“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28f.)
It has been a long time since many of us have come to church. This Sunday, however, we will, once again, be worshipping inside our beautiful old sanctuary. For over a hundred years, residents and visitors of White Bear Lake have been coming to the old church on the corner of 1st and Clark. They have been coming to say the old prayers and to sing the old hymns and to hear the old stories of the Bible. They have come to see friends and to receive the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. They have come because they are full of joy and want to give God thanks, or they have come because they are crushed with despair and need to hear a word of hope. They have come because they have nothing else better to do, and they have come because they have so much to do that they crave a place of peace and relative stillness. Men and women and children have come to St. John’s for over a hundred years for a whole variety of reasons, but whatever the reason, they have made the decision to come, to come to Jesus. And so do we.
It has been a long and difficult year: a global pandemic that has affected virtually every nation in the world, persistent racial unrest that has boiled to the surface, political conflict and chaos that have threatened the very foundations of our democracy, the grinding danger of climate change that has been made manifest in catastrophic storms and droughts. And on top of all of this are the regular stresses and strains, the grievances and griefs of our small, ordinary lives. Physically distant and sometimes isolated from each other, most of us have become weary and burdened. Some, if not many, of us are at the breaking point, the burden becoming so heavy that we don’t know if we will last another day.
But there is great good news that is proclaimed to any who would receive it! Into the exhaustion of our lives and into the brokenness of our world, God sends his son Jesus. In his inexhaustible and unbroken love, Jesus comes to redeem and to restore and to save. This was true in Judea millenia ago, and it is just as true in our world today. Jesus comes. Jesus comes not in some distant, theological or theoretical way, but in a close, intimate, incarnate way. Jesus comes in a way that makes a difference, a real difference in our lives. Somehow, through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, God has created a space of refuge. Christ stands ready to comfort, ready to restore, ready to empower and equip. And as Christ comes to us, so Christ also beckons us to come to him.
I realize that “altar calls” are not something that Episcopalians are wont to do, but really, don’t many of us long for a “come to Jesus” moment in our lives right about now? Don’t we yearn to hear Jesus say deep into our inmost selves, “come to me and find rest for your souls?” After journeying through the trauma of this past year, don’t we want to trade the yokes that we have been carrying for the yoke of Jesus? If so, then Christ stands ready and willing to take the bundle of whatever we have been carrying and to give us a better, a divine bundle filled with the stuff of peace and hope and light and life.
This Sunday I invite you back to St. John’s to say the prayers and sing the hymns and hear the stories and receive the sacrament. I invite you to come to Jesus for, indeed, you will find rest for your souls.