Saturday, July 30, 2011

Limping Along

We are home. Maddie and I arrived home a couple of hours ago, from a week at Anderson University and the Epworth Forest Choir School (don’t ask) experience. There was worship and music, fellowship and fun, a concert or two, lots of laughter and a few tears here and there along the way. And a lot of humidity. We have unpacked (Well, I did (even managed to do the things on the list that La Donna wrote out before she left for School of Christian Mission at DePauw University. And you’ll have to ask her what her week included.) But I’m not vouching for Maddie at this point. She muttered something about catching up to all the shows she recorded while we were gone. We may not see her for days) and now I am turning to the computer to write this weekly email missive.

And dozing off while I sit here staring at a blank page. I’m more tired that I realized. It was quite a hectic schedule this past week, late nights and early mornings. It was fun, more than that it was powerful, sustaining, uplifting and I’d invite any and all of the congregation at Aldersgate and beyond to join me there next year for more. But I’m exhausted. We’re exhausted. And moving a little slowly at the moment.

You would think that something so wonderful would leave us up, lively, excited and ready for something more. And we are. Sort of. Sometime soon. Later. Much later. How’s this: inside I am jumping for joy, inside I am content and refreshed, brought back into the presence of Christ. My spirit sings with God’s Spirit right now. I have been blessed beyond description. But I am limping a little bit from the experience.

Just like Jacob. Our passage for Sunday is the story of the wrestling match of the ages. Take a look:

Genesis 32:22-31 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." 27 So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." 28 Then the man said, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed." 29 Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved." 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

I’ve always found this a sad story, and not just because of the limping thing. We’ll get back to that in a moment. For now we need to back up and remember what brought Jacob to this lonely river bank wrestling match.

If you recall, Jacob ran away from home, urged on by his mother and encouraged by his father, because he had stolen the blessing that was rightly due to his brother Esau. And Esau didn’t take it well. To say the least. So, Jacob hightailed it out of town. Headed off to some cousins in the swinging town of Paddam-aram.

Jacob did well there and now he is heading back with wives and concubines, and children galore, but livestock and servants and more wealth than anyone could shake a stick at. And least that is what Jacob hopes, since the last time he saw his brother - in the rearview mirror - he was shaking big sticks. So, he’s come back to show that he is a bigger man than he was. He has done well, which must mean God is blessing him. And if God is blessing him then surely Esau could too.

Our passage begins “That same day...” What it was the same day as is the setting aside of what is essentially a bribe for Esau. He is sending head a gift so overwhelming that no one could stay mad at the giver. Again - at least Jacob hopes.

So, he sends off the bribe - I mean the gift. And then he sends his wives and children on ahead so that he can sit and contemplate his fate all night long. And a man, says the story, a man wrestled with him all night long. Who is this man? It doesn’t really say – clearly anyway. Oh, we look at the words this mysterious man says when he renamed Jacob “You have striven with God...” And we say it must have been God, Jacob wrestled with God. Others say that is was a representative of God, an angel who wrestled Jacob there on Jabbok’s Ford.

The story says a man. And the naming says “You have striven with God and humans and have prevailed.” And with humans. What if it wasn’t God after all? Or what if this representative was someone Jacob knew, which is why he needed to get away before the sun came up? What if it was Esau come to help Jacob work through things? What if God sent Esau to his brother and let him bring a blessing?

Crazy, I know. But if you read on you see that Esau is in a much better place than Jacob is, at least in terms of spirit and inner peace. So, maybe. But I don’t really mean to contradict centuries of biblical interpretation. Did I mention I was exhausted? Blessed but exhausted. And my blessings came to me through the means of many brothers and sisters in the faith. But they cost something, time and energy and effort. No, I’m not talking about a transaction, about buying our blessings. I’m talking about the reality that blessings don’t usually come to us when we are reclining at our ease. Instead we sense blessings when we expend ourselves, when we pour ourselves out in service, when we engage in some effort, and yeah, sometimes it feels like wrestling with the very ones we are trying to serve, the very ones who will bless us if we keep at it. If, like Jacob, we refuse to let go. Despite the pain, despite the struggle, despite the sapping of energy, we hold on for the blessing.

