9 Jul 2017
“‘Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’” (Matt. 11:28) In the name …
So all the Calvos are going to the beach later this week. We’re going with another family whose daughters are the same ages as Kristin and Amanda. If the Calvos go the beach alone, it rains. Go with this family and it’s beautiful. But don’t tell them that we’re bringing them along only for the weather. We stay at a hotel just down the road from the beach. It’s really not too far, but when the road ends, then there’s a foot bridge to cross, some dunes to climb over, and then finally over the beach-sand to our spot. This wouldn’t be too bad if we were unencumbered, but we look like pack mules: chairs, umbrella, beach stuff and a huge cooler that may hold an adult beverage or two. When we walk down to the beach in the evening, however, we go with none of this extra baggage, and what a difference it makes. It’s such a relief to take that walk unburdened. Without the extra baggage the walk is not a forced-march; it’s actually pleasant.
I think you know where I’m going with this. On your song sheet I included a clipart picture of Jesus removing a burden from a very grateful young man. I didn’t include another one because while I appreciated it, I wasn’t sure of what your reactions would be. It’s a simple drawing. A man is leisurely walking along, hands folded behind his back. Relaxed. Unencumbered. Next to him is God and God is dragging along multiple suitcases and trunks, and His back is loaded high with still more luggage. The man walking along leisurely looks over to God and asks, accuses?, “So God, why do you come with so much baggage?” I guess that can mean all the stuff we add on to God. Maybe the guy just wants God and not all the God-rules. And this is why I decided I shouldn’t reprint the cartoon. God replies, “This is your” and then there’s an angry inkblot, “not mine!” God can get away with angry inkblot exclamations, but it wouldn’t look nice on a Sunday song sheet.
It’s wonderful that we can unburden ourselves on God, and it’s wonderful that we have a Saviour like Jesus who encourages us to do so, but we should always be like the man on the song sheet who says “Thank you.” And that’s one of the reasons why it’s so important for us to be here this morning. I don’t imagine God as sitting in heaven waiting to be praised all day every day, but I can appreciate the idea behind offering Him our thanks. To see the cartoon that I didn’t share with you of God carrying so many bags and bundles reminds me of all that our God is willing to do for us, but also how blind we can be sometimes that it’s not God’s baggage He’s dragging along, it’s ours. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the movie Bruce Almighty, but the premise is watch-out for what you ask for when you think you can play God better than God. The prayers, the conflicts, the impossibilities, they never stop coming, and since they all can’t be answered, there’s also the anger and the questioning about “Where are you God?” God takes all of this upon His proverbial shoulders and we should never take this for granted. We should say “thanks” and this is part of it.
This compassion is the nature of our God and Jesus makes this absolutely clear in how He led His life. When He says, “‘Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest,’” He means it. I wish more of us would believe that. There’s a lot of bad news we have to hear constantly, but one that shocked me recently took place in Pennsylvania. I think it’s because we’ve all been in a similar situation. Maybe we can relate to the frustration and maybe even the anger. There was road work going on down there. Two lanes had to converge into one. Have you been on 91 recently while they’re repaving? It can get annoying. So down in Pennsylvania this guy in a pickup truck and an 18 year old girl in a car are in the process of merging. Tensions are high, but this guy has got a gun. He gets so mad that he pulls up beside the girl and shoots her in the head. He was trying to save a few seconds by getting in front of her, and instead he’s going to spend the rest of his life in jail. What’s going on with that front part of our brains that is supposed to think long-term? Is there something in the food or water that’s eating away at it? What’s the matter with people? Guns are more and more prevalent in our society, and people seem to be getting less and less aware that they actually kill. What was this man’s burden that day that made him so angry, so crazy, that he thought one car length was worth killing another human being? Are people growing nuts or are people growing overwhelmed? How much baggage was he carrying that made a frustrating situation turn into a deadly one?
I hope none of us or those around us are ever so burdened that this kind or rage would be possible. Hopefully this remains the story we only hear about somewhere else, or even better not again. But who knows where the line is between all of those agitated and angry people we see around us and actual violence? [CVS Amherst example Friday] But even in less extreme cases where violence will not erupt out of nowhere, when anyone is carrying a lot of extra baggage, whatever it may be, I hope we’ll remember Jesus’ words of promise that we can pass it off to Him. I’ve heard from members of AA, I’ve heard patients in the hospital, tell me that it makes a real difference when you can pass along your concerns and complaints to Jesus, and I know this for myself too. When we are freed of those burdens that we can’t do anything about anyway, then we are also freed to work on the things we can fix. And that can turn a bad situation around. It can be the first step of healing. Jesus is always there waiting to help, we just need to ask.
May we discover the rest that comes from believing, and for this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randy Calvo