Friday, 1 July 2011

July 3rd

Romans 7 15-25, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

How are you feeling today?
More specifically – how do you feel about yourself? How is your self-esteem?
According to an article I read this week, if you’re the Chief Executive Officer of a company your answer to that question is likely to be ‘I’m perfect’.
Every week for the past year and a half, the Financial Times has asked business leaders 20 questions including: "What are your three worst features?"
In the replies, the CEOs refuse to really admit to any weaknesses – reflecting instead on ‘disguised strengths’. They almost all cite impatience, perfectionism and being too demanding - all of which turn out to be things that it's rather good for a CEO to be.
This led the researcher to suggest that the three worst traits of chief executives are a lack of self-knowledge, a refusal to be honest and a quite extraordinary willingness to give themselves the benefit of the doubt.
(Article here if you want to read it)

But what about you? How do you feel about yourself?

Well, maybe you can relate to the reading we had from Romans, where Paul wrestles with human nature – specifically the question “if we know what is good and right, why can’t we always do it?” – why do we always make mistakes and then hide behind dishonesty and self-delusion?

To help us understand Paul’s debate, I’ve written the Romans reading for, essentially, 2 voices: if everyone could read the part marked ‘All’ and then one half of the church read the paragraphs mostly starting ‘For..’ – which are over to the left of the page, and the other half reads the passages starting ‘But..’ which I’ve indented slightly over to the right, we might understand Paul’s argument.

…Romans 7: 15-25 ‘antiphonally’ (see post below)

Poor Paul! This isn’t just a debate about ‘human nature’ in abstract – it’s a pouring out of how frustrated he feels about himself. ‘I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate’.

Apart from, perhaps, any CEOs in the congregation, we all know this feeling: why do I lose my temper and snap at the people I love most? why do I volunteer to do something and then end up feeling put upon and disgruntled? why do I continually say to myself ‘I’ll go and do that in a minute’… I could go on, but I’m sure you have your own pet annoyance with yourself which leaves you thinking ‘I’ve done that again’.

Paul points out that the law, the commandments of God, tell us what is right and good… but we continually fail to keep it.
What is this ‘sin’ that makes us choose the wrong thing, when we know what is right? What is it about human nature that makes us incapable of doing the good we would choose to do? And how do we overcome our faults?
Paul ends up calling himself a ‘wretch’, in complete frustration.

But then Paul suddenly throws in ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ – whatever our mistakes and our own frustration with ourselves, God has an answer to help us – in Jesus.

So in the Gospel reading we heard Jesus say "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."

Jesus doesn’t just try to soothe his listeners’ angst by telling them that what they do doesn’t really matter, Jesus offers a solution. Walk with me: more than that, come & be yoked to me – linked firmly, like 2 animals pulling a plough together. And recognize that if you’re yoked to Jesus, he is always the stronger partner, so that Jesus can take the weight, bear the burden and bear the load. Jesus says ‘Let me help: let’s do this together’.

How are you feeling?
Exhausted? Fed up with yourself? Frustrated by your own inability to get it right? Jesus says ‘let me help’ in fact, more than that ‘you rest, I’ll take the load’. Here’s Good news indeed – not a spur to try harder and be better people, but proper help!

And how do we keep ourselves yoked to Jesus – how do we keep walking with him and allowing him to help?
Some of it happens here, in the fellowship of the church, as we try to be Christ to one another.
Some of it comes through exploring the Bible, as we deepen our knowledge of and relationship with the God who comes to us in Christ.
And some of it comes in prayer and worship as we hear the invitation: “come - eat , drink, rest & be made new.”

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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