And it will come. That’s part of the promise, and the hope. That’s part of the joy and the peace. Now, I’m going to limp out of here and go collapse for a while.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

How Did That Get There?

We found the bolts that hold the big desk together. They were tucked into a drawer of the desk. Duh. But still, I was pretty sure I had checked there. At least that is what I told my wife, La Donna when she asked if I had looked there. I was sure I had. But the drawer was deeper than I realized. Or they were wedged into a back corner. Or it was magic.

Yeah, that’s it. The unexplainable. There is a lot of that when you move. Who put that there? What happened to the whatsis? What are we going to do with these? Whose is this anyway and why didn’t we get rid of it years ago? That last one is usually about my stuff. Funny how that works.

But it is like a combination of Christmas and a Easter Egg hunt. There are treasures hidden all over the place and you just gotta find it. And it is often in a place you don’t expect. You open a box and wonder why you packed that item in with those things. You open a drawer and find that you had tucked in something that doesn’t really belong there for safe keeping. Power cords and remotes, that should have been packed with the item they power are hidden away somewhere else.

OK, it isn’t like we are going to stumble across gold bars or a lost Rembrandt or anything. This is, after all, our stuff. Ordinary stuff. Stuff we know and love or have gotten used to anyway. The point here is not the value of the items, but the fact that they are hidden away in surprising places, in places we should have uncovered by now, in places that are right under our noses.

Our passage this week is also about what is hidden in plain sight. But what Jesus claims is right under our noses is something of incalculable value.

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." 33 He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened." ... "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 "Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." 52 And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."

There was a rabbinic teaching method called “charaz.” It means stringing pearls, and the teacher would spin out image after image, wisdom saying after wisdom saying, parable after parable in a seemingly random way. It was designed to tell a larger truth by focusing on small details, or to tell about a whole by examining the parts. It was describing a picture by telling of a variety of perspectives.

I am sure that the hearers got as frustrated by this style of teaching as we do. “Which is it, Jesus” was demand. Is the kingdom like a pearl or a net? Is it more like yeast or like a treasure in a field? Do we stumble across it or set out with a checklist to find it? Does it work in secret hidden away from our eyes like yeast in the dough, or does it sprout up like a plant and provide shade and protections like a mustard shrub? Is it something common like a seed or questionable like yeast or valuable like a treasure?

All of these questions and more Jesus would answer with a smile and nod of the head and tell us that we are like scribes bringing out of the treasure something old and something new. And with furrowed brows we would throw up our hands and grumble. When we pressed him, and shouted out which is it? This or that? He would say “yes.” You know he would. With a laugh he would say “yes. That’s it exactly!” And he wouldn’t be saying it just to be funny. He’d say it because it was the truth. He’d say it because it was the best answer. Is it a pearl or a net or a seed or a treasure hidden in a field or yeast hidden in three measures of flour? Yes, it is that exactly!!

Talking to Jesus can be exhausting. You think he is out to confuse you. We keep skipping over those verses where it says he said nothing except in parables. I think we skip them because they make it sound like Jesus was just messing with us, and we don’t like that. But the truth is he really wants us to see. He really wants us to understand. We just can’t do it by thinking the way we usually think.

We have to learn to look under our noses and off to the horizon at the same time. We have to learn to see the ordinary and the spectacular all together. We have to learn to experience the everyday and the once in a lifetime in the same moment. We need to see deeper and trust more completely. We need to value what the world throws away and throw away what the world things most valuable.

In short the Kingdom asks us to turn upside down. To stretch and reach and get outside of ourselves long enough to really see the wonder of the universe in a tiny seed. But most importantly, at least it seems to me to be most important, we are supposed to do it with joy.

It is easy to get frustrated when you can’t find the bolts that hold you desk together. We are inclined to blame the others in the house, who you are sure didn’t take the same care that you would have taken in securing a place for them. But it is precisely these inclinations that we need to set aside. Instead we embrace the challenge, the search, the discovery with joy and with passion.

