Rest in God

Click here to hear the audio recording of this sermon.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 • July 3,  2011

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

Today Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Anyone feeling a little weary?

Anyone feeling the weight of a burden or burdens?

Anyone looking for rest?

Molly Sasser-Goel, the director of Outlaw and Atlantic Mountain Ranch in Custer, SD – one of the amazing outdoor ministries of the church – wrote a wonderful reflection on the gospel reading this week. Molly wrote, “Sometimes, it seems like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. We run ourselves and our children from one activity to another. Our parents get older and need help. We worry about job stability in a still-shaky economy. Unrest in the world persists. Children are hungry and people are homeless. Our To Do list gets longer, and we have less time to get everything done. We try to take it all into our own hands and think we can fix it, but we soon discover we cannot. Jesus said, “All things have been handed over to me.” Ultimately, Jesus carries all these worries for us. Our task is easy. We are invited to simply trust Jesus’ promise: “Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Rest in God. Jesus words here are not simply about not working or taking a vacation. Jesus words are saying far more about rest in our daily journey.

Last Sunday I was in Wahpeton to participate and celebrate in the ordination of my good friend, seminary roommate, and brother in Christ Bob Caranicas. This text from Matthew is part of the rite of ordination. It’s offered as the stole is placed upon the one being ordained with these words – “Receive this stole as a sign of your work, and live in obedience to the Lord Jesus, serving his people and remembering his promise: “Come to me, all you that 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.”

I’ll never forget when the stole was placed upon me at my own ordination.

It felt like an enormous weight on my shoulders – heavier than anything that had ever been placed there before. A weight though, that on that day, I knew I did not carry alone. Christ is with you and me in our vocation as pastor, or student, or doctor, or mother, or whatever vocation we have been called to live out.

Rest in God.

On Monday evening, my family and I were headed out for dinner. As we were driving to the restaurant, my daughters were talking on the phone with my mother-in-law. My in-laws had a great chocolate lab named Mollie that increasingly become frail as she aged and her health deteriorated. On Monday, they took this beautiful dog to the vet one last time and then buried her at the farm where she loved to play.

My mother-in-law talked to Ilia about the day and how difficult it was and how good their memories of Mollie will be. Ilia listened quietly and then simply said, “Grandma, Mollie isn’t hurting anymore and that’s a good thing.”

That day was a burden for my in-laws. A burden that I believe was lifted a little through the grace of their 10-year old grandchild that believes Jesus is with us and helps us carry burdens like the loss of a beloved pet.

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Rest in God.

Our congregation walked with two individuals and their families this week through death and funeral worship services. It is always an honor to preside as these times of worship and walk with families as they grieve and begin to move forward following the death of loved one. Death can be a time of indescribable burden.

As the community of faith, gathered together as the body of Christ, the burden that our brothers and sisters in Christ face during times of death is lightened as we lift them up in our worship, offer prayer and words of remembrance, and things as simple as a hug or a shoulder to cry on or a meal to share.

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Rest in God.

Garrison Keiller from American Public Radio’s Prairie Home Companion Radio Show, said that he used to think of his faith as a building block that one was supposed to put together with other blocks throughout life. Eventually these blocks would become strong like the brick house that the little pigs built that couldn’t be blown over by the big bad wolf. Garrison no longer believes that faith is like building blocks. He now believes that faith is about surrender. It’s a matter of walking out and leaving that house behind and experiencing the cold and doubt and confusion and times of rain in our lives and through that journey we find hope and gratitude.

This past week I experienced rest in God that renewed my sense hope and gratitude in some pretty unexpected ways – the placement of a stole on a dear friend during his ordination; walking with two families through death as we celebrated and remembered the promise of resurrection that we are given in our baptism; and the quiet voice of a 10-year old girl who taught me, and probably many of us here in worship, something about Jesus’ words in Matthew’s gospel today.

On this weekend in which we celebrate the freedom that we enjoy as a nation and give thanks for that freedom, may you find rest in God.

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”



About Bishop Craig Schweitzer

The Rev. Craig Schweitzer, of Bismarck, was elected as bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod on July 17, 2020, in the first-ever digital Synod Assembly. A historic event, Schweitzer is the first bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to be elected in an online assembly. Bishop Craig Schweitzer began serving the Western North Dakota Synod-ELCA on September 1, 2020. He has always seen himself as an easy-going person who seeks to daily discover anew how God is present in his life and the world in which he lives and serves. Prior to service in the Office of Bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod, Bishop Craig served at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bismarck, ND as Music and Worship Minister (lay staff from 2002-2010), Associate Pastor (2010-2014), and Senior Pastor (2014-2020). Beyond his service in the church, he has an eclectic background that is a diverse collection of musical, educational, and business experiences ranging from live concert production and promotion to recording studios and live performance to music education. Throughout all of his professional and personal experiences, the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome have been a guiding light that has kept him grounded in whatever work God was calling him into – “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) Bishop Craig is a graduate of the University of Mary in Bismarck with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and a Master of Science in Strategic Leadership. He also holds a certificate degree in Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA. He was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament on September 16, 2010. Outside of his life as Bishop, Bishop Craig enjoys reading, all music, a little golf, a cold beverage with friends, and intentional times of quiet. And, of course, spending time with his wife Wendy and their adult twin daughters Ilia and Taegan. View all posts by Bishop Craig Schweitzer

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