About the Author: Sunday Sermons from Sell Chapel are written by Rev. Preston Van Deursen, Director of Pastoral Care at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown.
I don’t know why but I was drawn to these words and what we do here today in Sell Chapel with Holy Communion: Life sometimes gets heavy for each of us and I was truly drawn to these words:
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.
There is so much to worry about anymore… I’m worried about education in America. My concern right now is different from all the ones everyone else is talking about in our school systems, the usual ones about drug abuse, sexual immorality and secularistic ideas with God being absent. I’m worried about the way a lot of people have learned to spell. There are people who cannot spell even the simplest words. Perhaps you’ve seen that commercial on TV in which a reporter interviews several people by asking them the question: “How do you spell Relief?” Now I thought I knew how to spell relief. But evidently I don’t because every single person that reporter questions spells relief, R-O-L-A-I-D-S. I’ve heard about the New Math – I suppose that’s the New English.
Have you ever thought about what you would say if a reporter asked you, “How do you spell relief?” There are probably lots of answers, money, prune juice… not sure what you might say but I would probably say “J-E-S-U-S.” Perhaps Rolaids can give physical relief but that’s not the kind of relief I often need. Rolaids might comfort a painful stomach but Jesus can comfort a broken heart. Rolaids may have the ability to calm a gaseous tummy, but Jesus has the power to calm a troubled soul. How would I spell Relief? – “J-E-S-U-S.”
Today at our service we believe that Jesus is with us in a very special way. We believe that he is present in the Sacrament we come to receive. In the bread and wine of holy communion Jesus comes to us, and gives relief for our troubled hearts and spirits. Let me share a few ways I believe that happens:
First of all, Jesus gives us relief from sin and guilt. In Romans 3:23 we read that “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” There is no doubt about that, is there? Despite the fact that we are Saints because of our faith in Christ, we are still sinners … Saved sinners to be sure, but sinners none-the-less. We keep on falling short of the expectations God has for us.
We know painfully well that we aren’t all we should be. I am not the husband and father, grandfather even friend I should be. How many of us can say that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Gosh, we fall short there, don’t we? And we fall equally short in loving our neighbor when we put stipulations on the kinds of neighbors we are willing to love. There is no question in our minds concerning that passage of Scripture. We know that we have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. But thanks be to God, he has not abandoned us in our sin. Because of the atoning death of Jesus Christ we can be forgiven and reconciled to God. If we simply acknowledge our sins with true repentance and confess them to the Lord.
Christ is offering us forgiveness of our sins today. And So we examine ourselves and discover our sins. In 1 Corinthians 11:28 we read “… everyone should examine himself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup.” Our Self examination is a necessary preparation for holy communion. we discover the sins in our lives, confess them and leave them at the Lord’s altar, knowing we are forgiven. 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If we are truly sorry for our sins and desire to start over in life, God relieves us of our guilt with forgiveness and grants us new life. One of the truly sad things is that many of us don’t really confess our sins. we just read through the confession at the beginning of worship without really examining our lives in light of the expectations of God.
Sometimes we are like the little girl who went into a store one day to find a birthday present for her mother. She asked the salesgirl to show her some of the nicest cookie jars. At a counter where a large number of them were displayed, the youngster carefully lifted and replaced each lid. She looked rather disappointed as she came to the last one and said, “Ma’am, don’t you have one with a lid that can be lifted and replaced without making any noise?” She was looking for a way to disobey without her mother knowing it! In the same way that youngster was looking for a way of not getting caught, we look for ways to sin more discreetly. But there is no way to sin and escape the all-seeing eye of God. The way to find relief from sin is not to try to fool God by hiding it, but to bring it out in the open! The way to get relief from sin is to come to the Lord’s Table with humility and honestly confess your sins to God. Then we are forgiven. Remember what he said about holy communion: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.” Remembering that, we can then leave set free from your past sins ready to start anew! How do you spell relief for a troubled Soul? – J-E-S-U-S. So we Come to this morning and receive relief from your sin and guilt.
Second, Jesus can relief us from the burdens of life. many of us are loaded down with the burdens and cares of this old world. Suicide rates have reached an all time high. People turn to drugs and alcohol in order to obliterate the pains they feel. Some seek false religions in order to seek help to carry their burdens. Perhaps there are tensions between you and those you love today.
Maybe your job is bringing you more frustrations than fulfillment. Perhaps the threat of war and economic devastation are making the future bleak for you. Maybe your heart is breaking because of conflict in your relationship with your spouse or your child. If there are burdens on your heart, then remember the invitation: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” We can Place those burdens in his hands
For He is stronger and wiser than us. We can Trust him for guidance and help.