It is the latter parables in this string of pearls that carry an emotive tag. The first are simply descriptions. Reminders that there are forces at work in this world. That though it may at times seem as though God is distant and apart from us, God is in fact at work within us and around us and in the most unsuspecting of people and places. There are seeds pushing down roots, Jesus says, there is yeast raising the bread of human relationships and opportunities. Trust me, he says, it is there.

But then as he gets wound up in the telling he gives us clues on how we are to respond to this, how we are to commit ourselves to the search and the claiming. “In his joy,” Jesus says about the man who finds the treasure. And the merchant sells everything else to possess this new pearl. He sets aside everything he once thought important in order to occupy this new and exciting land.

At times settling in is tedious and time consuming. But at other times, it is fun as we get caught up in the joy of making ourselves at home in a new place. Finding treasures we forgot we had, or rearranging the furniture of our lives so that there is room for joy in this place.

It is a choice, says Jesus, for joy or tedium. After all who knows what else might be tucked away in the back of those drawers. Let’s go and see, shall we?


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dancing on Stony Ground

I’m a little later than usual getting to this task. Partly because I am not preaching this weekend. It is the first sermon from our new Associate Pastor, Chris Millay, so join me in holding him in prayer. I’m sure it will be a great experience for the whole Aldersgate Community.

But the real reason why I am late is that Maddie had a dance exhibition today. I almost said contest, but it isn’t that. I don’t think. Her dance studio is putting on this exhibition as a part of the Three Rivers Festival. It is being held in the Grand Wayne Center downtown. Maddie danced a rumba with her instructor Charles. Charles is rather tall, and Maddie is ... not. I remember when she first started there, Charles told her to look over his shoulder while they were dancing. She can hardly see his shoulder, let alone look over it. But they have managed.

More than managed, they were great. If I do say so myself. She was graceful and confident and accomplished. I was blown away to say the least. She and her mother stayed to watch more of the dancers while I ran home to get to work on this bible study. Still beaming at her performance.

They danced to “I Will Follow Him” which was recorded by Little Peggy March in 1963, and then made popular again by the Whoopi Goldberg movie “Sister Act” back in 1992, where the song was turned into a quasi-religious anthem sung by the nuns at St. Katherine’s Convent in San Francisco. I didn’t realize it was a rumba. But then since I’m not clear what a rumba is, I’ll just go with it. I can follow them too.

It was an appropriate song for the dance. Maddie just followed Charles, and sometimes, I think Charles was following Maddie. And sometimes I wasn’t sure who was following whom. But then I didn’t have to know. I just watched them dance. And was suitably impressed. We had noticed that some of the other women had some trouble with the floor that the Grand Wayne had laid for this event. It must have been slick in places, or uneven. There were stumbles and bobbles aplenty. Except for Maddie. Ahem. Sorry had to toss that in. She was as sure footed as a gazelle, across the uneven and treacherous ground.

The same kind of ground that Jacob was dancing across in our passage for this week. Wait, you are thinking quickly after such a clumsy segue way. Jacob? Dancing? Dreaming perhaps, but not dancing, surely. Well, maybe not literally, but still ... Take a look.

Genesis 28:10-19a Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the LORD stood beside him and said, "I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place-- and I did not know it!" 17 And he was afraid, and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." 18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel;

What you need to know, or to remember, is that Jacob isn’t out for a little stroll one day. He is running for his life. He cheated his brother, conspired with his mother against his father, and now is on his way to hide out with some distant relatives, who he hopes haven’t been reading his brother Esau’s Facebook posts.

So, he runs as far as his legs will take him and then he drops in exhaustion. And given that he wasn’t really prepared for this journey, he grabs a stone for a pillow and falls asleep. And while he sleeps, he dreams. Understandable really, must be that crick in the neck he is getting from sleeping on a rock. Anyway, the dream is quite a production. One of those you don’t want to wake up from. And if you do open your eyes to the reality you are living in, you shut them quickly and hope to drift back to the landscape you were just dreaming instead of the one out your window. That’s the kind of dream it was.

A ladder, or staircase or ramp - the Hebrew here is a bit fuzzy. And we aren’t clear whether God stands with Jacob at the top of the ladder or at the bottom. But the words come through loud and clear. “You are blessed, Jacob.” And more than that, “you are not alone.”

