Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

Sermon for July 9, 2023 – Proper 9

Program Transcript

Speaking of Life 5033 | Our Great Resolution
Cara Garrity

We are in the middle of the year and it’s time to ask how your New Year’s resolution is going. What was your resolution?

One company tracked the top resolutions for 2022. Ranging from, exercising more, to having more time for friends and family, to spending less time on social media, and lastly reducing stress at work

Some of us might be doing great. Some of us didn’t make any resolutions. And some of us might want me to change the subject. I get it.

If you haven’t done so well on your resolution, don’t be discouraged. In 2019, it was reported that only 8.9% of people polled succeeded in keeping their New Year’s resolution throughout the previous year. That’s a failure rate of over 91%.2

Here’s an example:

A friend of mine told me about being quite convicted by a sermon when he was 13. He felt guilty about how he had been treating his younger brother, so he decided that he would show him kindness and not pick on him for an entire day. With all the strength and resolve he had in him, he set out to be a good brother. That lasted about thirty minutes. He discovered that while he knew what he should do, he didn’t have it in him to do it. His resolve was good but misplaced.

In the book of Romans, Paul shares our struggle with keeping resolutions as he wrote to Jewish leaders who were having a difficult time accepting the fact that they could not resolve their way out of sin. Paul explains his own struggle.

So I find it to be a law that, when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched person that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:21-25a (NRSVUE)

Paul empathizes with us. We know what we want to do – thus the New Year’s resolutions – but we can’t follow through. Paul, himself, had to come to the end of self-effort and throw himself upon the mercy of God.

In this passage, Paul comes to the one answer that gives him peace. Thank you, Jesus. He is the only true rescuer; he alone saves us.

Right after sharing this with his readers, Paul informs them that in Jesus they are no longer slaves of sin, condemnation is removed, and they have been adopted into God’s family and now live by the Spirit.

Resolutions don’t bring about change; Jesus does. We can’t change, but he can change us. We learn to stop trusting in our own efforts but trust in the accomplishments of Christ Jesus. He is our hope and our answer. He is our great resolution this year, and every year to come.  

I’m Cara Garrity, Speaking of Life.

1) https://www.statista.com/chart/26577/us-new-years-resolution-gcs/

2) https://dreammaker.co.uk/blog/new-years-resolutions-statistics/

Psalm 45:10-17 • Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 • Romans 7:15-25a • Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

This week’s theme is praising God for his goodness. In Psalm 45, the psalmist sings of how Jesus (the Messiah-King) will be praised by the nations forever and ever. In Genesis, Abraham’s servant praises God for answering his prayer for the success of finding a bride (Rebekah) for Jacob. In Romans, Paul praises God for saving him from his wretched, sinful state. And in Matthew, Jesus praises the Father because he has revealed the kingdom to those who had been marginalized. 

Changing Our Minds About God

Matthew 11:25-30 (NRSVUE)

Read, or have someone read Matthew 11:25-30.

Earlier in this chapter, John the Baptist, who was in jail at that time, sent his disciples to Jesus to inquire as to whether he truly was the Messiah. John was hearing reports about what Christ was doing and it made him want verification. I can’t help but wonder if it was the fact that Jesus hung out with sinners and tax collectors that was messing with John’s messianic paradigm.

Jesus sent John’s disciples back, telling them to share what they saw and what they heard: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with a skin disease are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (v. 5). This was more effective than sending them with a list of credentials meant to impress John. Then Jesus addressed the crowd and asked them what they were expecting out of John. Someone refined and charming? They obviously did not receive that.

A little further into the story, and you see Jesus making a comparison of his generation with children who want you to play along with their childish games and get upset when you don’t.

In these occurrences, Jesus is pointing out that we cannot put God in our self-constructed boxes. Instead, we must change our minds about him according to the revelation that he gives us. This is part of what we call repentance

Let’s ask ourselves three questions today. First, where do we get it wrong about God? Second, what is God really like? And third, How should we respond to this?

Where do we get it wrong?

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (Matthew 11:25-26 NRSV)

Jesus specifically singles out the people who were most admired in his day, i.e. those with wisdom and learning. In our modern world we are enamored with those who have been successful in making money, those who can dunk a basketball or who can turn everyone’s head as they walk the red carpet.

We give our praise to those that we most admire; our attention to those that we want to be like. Our love for the winners can captivate our hearts and color our perception of how we think the world should work. The danger is when we bring this into our view of God and his ways. When our view of God is formed by societal norms, we have constructed a God who blesses the strong and marginalizes the weak. But God has orchestrated something very different than how the world operates.

Later in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus calls a young child over to him. He proceeds to make an object lesson out of his encounter with the child.

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3,4)

The child came to Jesus with trust and humility. A child’s life is not supposed to be complicated. They know that they don’t know, and they trust the adults in their life for their answers, whether it’s a teacher, parent, or other authority figures.

As adults, we want to be seen as having our act together and being self-sufficient and competent. We look for ulterior motives in others and we don’t trust easily. When we do trust people, its often those with the most degrees, those with extravagant wealth or those with the loudest voice.

