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  • joelpukallus

Battle-weary.


Romans 7:15-25a – NIV

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!


Matthew 11

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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.”



Sermon

We really need to talk about the pandemic. No not the COVID pandemic, but the one that's been around longer and effects more people.

It accounts for a large amount of deaths, it costs Australia billions in lost productivity each year, teenagers and senior citizens suffer from it but researchers say the most severe cases occur between 30 and 40 years of age, and as Max Lucado in his book “travelling light” reminds us treatments involve everything from mouth guards to herbal teas to medication. And what is this terrible disease?


Weariness.

We are chronically tired because we can't sleep properly.

You don’t have to look very far to see that Australia is chronically tired. Everyone always seems worn out.


Being an adult seems to be somehow based around not getting enough sleep, then drinking copious amounts of coffee to feel as though we are awake enough. We are constantly struggling with weariness, and constantly struggling with Worry-ness. We have anxiety and stress over so many things.


We can’t sleep at night because we have so many things going through our heads, and we don’t have the energy to deal with the things going through our heads during the day because we haven’t had enough sleep at night!


It seems like a vicious cycle.

What are the things we battle with constantly? We wrestle every day with trying to stay on top of our obligations and responsibilities, we struggle with the effects of ageing, with finances and friends and fears over the future. With politics, with parenting, with becoming like a parent to our own elderly parents sometimes, we battle with the expectations of ourselves and others, with our health concerns and treatments, our caring for others, our plans and our failures, and then St. Paul adds to the mix the daily battle of the Christian life: Just one more area that is a constant struggle.


In this famous sentence in Romans, It sounds like he starts to ramble, and this sentence in Greek has no punctuation. It is just one long, convoluted, twisting and turning monologue, and Paul seems to get more and more frustrated until he cries out: Who can deliver me from this body of death?


Do you ever get weary from fighting the battles you have to fight?

I can hear in Paul the emotional turmoil in which he is wound up, and I have been there. I think we all have.


I don’t know how much you know about the anatomy of the brain, but the part of the brain that makes rational, intelligent decisions, called the prefrontal cortex, is actually one of the last parts of the brain to be engaged.

Everything else has to be doing well for it to function. It has a lower priority than things like the amygdala, the emotional centre of the brain, and the rest of the limbic system, which is responsible for keeping us alive, for activating the fight, flight or freeze reaction when we are in danger. These take over, they take priority, as rational, logical thought is less important if we are not alive and safe to think it.

You have probably seen this in action: When your emotions get all screwed up we feel like we can’t think straight. Have you ever felt like that, or heard people say it? It is true. Anatomically and physiologically true.

The emotional centre of the brain takes over and the rational pre-frontal cortex can’t do it’s job so you CAN’T think clearly when your emotions are high. So we use phrases like High emotion = Low intelligence.


This by the way is why I like counsellors and psychologists. Going to see them doesn’t mean you are crazy. You go to them because they are brain experts. They help you sort your emotions out, and get them out of the way, so that you can start making intelligent decisions. So you can re-engage the rational part of your brain. It’s like taking your car to a mechanic when the “check engine” light is on, and our brains, as my mum used to remind me, are more important than our cars.


Anyway, back to the weary brain: here is the kicker for me. Studies like one carried out in 2012 :

(Sleep deprivation and stressors: evidence for elevated negative affect in response to mild stressors when sleep deprived


show that when the amygdala (the emotional centre of the brain) is deprived of sleep, participants report more stress, anxiety and negative emotion than those with adequate rest.

So not only does emotion make it hard to think straight, but weariness makes it harder AGAIN to think straight, and makes us angrier, moodier and more anxious.

And remember what I said? We are constantly weary. It feels like we are fighting an uphill battle sometimes, with one hand tied behind our backs.


And I feel like I can hear this frustration ramp up in the long convoluted rant that Paul goes into in our Romans text. You can hear that the struggle is taking it’s toll and that he doesn’t feel like he can win. He knows that he needs help from the outside and then he remembers: Who will rescue me? Jesus.


And we might ask: Just how is he going to do that?

And the Gospel lesson tells us exactly how.

Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.

Uh huh, beautiful promise Jesus. Sounds good. How are you going to do that?

"Take my yoke upon you." I'm sorry what?


A yoke. The thing you put on an ox or a donkey to make it pull a cart? So your definition of rest Jesus is to make me work harder? Don't I have a hard enough time trying to balance my life? I'm walking a fine line here. You heard it from Paul: how can I be good? I want to be good but I can't be good and the good I want to do I don't do and the bad things I don't want to do I do. Remember?

I'm trying so hard to find a balance and you want me to wear a yoke?


Now here's the thing, and it's a hidden thing for most of us. In Greek the word that is used for yoke has two other meanings as well and they're really important for us.

The first one is the cross beam of a set of scales. That's why I intentionally talked about trying to find a balance in my life. You have all heard people say “ I'm not Christian but I try to live a good life? I try to do more good than bad.”

So they are hoping to tip the scales in their favour if there is any sort of judgement as to where they should go.


You have heard me talk about the painting I once saw a photograph of, that was on the wall of a Pharaoh’s tomb in Egypt, that has the image of a set of scales, and Pharaoh’s heart is on one side, and on the other is a feather. His heart has to be lighter than a feather for him to go to the afterlife! That is their way of saying that it has to have more good than bad. I couldn’t imagine having every good and bad thing I had ever done in my life weighed, and my eternal destination depending on the outcome! How terrifying!


And instead Jesus says take my yoke upon you.

The scales that he used for us now are the ones that weigh up his life: his perfect life, and his innocent death. I don't need to struggle anymore. I don't need to fight anymore. By taking upon me Jesus’ yoke I can do what? Rest. Rest. What a wonderful word, a promise of peace.


But I told you didn't I that there were two alternate meanings for the word did we translate as yoke in Greek. And the second one is even better. Where the first one is the cross beam of a set of scales, the other meaning of the Greek word is also a crossbeam, it is the cross beam of a crucifixion cross.

When Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon us he is asking us to bear his cross, with everything that that means. It means that we don't have to fight for our salvation, we don't have to struggle, to try to balance the books. We are as Paul has been telling us right through Romans righteous, right with God, through the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.


That does amazing things to my amygdala! That starts to pump endorphins through my system! it gives me good emotions. Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy (for us mind you not for him) and my burden is light.


“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”.


Rest for your soul. Can you hear it? Can you feel it? Can you imagine it? The other parts of our life remain and we need to keep struggling, but this is one fight we can lay down. We try our best to live as disciples of Jesus Christ and like they did we fail over and over. But the battle is no longer up to us. It has already been won.


Rest, rejoice, luxuriate in this victory. Find rest for your souls.

Thanks be to God, who delivers us through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Amen.


And peace, deep peace, peace that is truly beyond human understanding be with you now and always.

Amen.

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