What a message to hear when you are running for your life. What a note to receive when you are sleeping with a stone for your pillow. You would think, and I’ll be he expected to hear the voice say “shame on you, Jacob, for being such a trickster, for being so self-centered mama’s boy. You are in big trouble now.” And maybe that’s what he should have heard. But he didn’t. He heard a different message. He heard an invitation. He heard a reminder of family, of connection.

The rabbis pointed out that before he goes to sleep, Jacob took stones, plural. Our translation says one of the stones, but that’s to help it make sense to us. It really says he took stones for a pillow. So, he was sleeping on a pile of rocks. But after the dream there is one stone under his head. So, they taught, it is the sign of the Spirit that what was many has been bound into one. The scattered pieces of Jacob’s soul have been stitched into a whole again, because of the presence and the protection of the Spirit of God. The broken dreams of a troubled man are given new hope and new life because of that visitation at night while he slept what must have been a troubled sleep.

I would like to say that everything went better for Jacob from that night on. That his act of worship transformed him into a new man. But it wouldn’t be true to the story. He still had a lot to learn, he still tried to dance his way through life and relationships, and frequently found himself on uneven and stony ground.

But he was never alone. The promise was that he would have a dancing partner, no matter what. No matter how uneven the floor, not matter how stony the path. That’s our promise too. A dancing partner across the stony ground of our lives. What better news could there be?

Now, maybe we should try a rumba. “I will follow Him, wherever he may go. There isn’t an ocean too deep, a mountain so high it can keep me away. I must follow Him, ever since he touched my hand I knew. That near him I must always be. And nothing can keep Him from me. He is my destiny. I will follow Him.”

Watch your step there. Everybody dance.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Messy Business

So, last Sunday morning I woke at 5 am wondering where my shoes were. I could have worn my tennis shoes with my suit and robe, I guess, but I think it would have drawn more attention than it deserved. Luckily, my sleepy wife knew exactly where they were.

The past week has been a constant series of “where is my ...” sort of conversations. Alongside the “where are we going to put ...” questions. Not to mention the “why did we keep all of these” complaints. Moving is an adventure in the best sense of the word, and a messy business in the worst. Or maybe that should be the other way around. I’m not sure. I just look around me and see the rubble of too much stuff, and the disorganization of not knowing what would be needed where. We’d love to invite you over, but we don’t want you to see the mess.

You know how that is, don’t you? “You should have told me you were coming,” we’ll say to a surprise guest, “I could have cleared a path!” We try to make light of it, but deep down we are bothered by the debris of our lives. We wish that everything, every bit of stuff, every emotion, every thought, every mistake or good deed had a place. We’d like things on the shelf, put away, tucked out of sight, so that we can present our lives as an ordered whole. This is me, we could declare. A place for everything and everything in its place.

At least we dream about that. And on some levels we can accomplish it. But life for most of us is a messy business. Which is why we resonate with and are disturbed by our parable for this week. It is a familiar one. And a favorite of some. An easy one, some think. Straightforward. And yet there is something niggling at the back of our minds and souls about it. At least in mine, anyway. Take a look:

Matthew 13:1-9 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen!"

Ah, the parable of the sower. Or the parable of the seeds. Or the soils. Hmmm, what is this thing about anyway? It is one of the few parables that includes an explanation. A few verses later (after this interlude where Jesus says “I tell parables just to confuse people.” Huh? That’s for another day) Jesus says “Hear then the parable of the sower,” and then he proceeds to explain it.

Except if you look at it (verses 18-23) he doesn’t really explain. He just describes. And he calls it the parable of the sower but then never mentions the sower. So, I think he just messing with us, like he was messing with the disciples who begged an explanation from him. He didn’t tell everybody what it meant, just the few who stood scratching their heads and followed him like a little puppy that hopes its going to get something special if it begs long enough.

But I didn’t add in the explanation this time. I just wanted to let the parable itself speak to us before we just to interpretation. Just live in the story for a moment. Read it again and tell me what comes to mind first. I’ll wait.