This is not saying that we should abandon seeking for wisdom or remain uninformed or ignorant about matters pertaining to this world. But rather, we need to discern where we are placing our trust. Are we taking our cues from the world or what the Spirit is revealing to us?

Again, does Jesus have something against those who are greatly admired by the world. No. But He praises the Father for making the kingdom of God easily accessible to the ones who were the most likely to be excluded in the eyes of the world: those without status.

The so-called “children of the world” lacked the education, the resources, and the advantages that the wise and learned had. Yet, in the kingdom of God, the playing field has been leveled. In fact, those with all the advantages find it hard to accept the way of the kingdom because it isn’t about who is the biggest and brightest star. It involves a humility that they find hard to accept.

What is God really like?

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27 NRSVUE)

Jesus says something shocking here. He establishes his authority by putting himself on the same level as the Father. Scandalous! He was accused of blasphemy. He makes it clear that until now, they really have not understood who God is. Jesus is bringing that revelation to them.

What Jesus is saying is that they thought they knew who God was but had it wrong. They think they have found the answers but have been far from it. Because the answers were always pointing to Jesus. But like a dog who fixates on his master’s finger, so were the Jews missing out on what the law and the prophets were pointing to.

The wise and the learned assumed that because of their wisdom and intellect they held a special insight into God over others. Through their ideologies and philosophies were found the answers to God’s character and nature. But the way of true knowledge is solely found in the Son, the one standing in front of them.

God has only ever looked like Jesus. There was never a time in which the Father looked any different from Jesus. They are in complete unity in the Trinity. If you have seen Jesus, you have seen who the Father is. Whatever was being purported as being from God is the same as being from Jesus.

How should we respond?

Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NRSVUE)

It’s here that Jesus issues an invitation. He calls out to all those who are worn out from trying to lift demanding religious burdens. From trying to win at a game that is rigged against themselves. He promises rest to all who respond to this generous offer.

In his book, A More Christlike Way, Bradley Jersak points out that the “rest” Christ gives is not merely a diversion or reprieve from our weariness; it is a medicine for it.1 The rest from God heals our hearts and our griefs. It purifies our anger and renews our hearts with God’s divine grace.

We are instructed to take the “yoke” of Jesus. Jesus could be giving a double meaning. We know about the yoke for oxen that is used for plowing, which could indicate he wants us to participate in the work he is doing, but there is another use for that word.

Disciples of a rabbi were said to take on the yoke of their rabbi. This would make sense since Jesus said, take my yoke upon you and learn from me… He continues by saying that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. A lot of rabbis were strict, and their yoke came with different sets of rules that were difficult for their disciples to carry out. But not so with Jesus.

Jesus tells us that we can trust him because he is gentle and humble in heart. Again, the affirmation of his character and the promise of rest is included with his yoke. The humility of Christ reveals his character and nature. When we receive this yoke, it will provide rest for our souls. The trials of this world will still come, but we can be assured that these whatever is burdening us is not coming from him.

We are to open our eyes to see what is happening around us. Do we see the kingdom of God or are we fixated on all the power, possessions, and privileges, thinking that this is the path to real life?

When our eyes are opened, we see God for who he is, and we understand that there is no other God behind the back of Jesus. Our understanding of God is shaped by Christ alone. God’s character is one that is gentle and humble.

When we know Christ and live as his disciples, we carry a light and easy yoke. We learn from Christ and move about with the rest and fulfillment in life that only comes from following Him.

1) Bradley Jersak: “A More Christlike Way” A More Beautiful Faith (Pasadena, CA: Plain Truth Ministries, 2019)

In Step with the Spirit w/ Gavin Henderson W2

Video unavailable (video not checked).

July 9 — Proper 9 of Ordinary Time
Matthew 11:16-1925-30, “Real Rest”

CLICK HERE to listen to the whole podcast.

If you get a chance to rate and review the show, that helps a lot. And invite your fellow preachers and Bible lovers to join us!

Follow us on SpotifyGoogle Podcast, and Apple Podcast.

Program Transcript

In Step With the Spirit w/ Gavin Henderson W2

Anthony: Let’s move on to our next passage of the month. It’s Matthew 11:16 – 19 and 25 – 30. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for Proper 9 in Ordinary Time, which is July 9. Gavin, would you read it for us please?

Gavin: Yes, sure.

19 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18 “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Anthony: Gavin, if you were preaching this pericope to your congregation, what would be your focus?

Gavin: I think there are different sections of this passage that you can focus on, but there’s a section at the beginning that really resonates with me. And certainly, part of the reason it resonates is because I really like the language that’s used. But also, because initially, I struggled when I read this passage to understand exactly how it fitted in with the rest of the scriptures.

It’s in verse 17 when Jesus said, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance. We wailed and you did not mourn.” This passage of scripture reminds me a lot of my experience with my children.

I have three children who are all under 10. And inevitably what happens is the children—they enjoy imaginative play. And so, all three of them are playing together, and then sooner or later one of them will get upset because the others aren’t letting them play the game that they want to play. So, whatever the imaginary game is at the time, one of them will come through and say, the other is not playing it right.

