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Keep the Central Things Central by Rev. Steve Peterson

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

Sermon from the January Moses Retreat 2021

Scripture reading

Matthew 11

28 "Come to me, all you that 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."

Grace and Peace to You from God our Creator, Jesus who brings us the wholeness of Salvation and the Holy Spirit that moves among us, even now (as we have come to depend on, virtually), with the breath of life for each of us and for Christ’s church. Amen

I first read this in a book called “Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks” published by Youth Specialties in 1994.

The following notice was spotted in the lost and found section of the newspaper:

LOST DOG -- $50 REWARD Black and tan dog of poodle and German shepherd descent. Flea-bitten, left hind leg missing, no hair on rump, blind, and recently neutered. Answers to the name of “Lucky.”

Well, that dog was lucky, through no merit or its own, or abundance of good looks certainly, not by life experience, this dog was lucky, can we say blessed (?) because it was it was apparently loved and valued by its owner.

Jesus says to us, come to me and I will give you Rest. THIS Rest involves resting in this knowing in our bones that we are, despite our worst thoughts about ourselves, and maybe despite the worse thoughts about us that others have, despite the worst thing’s life throws our ways lucky, that is blessed by God’s embrace surrounding us, by God’s always warm and loving gaze upon us, by God’s understanding smile and encouraging words bringing us hope and healing and courage beyond what we can muster on our own.

Can you identify with this dog “Lucky” at all? Can you imagine any of your parishioners this way? Can you imagine people in your parish, community, in this country, in this world beat up and oppressed and ravaged by all kinds of ills and oppressions thrust upon them as well as perhaps anxieties, self-doubts, exhaustion, addictions… Can you even imagine the expletive deleted acting people who have been a thorn in your side at times in your congregation being “Lucky” in some way?

Earlier in Matthew 11 John the Baptist, from prison, I’ll have you remember, forwards the question to Jesus about whether or not Jesus is the Messiah, as John had said he was. Maybe John saying from his cell, “I sure hope this was worth it!” You remember Jesus answer, right? Tell John…… the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. That who Jesus is, the one who brings healing and hope, freedom, justice, mercy, compassion and resurrection. The one who is always opposed to all forms of death and death dealing, the one who bring rest and recreation, transformation and resurrection from the dead.

And that’s the Good News of Salvation for us…Healing, wholeness, resurrection that we need to hear at the beginning of 2021. Let’s just have a retreat and bask in that Good News a bit. Let’s just have a retreat and celebrate that good news just a bit today and the next few days and then bring that rest in Jesus home with us too.

And that also is the Good News, we get to share. That also is the good news that we GET to share. It is the yoke of our calling that we gather in retreat to remember is light and joyful.

Draft Horses…

I have maybe learned something about God’s ways as I have observed horses. In my young and early adult years I spent quite a bit of time around draft horses, and later directing a camp that ran a wagon train with six teams of draft horses involved. I think God can teach a person a lot about faith and life by observing animals, very much including draft horses:

I have learned that a good team of draft horses lives to be pulling under a yoke! It is not about being whipped or coerced , it is about engaging their life-giving identity, their call, if you will, as draft horses. Given the right formation as a team, they love the movement, they love the challenge, they love the team work, they love the feeling of their muscles and minds and spirits fully engaged doing what they were created and lovingly shaped by a challenging but compassionate trainer to be and to do. I could go on and on about this, but trust me it’s true.

Obviously, I believe it is also true that God who created you and has shaped and trained you in the Jesus way, gives you the opportunity to rest in his love and to embrace that calling as a life-giving calling to pull, pull hard and vibrantly at times, in the Jesus-way wagon of God’s reign of healing and hope, peace and justice. It is what your life is for, it is what has and will again bring you joy.

So, relax, laugh, cry, drink and be merry, tell your monkey brain of worry to get lost. You are on retreat; the Moses project has led you out of slavery in Egypt through the red sea of 2020 and you are dancing with Miriam today and tomorrow and Wednesday…plenty of wilderness still ahead no doubt in 2021 but you have been saved and God is here to lead you by day and by night and there is a promised land on the horizon.

And when you have rested and danced and revelried for a while remember that wonderful yoke that you have been given and lean into that yoke, going in peace, to serve the Lord, knowing the road ahead may well still be challenging, but knowing also this burden, as long as we rest in Jesus and hear him calling our name, “Hey you, Lucky”; Blessed, and breathe his Spirit of comfort, justice and joy.

I would like to close by reading Matthew 11 again, this time form the Message

And then with a song together, a sending song, anticipating going out on Wed. from this retreat time in peace, letting our life, the life and calling God has blessed us with shining in the world.

The Message Matthew. 11:28-30

Song: “Go in Peace” Bruce Kjellberg

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