13th Sunday after Pentecost

13th Sunday after Pentecost

August 14, 2016

Joshua 6:1-6, 15-16, 20

“But I’m Too Burdened”

Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon is the First Lesson read earlier from Joshua 6.

My dear friends,

This month I am doing a 4-week sermon series on the excuses we give regarding why we don’t give of ourselves to causes or projects. We can generate every excuse under the sun as to why we “just can’t” be on a board or a committee or teach or attend or serve or give money towards this or that. As I have been saying, excuses are like those port-o-potties at every major summer event. You hate the fact you have to use one, there’s never a good one when you really need one, and they always stink. Thus far the excuse we have covered is “But I’m Too Broke.” This week we address the common excuse “But I’m Too Burdened.”

Today’s First Lesson was a summation of the defeat of Jericho as found in Joshua 6, a narrative that we talk about in Sunday School and then hardly ever discuss again, like Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath, etc. Question…did that really happen? Is that narrative just a fable…merely a nice Bible story? No. Jericho is and was a real place, and this was a real event. The walls of Jericho have been extensively excavated and studied by a number of archeologists and scholars including Kathleen Kenyon, who is kind of a big deal in Holy Land archaeology.

The walls of Jericho were thought to have been built in order to prevent floods and to serve a defensive purpose. Surrounding the wall was a ditch 27 ft. wide by 9 ft. deep, cut through solid bedrock with a circumference of around the town of as much as 2,000 ft. Kathleen Kenyon made the observation regarding  the construction of the ditch: “The labor involved in excavating this ditch out of solid rock must have been tremendous. As we have discovered nothing in the way of heavy flint picks, one can only suppose that it was carried out with stone mauls, perhaps helped by splitting with fire and water.”

The walls of Jericho were more than 6 ½ ft. wide by 12 ft. high. Just imagine, waking up each day in ancient Canaan knowing that kind of work needs to be done by hand every single day: splitting bedrock, digging, building that wall higher and higher, wider and wider. Exhaustive work…but you do it because it’s what you do. That wall will keep you safe.

Imagine waking up…tomorrow. The sun is coming up. Another day given by God. He has sent the new dawn to greet you, but you are not ready for the day because you still have so much work to do. It is hard to build and maintain the walls of your life, isn’t it? And yet, brick by brick, layer by layer, one agonizing inch after another we stack on more and more layers to complicate our lives.

There is the brick of your secret addiction. It takes a lot of work to make sure that brick gets placed in such a way that no one finds out about it. Then there is the brick of worry. Heaven knows how many of those bricks we heap onto our wall! Then there are the bricks of loneliness, despair, anxiety, and shame. Make sure you get those on there each day. Next comes the bricks of being over-extended financially or in terms of our commitments (the kids need to be in SO MANY things these day plus we JUST HAVE TO attend every event and HOA meeting). And, of course lest we forget, our bricks of anger, insecurity, pain, difficulty,  resentment, sadness, grief, and exhaustion. We heap those bricks ever higher making a wall that cements us in and keeps God out. And sadly we’re okay with that. We’re safer inside our little walls of life. We also have a default answer when we’re asked to help: “I’m too burdened to help; have LOTS going on in my life right now. Check back in 10-15 years, okay?”

Friends, nowhere in God’s Word are we encouraged to live like this…but we do. We want to wall ourselves off; to be safe in our own little safe world in which we can hunker down and hide without any more commitments or any more burdens to slow us down.

But there is no wall you can build that is high enough to keep out the light of Christ. There is no wall strong enough to withstand the strength of eternity. Just as the ancient Israelites walked around and the walls of Jericho and it fell, so has God marched right up to you and your walls in Word and Sacrament where He saw your shaky foundation. And instead of utterly destroying you – His spiritual enemy – He speaks.

And when He speaks, He speaks words of restoration and love. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mat 11:28-30 ESV). Dear friends, you’re not “too burdened” to help in any capacity. If you’re feeling burdened it’s because you are expending your energies in the time-consuming soul-starving tasks of maintaining your wall! Jesus says to you instead to stop building your wall. Lay those burdens down; you were never intended to carry them any further than the cross. Let go of your yoke which is too heavy, and instead find rest for your soul because that is what Christ desires that you have – rest and peace for your soul through sin-forgiving faith in Jesus.

It is time to let go of every load, every burden, every weight, every trouble, every affliction, every care and every anxiety that keeps you away from full-fledged discipleship and instead take on the yoke/burden of Jesus: absolution, grace, love peace, life, and hope. Strive to know Jesus Christ crucified and risen for your salvation through the forgiveness of sins found in Jesus…the ones who bears your burdens for you! Paul reminds us that we should “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2 ESV), which is love. Cast your burdens and cares upon Jesus. Look full into His wonderful face. And once you are able to cast off your burdens and live each day in Christ, then the rest of the hymn makes sense: “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

You are not too burdened to help, to serve, to give of yourself. If you feel that way it’s because your spending too much time lifting the heavy bricks of your life wall. Stop. Rest. Relax. Re-prioritize. Re-evaluate. Re-learn what a life devoted to Christ, His kingdom, and His church really looks like. Allow the bricks of your burdens crumble and instead take up the light, sin-forgiving, loving yoke of your Savior Jesus. Let go and let God to free up your hand, heart, and head for an eternity of service and worship.