Being the July 4th weekend, it feels like summer is finally here. The kids are out of school, vacations are planned and we are ready for a break! And I know of no better Gospel passage for us for summer than what we heard in the Gospel of Matthew:
So for a moment, I want you to close your eyes, take a deep breath and let it out slowly… Relax in the Spirit – God is here. But there is more to Jesus words than rest. This is about our souls, our lives, & our salvation. For this passage from Matthew begins with the knowledge of John the Baptist’s murder by the authorities. They did not listen to John the Baptist because they dismissed him as possessed said Jesus and they count me as a glutton & drunkard, a sinner, who is friend with tax collectors (traitors) and sinners. He tells the crowd that this generation failed to really listen for God in their midst.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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.”
But wisdom tells us differently, that John and Jesus both did the work of God, indeed, Jesus taught us directly what God expects of us. And who understands? Who takes in this wisdom?
Infants. Children, the young of heart who embraced what Jesus taught and did. Jesus not only taught us the divine wisdom, he was the divine wisdom. Again hear his words…
“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants”
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me...and you will find rest for your souls.”We will only find that true rest when we learn from Jesus. The Jesus who befriended a tax collector, who ate with sinners, who refused to let the religious elite of his time put a yoke upon those who were suffering and in need. Jesus brought healing and life wherever he went. That is the Jesus we learn from and in whom our souls find rest. His was such a wise & holy life. I recently came across another wise life…
Jesus invites us to embrace the rest that he gives which can only be realized by our learning from his example of humility and gratitude, to take on his yoke of humble, joyful service as we journey together to the dwelling place of God. & Like Tetsugen, we proclaim the Gospel most effectively and meaningfully not in words but in the generosity and compassion we extend to others. Our loving actions toward others will long be remembered before any of our words. And in our welcome to all who approach our tables, we make the word of God a living reality in our own time and place.
One of the early leaders of Zen Buddhism in Japan was a priest named Tetsugen Doko, who was the first to translate the holy books of his faith into Japanese in the 17th Century. Tetsugen sought to print several thousand copies of the books in Japanese so the people could read it (sounds like the early reformers in England!). He traveled the length and breadth of Japan to raise the money for the printing. Rich and poor alike donated to the project. The priest expressed equal gratitude to each donor, whether their gift amounted to hundreds of pieces of gold or a few pennies.
After ten long years, Tetsugen had enough money for the printing. But just as the making of the holy books was about to begin, the river Uji overflowed its banks, leaving thousands of people without food and shelter. The priest halted the project immediately and used all of the money he worked so hard to raise to help the hungry and homeless.
Then Tetsugen began the work of raising the funds all over again. It took another ten years of travel and begging before he collected the money he needed to publish the holy book. But an epidemic spread across the country. Again the priest gave away all he had collected to care for the sick, the suffering and the dying.
A third time Tetsugen set out on his travels and, twenty years later, his dream of having the holy books printed in Japanese was finally realized. The printing blocks that produced the first edition are on display at the Obaku Monastery in Kyoto. The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen actually published three editions of the holy book -- the first two are invisible but are far superior to the third. (Reps, Paul; Nyogen Senzaki. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings)
As we take the time this summer for some R & R, let us not forget Jesus in our lives, that in the wisdom he offers we will find rest for our souls. And in generous acts like Tetsugen and like Jesus, such compassion for others, we will rebuild our bodies and renew our minds, for God will be with us there. So for a moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath and let it out slowly… Relax in the Spirit – God is here. Amen.