“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.” – Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV)
What’s your week like? By Friday night, do you feel like you’ve been put through the wringer? What about your weekends? Are Saturdays spent running to and fro, shopping, visiting, repairing, mowing, birthday partying, soccer or baseball gaming, with restful moments few and far between? Does your Sunday (sometimes even Sunday morning!) look the same?
These words of Jesus are for you, you know. Jesus is beckoning to you, revealing to you that He has a precious gift for you that the world will not – and can not – give. Each week you work hard to serve your neighbor, as you live out the vocations that God has called you to (things like husband, wife, dad, mom, son, daughter, worker, home handyman, etc.) This is the good and salutary thing to do for the Christian! But it can make one very weary.
God understands this. It’s why He made the Sabbath. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) The Sabbath was created as a day of rest and refreshment and recharging. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day had a misunderstanding of the point of the Sabbath. They thought it was another day in which they had to work – and work hard – in order to do all the things which God expected of them, so that they’d have His favor.
Today, we sometimes have a similar misunderstanding about Sunday morning. You can find out if you share this misunderstanding by answering a question: What is the point of Sunday morning worship? Think about it for a moment…
What was your answer? Did you say something along the lines of “We come to praise God and give Him thanks and worship Him?” Take a look at that answer. Who’s doing all the action in that description of Sunday morning? Yes, “we” are. Most of us don’t think our salvation rests upon what “we” do on Sunday morning, but the emphasis is still on our actions, our response, our doing!
But that’s not what God intends Sunday morning to be about (or anytime we gather as a congregation for worship). What is Jesus’ invitation to you? “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Rest – this is what God intends for you to receive. Rest from your efforts and strivings, and most importantly rest from the heavy burden of sin which, after a week away from church in the hostile world, will weigh you down mightily. This rest is the comforting knowledge that your sins are forgiven.
We Lutherans have a special name for our Sunday services which many other Christian denominations don’t have. We call our Sunday morning worship the Divine Service. Why? Because it’s a fitting description of what’s happening. The one who is Divine (God) is serving His people. He’s serving you and me, and our brothers and sisters in Christ! He’s laying out a lavish banquet of the choicest food (His Body and Blood) and He’s giving us the most splendid nourishment possible (“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”).
This is also why truly Lutheran worship looks different than most. On Sunday morning, we slow down, sit down at the feet of our Lord, and receive from Him. It’s not about getting amped up and excited and doing something special. It’s definitely not about being somewhere that looks and sounds and feels just like the rest of the world does the other 6 days of the week. Instead it’s about being with someone special – our gracious giver God, who is present to give us rest.
Jesus’ invitation to you is to come and receive from Him. Receive your rest that He has earned for you. He gives it to you as a gift. It’s so important to come to Church on Sunday morning, not because you earn your salvation by doing so, not because it’s a chance to see and be seen, but because God Himself is waiting for you there to give to you an abundance of rest – to lift the weight of sin off your shoulders through His blessed words of forgiveness. Amen.