Psalm 55: says “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” The Lord doesn’t want us to worry. He doesn’t want us to be weighed down with a burden of cares. He wants us to turn over all our problems to him and trust him to take care of us. In the same way that as parents we don’t want our children to worry and fret about the necessities of life, God our Loving Parent doesn’t want us to be burdened with worry. We are simply to cast our burdens upon the Lord, do the best we can with what he has given us and trust him to provide all we need! And he’ll do it. God can be trusted! We need not worry for a moment. Again we don’t trust the Lord enough to genuinely give our burdens over to him.
We are like the older lady who was walking along a dirt road one day. Strapped to the woman’s back was a big pile of wood that she was carrying home. It was so heavy that she was bending over as she walked. Pretty soon a farmer and his family came along in a truck. He saw the old woman struggling along. He stopped his truck beside her and asked if she would like a ride. The lady smiled and said, “The sun is hot; the load is heavy, Yes, it would be a big relief to ride on your truck.” She climbed into the back of the truck and away they went. After they had gone several miles, the farmer looked into his mirror and noticed that the woman still had the heavy load of wood on her back. He stopped the truck, walked around to the back and said t her, “Ma’am, why don’t you lay down that load. You no longer have to carry it! When I offered you a ride I was willing to carry both you and your burden.”
The same is true in our lives. When we responded to Christ’s invitation to faith, he not only promised to carry us, but he also promised to carry our burdens through life! Christ wants you to lay your burdens at his feet. He said, “Come to me all you that are weak and heavy ladened and I will give you rest.” So when we come to the Lord’s Table this morning we need to place all our cares and troubles into the hands of our Lord and leave them there. Don’t pick them back up again – leave them in his hands. He’ll show us the way. He’ll give us the strength. “Cast our burdens upon the Lord and he will sustain us!” How do you spell relief for a troubled heart? J-E-S-U-S! Jesus can give you relief from the burden of life!
The last thing I would say is this: Jesus gives us relief from the fear of death. Psychologists say that the fear of death is the basic anxiety of human life. There are people who hate to go to sleep at night because they are afraid they will not wake up. Some folks won’t get onto an airplane or even into an automobile for fear of losing their lives in an accident. There are people who live in constant fear of the dark, unknown curtain of death. But this should not be true for you and I. We should not fear death for the very purpose of Christ’s dying on the cross was to set us free from the power of death.
Hebrews tells us why Jesus came to this earth. That passage says “He did this so that through his death he might destroy the Devil, who has the power over death, and in this way set free those who were slaves … of their fear of death.” We no longer have to be slaves of the fear of death. Christ has set us free. On the cross of Calvary as Jesus willingly poured out his life blood, Satan was defeated. He was conquered by the Victorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ. To those who believe, the fear of death has been overcome by the joy of eternal life.
So as we gather at our Lord’s Table today, let’s remember Christ’s sacrifice for us on the Cross. As we eat the bread, think about his Body which was torn apart by the nails, the thorns and the spear. When we drink the cup think about his blood that was poured out as the ultimate sacrifice for our Salvation. Remember that he who was sinless and did not deserve death, willingly died so that we who deserve death might have eternal life. We need not fear death because we, who believe in Christ, have been promised eternal life. Jesus made a powerful promise about holy communion in John 6:54-55: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” If we come to the altar in faith, if we come to eat of the Living Bread from heaven, we receive the assurance of eternal life. Therefore we need not ever fear death because death has been conquered in the victorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ!
Let me close with this a story of a police officer who came upon a crying child in the park. When he asked why all the tears, she explained that she was lost. Determined to help her, the officer asked her some questions. The little girl did not know the name of her street or her house number. She didn’t even know which direction her home was from there. The kind officer then asked her if there were any large buildings, lakes or landmarks near her home. At first she said no. But then she became excited and said, “Oh, I know, when I get to the cemetery, I’m almost there. My home is just beyond the Graveyard!”
And that’s true for us too. Our eternal home is just beyond the Graveyard. That’s why we need not fear death. When we breathe our last the Lord will be there to take us to our Heavenly Home. As we come to eat the Bread and drink the Wine of holy communion, remember these words, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood, has eternal life.”
How do you spell relief? Well, Some folks spell it R-O-L-A-I-D-S.
But a better way is Jesus.
Thank you Lord for this gift of life that we come now to share together.