And this is really what is being talked about in this passage. And I think it really brings something of value that we can use when we’re preaching. Because for children often, we want to play the game that we want to play, and if others aren’t playing it the way we want we get upset with them.

We want to be in control. We want to have a say about what others do. And this is the context of what Jesus is saying that the children are sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, “We played the flute, and you did not play along. You did not dance.”

And if we think of the larger context of what is being said here, Jesus is in a section where he’s been speaking about John the Baptist. And in verse 18 when he talks about how John the Baptist came and he didn’t eat, and he didn’t drink. And yet the response people said he was a demon. And then you have Jesus who comes, and he does eat, and he does drink, and they say he’s a glutton and a drunkard.

And it’s basically, I think a really valuable thing that we can learn about the expectations that we have when it comes to religion, when it comes to church, when it comes to so many of the things. These people came up with reasons and excuses about why they could disregard what John the Baptist said and what Jesus said, even though those reasons were contradictory. They wanted to be able to control the game, so to speak. They wanted to have control of the narrative.

And I think we can really reflect on this verse and think, how do we respond to the gospel message of Jesus Christ? Do we look for reasons to reject what Jesus says? Do we look for reasons when we read a verse, and think, ah, yes, brother, that verse, that section of that verse doesn’t apply to me because of this or because of that? Or do we instead come with hearts that really desire to take scripture and apply it to our lives?

Do we try and learn everything that we can from a passage of scripture and see how we can apply it in a practical sense to our lives even if—or even maybe particularly, if what is said in scripture perhaps causes us some difficulty? If we find it difficult, the words that Jesus is speaking to us, those are really the times I think when we need to pay the most attention. We can’t just try and define Christianity, the religion, that we want.

Instead, we always need to go back to what Jesus actually says. We need to be receptive to the gospel message as opposed to trying to define what the gospel message says and then get the Bible to fit in with what we believe.

Anthony: You mentioned how we look at Scripture. Obviously, we’re coming to find out who God is revealed in Jesus Christ, but also, what is this saying to me? What’s the response in the power of the Spirit?

Thinking of that practical application right now, Gavin, there’s quite a few people in my life who feel weary, heavy. And Jesus said in this passage, come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. The world is weary, is it not?

And it seems like the world is crying out for real rest. Tell us about it.

Gavin: Absolutely. I think as we look around society today both in the UK and the US, wherever you are in the world, I think life is difficult and I think many of us do feel that we are carrying burdens that are beyond us in many ways.

And this is such a beautiful passage of scripture because so many of us are crying out for rest. But I think one of the beautiful things that Jesus is saying in this passage is when it comes to our own lives so often it’s a struggle to do what we think is right.

We carry all these burdens that often we place upon us or others place on us. And what Jesus is saying is we can rely on him; we can trust in him.

I’m really into food. I enjoy cooking. I enjoy eating and I enjoy reading cookbooks and watching programs on cookery. And in some ways this verse reminds me of something that you find in high-end restaurants. So many high-end restaurants have what they call a test kitchen. And one of the beauties of a test kitchen is you can go out and there’s no pressure on you. But instead, there’s freedom to try without the fear of failure that is so common in society today.

If you work in a restaurant, the reality is you have to follow a recipe every day, and you have to make sure that the people who are eating get the very best of what you can do. But the reality is that’s very trying. It’s all this pressure and this burden on you to try and get everything right.

In a test kitchen, instead that pressure is removed. And instead, there’s freedom to try and create the best food that you can possibly create without the same fear of failure. And often you have the guidance of an experienced master chef who helps you to understand what you are doing.

And in some ways, this is what this verse really speaks to me about. That Jesus is saying that we can take away the pressure of trying to get everything right ourselves. But instead, what we can do is just bring everything to Jesus, and he takes the pressure from us. And we have the freedom to be the people that God designed us to be. And he is there, we are yoked to him. But he’s guiding us so that we can really respond to him and what he’s doing to be the very best of ourselves.

It is really taking away the pressure of trying to get everything right through our own strength. Instead, it’s relying on Jesus Christ’s strength and following where he is leading us. And in following where he’s leading us, we have true freedom. We’re able to really try and be righteous without the fear of failure, without that kind of restriction that is the reality that we face in this world. And I think this is a freedom that the world needs. But it’s also a rest.

It’s a rest from relying on our own righteousness, our own works, and instead trusting and relying on Jesus Christ.

Anthony: Amen. One thing I didn’t expect to happen during that conversation was for me to get hungry. So, what time do I come over for dinner, Gavin, now that I know what your passion is? That’s good to know.

Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • What spiritual resolution have you made at some point? And how did that turn out?
  • What are some of the things that Christ has accomplished on our behalf?
  • How do we trust Christ as sufficient when we still sin?
  • What is our relationship to the law now?

From the Sermon

  • What are some of the attractive societal values that run counter to the kingdom of God?
  • In what ways should our faith resemble that of little children?
  • Why would the kingdom of God be unattractive to those who seem to have everything?
  • Why are we tempted sometimes to see Jesus and the Father differently than each other?
  • How is your level of rest in Christ? How could the yoke of Jesus be experienced as light and easy?

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2024 Grace Communion International

GCI Equipper Privacy Policy