The Rev. Laurel P. Deery – 5th Sunday after Pentecost

Sermon year A proper 9

Romans 7:15-25a and Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

There are two words in the Epistle this morning we do not like to talk about, sin and evil. They are big, heavy, dark words, which cause us to shy away from them.

I do not like to think of myself as “a sinner,” a person who acts against God’s laws. Do you think of yourself as a sinner?

What about evil, the evil that lurks in the hearts of men, and women? We are not evil, are we? We do not have evil and wickedness within us, do we?

“I do not do what I want, but do the very thing I hate” Paul tells the romans in his letter. This rings true to me. On a very small level I can see myself doing this often.   An easy example is backing out of my driveway, the only way to get out, into traffic on a tight curve. I am always hoping someone will stop and let me out and get frustrated and angry with the driver who zooms past me. But a little down the road I am just a guilty of not letting someone out of their driveway as I think I must hurry on to where I am going. I’m doing what I hate when others do it.

Small thing, no big deal we may think, but think how that plays out over the day. When someone does stop and let me out, I am much more likely to stop and let someone else out. I also feel better when I do, I don’t have those recriminations in my mind telling me how I missed the chance to do the right thing because I was so centered on myself. So I am more apt to “do the right thing” again, because I like feeling good about myself. So one small choice to do what is thoughtful and right can change the course of my, and others’, days

On a more important level, I hate being treated as if I have nothing of value to say in a conversation or meeting. It makes me feel dismissed, of no importance. Yet how often do I do that to someone else when I am trying to get my own idea across, cutting him or her off so I can explain further? It can be hard to see my own self-centeredness, putting myself ahead of another, not honoring them as of equal value.

The consequences of doing what I hate here are greater. Not only am I jeopardizing the intent of the meeting, I am causing the other person to feel cut off and ignored, not heard and honored.

What is it you hate; yet find yourself doing? How does that affect you and the others around you?

Paul continues, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” He is talking about not only not doing the good thing, but doing the evil thing instead. This is a harder point to think about, to admit to, yet I believe we all do this.

When talking with Craig, my husband, I want to be loving, positive, thoughtful. That is the good thing I want to do. Yet there are times when what I say comes out negative and hurtful, despite what I want. It’s as if someone else is speaking. Then I am ashamed and Craig becomes guarded. Nothing good has happened and a great deal of harm has been done.

When have you wanted to do what is right and good, only to find yourself doing what is evil? Can you let yourself think about it and see what it has done to you and others?

At this point I feel like Paul when he says, “Who will rescue me?” and the answer is “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Jesus says in the Gospel, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” This is just what we need to hear after facing all the ways we go astray, the ways we sin. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” Join me when I go to do the work of God, together we can do the good you want to do. Now comes my favorite part, “For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” This gives me hope, Jesus humbly working with me, gently leading me on. Here I can find rest, I can put down the burden, which I have built of earthly concerns, and put on the yoke of Jesus. “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” This is my way forward, the way I can live into being the person God wants me to be, bringing His love to others in the way he shows, leads, even pulls me.

Set aside some time, today or later this week, to think about Paul and what he said. Come up with your own examples of when you do not do what you want but do what you hate. Start with the small things and see where they lead. Think of the good you want to do, but how you do the evil instead. This becomes more challenging as you seek to admit the wrong you sometimes do, but it is important to do.

Then, read Jesus’ words of welcome, rest and hope. Put down your burdens and welcome Jesus at your side working together to do what is good and right. Hear the love He has for you in His invitation and let it warm your soul. Rest with Jesus, learn form Him, and then work together with Him.