Messy. That’s what comes to mind. Or it would if you were a farmer or a gardener. I know you gotta get your hands dirty if you are going to work in agriculture. But this seems beyond the pale. I know, I know, I’ve read all the back in that day reflections that talk about farming practices in the first century. But still, it seems wasteful. Doesn’t it. Just tossing seeds here and there. And three-fourths of them won’t amount to anything of value.

Surely we can do better than that. That’s what we want from our parables anyway, isn’t it? To figure out ways of being better. So, we’ve turned this one into a recovery project for bad soil. We all want to be good soil, don’t we? We’ll stop being distracted and shallow and hard hearted and then you too can produce good fruit. Right? A soil reclamation project, that’s what we need in the church.

Well, maybe. Certainly paying more attention, and trying to get deeper into our faith and opening those hearts is a good thing. So, it isn’t a bad interpretation to turn this into a “lessons for living” approach. That would be a good use of the words that here. Certainly.

Except that it seems to missing something. Something messy. Maybe this parable isn’t about being a better person in three easy steps. Maybe it isn’t about neatening up your life the parabolic way. Maybe like all of Jesus parables it is giving us a gift. It is revealing a secret. And it isn’t so much a secret about us, but a secret about God. And that secret, in this case, is that God is messy.

God doesn’t seem to care that some are hard-hearted or distracted. God isn’t bothered by those who seem to be living an inch deep. At least when it comes to sending the blessings, letting the sun rise or the rain fall. It just pours out. It is scattered willy-nilly. It is just ... there. Everywhere.

That’s the secret of the thirteenth chapter of Matthew. Jesus tells a series of parables about the Kingdom of God. And the common threat is that it is just there. It is just here. Everywhere. In the least expected places. Making a mess of everything. Oh, it isn’t fully realized yet. But it is there, in potential. It is a seed ready to burst forth into some spectacular plant, flower or tree, who knows? It is yeast, ready to bubble up giving texture and flavor to the bread or cake or who knows what. It is a treasure hidden in a field, it is a pearl you gotta hunt for, it is a net hidden underwater but catching all sorts of unexpected fish. It is there, just there, waiting. For you, perhaps. Or for that guy, you know the one who makes you uncomfortable every time you are in a room with him. Or for that woman, the one who looks like she wouldn’t know what to do with it if it fell in her lap.

God’s kingdom spills out everywhere, on everyone. And it bothers us, to be honest. We’re pretty sure we could do a better job of keeping the Kingdom for those worthy. Those like us. The good soil. And let’s face it, we are good soil. It sounds like bragging, but we are. We are doing our best. We are following the rules, we are keeping our noses clean. We want to do our best to be the kind of dirt that Jesus can use. Right?

Except that at our best we couldn’t do what is needed here. We couldn’t be the good soil that Jesus describes here. Farmers at the time would say at best you could reap seven fold. Seven times what you plant. That’s pretty good farming! But Jesus says the good soil produces a hundred fold, or sixty or thirty. That is way beyond us. If this parable is really about us pulling up our big boy pants and doing our best, then we are in big trouble. But if it is about the messy business of God, then we can clap our hands with joy as the Kingdom continues to spill out all over the place.

Now, back to the mess of moving.


Saturday, July 2, 2011


We’re here. In the new house, I mean. After two days of hard labor. Well, OK, after weeks of hard labor and two days of insanely hard labor, we have relocated. Change your address books once again. The Weber’s are no longer on Candlewick Drive. We have moved about 5 miles and world away. Our new address will be printed in the bulletin next Sunday at Aldersgate, or you can get it from us directly. (Sorry for not posting it here, but can’t be too careful these days. Give me a call (our home phone number stayed the same) and I’ll let you know what it is, as soon as you fill out these here forms in triplicate – no sorry, just kidding there.)

Anyway, we are all here. Two tired and a little bit grumpy teenagers, two loud and nearly crazy terriers, one extremely surly cat and a kitten who’s just in it for the adventure. Plus two adults who are older than we thought we were when we started this process. What’s old cliche? I’ve places that are sore that I didn’t know were places. Or something like that. It doesn’t sound right, but I’m not in the mood to look it up right now.

