdens big enough to impress your friends, even to impress God.” The devil tempts us with burdens, to take up the yoke of the Law, and to keep it ourselves, to enter heaven by the door of the Ten Commandments, to stand before God and say, “I lived a good life. I worked hard. I am a good person.”
In a terrible way our sinful flesh wants a heavy yoke, something we can be proud of, that we can brag about. We groan a little louder under our burdens, so that people might notice, and be impressed. “My what a big burden you are enduring!” There are plenty of heavy-yoke Churches out there, plenty of heavy-yoke Christians, but this is the work of the devil, heaping on the guilt, yoking us to our own failure, piling up burdens, more and more so that we sink under them, are crushed by them, weary and heavy laden.
But it is for the weary and heavy laden, for those oppressed with their own sin and the troubles of life, it is for us, that the Gospel call of Jesus comes in its full sweetness, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” From all of our striving for perfection, from all of our guilt, from all of our failure, in Jesus we find rest, our Sabbath rest, the rest of heaven, the rest that comes from the sure knowledge that our sins are forgiven. In this world we will have trouble, but Jesus has overcome the world, and He gives us His peace. Come to Me, and I will give you rest.
And so, dear people, come. Jesus is here for you, His body and blood in the bread and wine. He is here to place on you His yoke, to serve up His rest, to give you His forgives. Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I a gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Amen.
And now may the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
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