02 July 2011

"Come to Me, and Rest"

Rejoice, and praise God, that He has revealed Himself to you, and has granted you life in Himself, and that He gives you rest. For He has willed and chosen to do so in love, and He is well-pleased to save you by His grace. Otherwise, you would not know Him, nor could you ever find Him or come to Him, and you would have no life or salvation.

As it is, you are still tempted to rely upon your own human wisdom and earthly intellect, to make your own life and to find your own way to God by your own efforts, hard labor and striving. That won’t work, and you won’t find what you need, but still you fall into such sins.

It is sometimes out of selfishness and greed, and sometimes out of desperation; sometimes out of pride, and sometimes out of fear. But whatever the particular reasons may be, the consequences are a heavy burden, which you cannot bear: restless anxiety, turmoil and confusion, and such a weariness of heart and mind, body and soul, that you can no longer stand upright, far less continue on that path. Maybe you could trudge on to the bitter end, but then death would finally stop you in your tracks and lay you low. If you die with your boots on, you’re still dead, and what have you achieved? What would you take with you and still have?

The harder you try to work your way to God, or to think your way to God, the more hidden He becomes to you, and the further away you wander from Him; the heavier your burdens become, with no end to your labors in sight, and your weariness increases.

How then does the Lord Jesus say, “Come to Me”? Or what does He mean by that, and how can you “come to Him”? It’s not by your own wisdom, intelligence or reason, nor by any strength or striving of yours. You cannot do it. All of your attempts are worse than futile, because they actually make your situation worse. So is Jesus mocking you, or teasing you, or rubbing in your infirmity and weakness? Of course not!

No, dear child, the Lord who gently invites you, “Come to Me,” is the Son of the Father, who has come down from heaven to you, and has humbled Himself to bear your burdens, to share your weakness and pain, to suffer your hurts and sorrows; who gets down on His haunches to draw you — as the little one you are — into His arms and to His embrace.

By this beloved Son of God, in the flesh, the Father calls you and draws you and gathers you to Himself, the way a loving Daddy scoops up his toddler and cradles his newborn.

He says, “Come to Me,” even as He does so, not that you must work your way up to Him, but so that, by His Word, He should lift you up and strengthen you in confidence, and comfort you and give you courage. Such sweet words upon His lips are not a law, nor yet another heavy burden laid upon your weary back, but a respite from your labors and a place of rest.

Here there is blessed peace, and calm safety, and sure refuge. Here there is not death, but life; not shame, but the glory of God in Christ bestowed upon you by His grace.

In caring for you like an infant, He surely does not belittle you, but He raises you up and supports you and shares with you all that belongs to Him. For as the Father hands over all things to the Son, so does the Son hand over Himself — and all that is His — to you, to all of His disciples, and to His whole Church in heaven and on earth.

In becoming small before Him, by the humility of repentance, you are enlarged by His Gospel of forgiveness (which He gives to you freely for the sake of His holy love), and you are made great by the Cross of Christ unto the life everlasting. For this is real greatness, not that you exalt yourself, but that God the Lord exalts you and glorifies you in the resurrected Body of Christ Jesus.

So it is that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light, even though it is a Cross that is laid upon you. For that is what disciples of Christ Jesus are given and are called to carry after Him.

By your Baptism you are crucified, dead and buried with Him, and so you are signed and sealed by His Cross. It puts to death the old Adam in you, slaying your selfishness and calling you to live unto Christ by faith, and for your neighbor in love.

But, again, the Cross of Christ is not a work or burden of yours by which you must save yourself. It is, rather, the way and the means by which He has saved you in His own gentle humility, in perfect faith and love. Because He has so borne the Cross for you, and suffered and died for you, and has risen from the dead for you, and lives and reigns to all eternity as your merciful and great High Priest, His Cross puts you to death in order to give you His newness of life.

The death of His Cross is the way and the means by which you are reborn as an infant of God, a beloved child of our Father who art in heaven. And it is to you, who have been crucified and raised with Christ Jesus, the beloved Son — through Holy Baptism and by daily repentance — that God the Father has revealed Himself. He does so by granting you His Holy Spirit through the Gospel of His Son, whereby you know Him as the one true God who loves you and has mercy upon you; who forgives you all your sins, casts out all your demons and heals all your diseases, provides for all your needs, and gives you life forever with Himself in peace.

In making Himself known to you in Christ Jesus, by His Spirit through the Gospel, your dear God and Father does not only give you news and information “about” Himself, but He actually gives you Himself and His Life, His Name and His Home to be your own. Already now, in His Church and in His Gospel, even in this vale of tears under the Cross in the midst of sin and death, He shelters and protects you, provides for you and cares for you; He feeds, clothes and comforts you.

He is, in short, your true Father, and you are His true child, in Christ Jesus His Son.

That is your life, beloved, both now and forever. That is your Sabbath Rest, your safety, and your peace, which remains for you and always shall. In Christ Jesus, you breathe the Spirit of God, and so you live. And whether with your body here on earth you are working hard or resting easy, waking or sleeping, playing or praying, or whatever it is that you are doing, your life remains hidden with Christ in God.

Come to Him, therefore, and rest your soul upon Him, as He here comes to you in love and gives Himself to you, as your Meat and Drink indeed. For so He wills to serve you in peace.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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