Words for 4th Sunday after Trinity – 5 July 2020 – Parish of Felixstowe
A Cyber Sermon from the Vicarage
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ (Matthew 11v 28–30)
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.
Just in case people are wondering where I have been getting sermon inspirations from during Lockdown, yes we have watched more Television than usual but it has mostly been Morse, Endeavour, and Doc Martin, not re-runs of classic British Movies. Ice Cold in Alex last week, Summer Holiday this week, anyone want to open a book on what next week’s theme will be 😃
It has been said that if you choose a job you enjoy you will never spend a day at work. This is one of the premises behind this greatest of British Road Movies. A group of bus mechanics persuade London Transport to let them convert a bus into a travelling hotel as an experiment in continental travel. If it works they will land a contract and their fortune is made! So off they go to the South of France pledging to be ‘Bachelor Boys’, meet several young ladies, have an encounter with the Police, the British Consulate, an angry American mum, and end up all living happily ever after on a beach in Greece! I guess they enjoyed their work very well indeed.
In the Gospel reading today our Beloved reminds us that on the Christian journey there is a task to be done, but it is gentle and humble and restful. A task that is so enjoyable compared to the heavy burdens that wear us out in our other adventures, that it does not feel like work at all.
This work we are called to do; this yoke we are to carry, however is not a sinecure.
Somewhere along the story of our faith we have come to think that to be saved means saying the Sinners prayer, answering an altar call and kneeling at the Mercy Seat, being baptised and confirmed, perhaps even ordained. But this is not what it means to be saved. Precious and important as these moments are (and I have done and cherish all the ones I’ve listed) they are but waymarks on the journey; road signs to reassure us that we are on the correct road.
To be saved is to take up an easy yoke and so enjoy the work of the faith that like Snow White’s Seven Dwarves, we whistle and sing as we go about it.
It does have some big ‘asks’. The Rich Young Ruler was taken aback by the response of, ‘Go, sell all you have, give to the poor, then come and follow me’. The Christian Journey cannot be held onto whilst we are still travelling another road. To take up the yoke of Christ we must needs lay down the one that we are over-burdened with at present. For the Rich Young Ruler it was his wealth for each of us it is likely to be different. One thing for certain is this, it will be costly in one way or another, we will be tempted to go back to the old burdens, but having let go we will know in a new deep way that we are held by God.
The most quoted words of missionary martyr Jim Elliot is;
He is no fool
who gives what he cannot keep
to gain what he cannot lose.
When I look at the ’heavy burdens’ I carry in the cold light of eternity I know they are petty, worthless and even demeaning.
When I look at the ‘easy yoke’ Jesus offers me in their place I find myself delaying, denying, and deciding I’m unworthy (even though God tells me I’m OK)
What does this mean for me?
It means I spend far too much time working at sinning,
which I hate doing anyway.
I spend far too little time working at serving God and God’s people,
which makes my heart sing with joy!
My one consolation is that I know I am not the only Christian caught in this trap of working hard at the things that make the world a worse place yet also expecting other people to pick up the weight of the work that makes the world a better place.
Perhaps I do this because I have made the mistake of thinking that once I have said the ‘Sinners’ prayer, answered an altar call, knelt at the Mercy Seat, been baptised, confirmed, and ordained there is nothing else that I need do?
Empirically, ‘yes’. Salvation is offered to all and is not dependent on our good works (for Anglican readers have a look at Article XIV of the Articles of Religion). We are not saved by work, or even for work, but once saved there is still work to be done! Our work is no longer a curse (even if it has four letters) but is instead, as Francis of Assisi said when faced with calumny, Perfect Joy.
Choose a job you enjoy you will never spend a day at work….
And what can be more joyful than the perfect freedom found in the service of our Beloved Saviour? Jesus calls us to a lifetime of being on a Busdriver’s Holiday. The question remains then as to why so few Christians offer themselves for active service in their own churches let alone in the community the Church is called to serve…
On Tuesday evening, I will be receiving into St John’s Church the coffin of Revd Tony Marsh, faithful priest and one of my forebears in ministry in the Parish of Felixstowe, and a great support to me. His body will rest before the altar throughout that night until his burial next to his wife Moreen on the next day. On his coffin I will place a cross, a bible, and a stole – symbols of his ministry. As I place the stole, a symbol of the yoke of Christ, on the coffin I will pray
Lord Jesus Christ, look upon your servant Tony, who for love of your people took up your yoke of love and service for them. Carry him now into the Everlasting Arms
May each of us learn to let go of the tasks of this world and with joy embrace the call of Christ to carry his easy yoke and spend our lives, as did Tony and Moreen, in serving God and God’s people.
[This blog ‘Busdriver’s Holiday’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]