Some folks appeared to quite like the sermon I preached on Sunday. (And actually after my last post about prepping up last minute, this was a proper last minute one – Saturday night no less!) So here it is…
If I was to come round each of you this morning and ask how you’re doing, what kind of answers might I be likely to get?
There might be quite a number of you here this morning who would be up on cloud nine…I certainly think that a few of the folks who are here to celebrate this morning’s baptism would be among those. And why not? The welcoming of a new person into the life and family of the church, is indeed a cause for celebration. And rightly so.
There’d probably be a majority of folks who’d say ‘I’m fine’- because that’s the easiest answer isn’t it? It’s the easiest to give and the easiest to hear.
I wonder how many of you though might pause, and think, and say “Actually Rachael, now you ask, I’m not so cracking. I’m tired. I’m weary. I’ve got some burdens.”
And I wonder what I’d say to that?
I’m going to show you a little something I’ve brought in from home now…
I try when I can, to do an exercise DVD. The one I’ve been doing for a while now involves using hand weights. How much do you think these weights weigh? Well, together they’re about 10lb. So that’s not too heavy – in fact it’s a bit heavier than a most newborn babies – and probably less than she weighs right now – but they’re heavy enough for me to notice that I’m holding them.
So, 10lb. Do you think you could pick up these weights and hold them with your arm straight out to the side of you like this? You might manage it for a minute or two, but what about all day? I doubt it! The longer you hold them, the heavier they feel.
That same thing is true of the burdens we carry around with us. Not a pair of hand weights of course, but burdens of a different kind. Burdens that sometimes have been with us so long that they almost seem like they’re a part of us.
Perhaps you’re having a tough time at work.
Maybe your family aren’t getting on very well at the moment.
It could be that you’re worried about a friend or a relative, and don’t know how best to help.
Perhaps there’s stuff going on in your relationships with people at church, and it’s making you feel hurt and confused.
Maybe you look at the news on tv or in the papers or on facebook or twitter and you feel the weight of the world’s burdens falling upon you and you wonder what on earth is going on.
I remember, each time I was mum to a new person, feeling an incredible burden. Don’t get me wrong – I loved and love children with a deep and abiding love. But the burden I felt was that of the challenge of caring for them, nurturing them, being one of those responsible for their welfare. Keeping them safe. It was then and still is now, at times, almost overwhelming.
And yet – and yet – what we hear from this beautiful passage in the Gospel of Matthew are these words of encouragement. Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”
I’m going to put these weights down now.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…and I will give you rest.”
I am sure we have all heard the phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.
It’s just that sometimes, we feel there’s nobody we can share that problem with. Nobody whose reaction we can be sure of. Nobody who might not say ‘I can’t handle this, it’s too much’ or on the other hand who might dismiss your worries as being insignificant.
But of course as Christians, we believe that there is that one person who’ll listen to us when everyone else is too busy, or too full of problems of their own, or too far away, or too judgemental, to listen to us.
We believe and trust in the words that Jesus said in Matthew. Words that are as relevant today as they were then.
And if it’s not enough that Jesus said those words in Matthew’s Gospel…God’s Word is full of promises to help us in times of trouble. Here are just a few: “Don’t be afraid, I am with you.” (Gen.26:24) “The Lord is my strength and my shield, in Him my heart trusts.” (Psalm 28:7) “The poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.” (Psalm 34:6) The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down. (Psalm 145:15) “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). The list goes on.
Does that mean that if we will ask him, God will take all of our troubles away? No. Does it mean that the problems at work will magically disappear? No. Will the troubles with family and friends be forgotten and never mentioned again? Probably not. Will getting on with everyone at church be a piece of cake? If only! Will God look at our troubled and suffering world and put an end to all war and terror and despair? I think we know the answer to that. Will God make it so that we never need worry about our children, about whether we’re doing a good job of parenting (or even just being a ‘good enough’ parent)? That would be nice – but helpful? Probably not.
But, this we do know. God will be with us. Through our struggles – whatever they may be – He will help us. He wants to shoulder our burdens and all we need to do is take them to him. In the words of the hymn by Fanny Crosby:
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to offer, everything to God in prayer.
Oh what peace we often forefeit, o what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
So let us remember this – when the load is too heavy, He will help us to carry it – and there is no burden that is too heavy for Him.