Oh there is still a lot to do. We still can’t get the cars in the garage. Every room is a virtual obstacle course getting around the boxes and unassembled furniture. We don’t where things are going to go, but we know it isn’t going to stay the way it is for very long. Count on it!

Of course the only reason we are as far along as we are is because of the many friends and relatives who came to help us out. Special thanks have to go to Greg Childs who came and helped both days, and was a whiz at packing the truck. Dr. Ron Scheeringa, who came from rounds with an open bed trailer and took two loads of bulky outdoor/garage stuff to the new house. Rhys’ two school friends, Aaron and Chris who hefted boxes like they were lifting weights in the gym. Maddie’s friend Maddy (and don’t think that wasn’t confusing) who worked as hard as any of the boys. Then my brother and his wife showed up from South Bend and Hank is simply non-stop energy and strength, and Carlene managed to find ways to pack stuff we didn’t think could be packed.

On Friday, Bob Kent and Nancy Shantz came with pick-up trucks and loaded in stuff so fast that I hardly could keep track of them. Roberta Watson came and helped unload clothes and stuff off the U-Haul, though I did resist her suggestion of driving it on the lawn to get it closer to the door. Derek Gulley showed up to help us get some of the final rearranging done here at the new house. He and Rhys were tossing couches around like they were styrofoam. (Oddly enough, the movers who were hired for the big stuff (Hoover the Movers - cute, eh?) had a Derek on the team too. So for a while yesterday afternoon we had three Derek’s in the house!)

Of course the toting and carrying wasn’t the whole story of the help provided. Amy Smith arrived early Friday morning with a wonderful breakfast, Suzi Lundergan brought a delicious dinner with precise heating instructions that even bleary-eyed workers could figure out. And lunch was delivered while I was at the other house, but I believe it was Aldersgate’s UMW at work again, with enough to feed the movers and the workers and a couple of folks who just wandered by. Many others provided drinks to keep us hydrated on hot and sweaty days. And Heather Bleeke dropped in with flowers and candy, Lisa Floyd brought some needed groceries and Dee Gulley brought joy and moral support. It was a real community couple of days.

But now I’m beat. And can hardly think straight. And need to come up with a sermon for this fourth of July weekend. And I’m a little worried about it. Then I read the scripture I chose a month or so ago. And not for the first time, I wondered Who is really in charge here?

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 "But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.' 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon'; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds." ... At that time Jesus said, "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; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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."

Rest. That’s what sounds wonderful right now. Not just sleep, though that would be good too. New house, new sounds, things forgotten and undone in all the mess (sorry Covington Commons), aches and pains that make it hard to relax completely. No, sleep would be a good thing.

But I have never thought that Jesus was inviting us to come and take a nap on His couch. As great as that would be, I don’t think that is the offer. “Come unto me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” There’s more to it than pulling a comforter over your head and dozing off. Especially since the next line is “Take my yoke.”

Wait a minute. That’s rest? Being yoked to something, or someone? That sounds like work. Sounds like labor. Well, it is. Jesus wasn’t offering us time off for good behavior. This isn’t like earning enough vacation time by working really hard and then getting a few extra days because we’ve earned them. When it comes to Jesus, you’d better lay off the earning language. Or you might be on the wrong end of that scale.

The offer has to be for something else than a good night’s sleep. It must have something to do with working alongside of or guided by Jesus. But working. Moving. Being. All that stuff, all those action words. It is, yet again, not about checking out, but about diving in. About going deeper. About living. Jesus invites us to restful living. Restful working.

What? Sabbath was never about being lazy. It was always about being centered of God, and the life that God intends for us. It was about obedience. It was about working in the fields of the Lord. Which means what, exactly? Well, I don’t know for sure. But I think John Greenleaf Whittier caught a glimpse of it in the part of a poem that we sing called “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.” He talked of the Sabbath rest in one verse. But it is the fifth verse that speaks most clearly of what that Sabbath rest might be: Drop thy still dews of quietness / Till all our strivings cease; / Take from our souls the strain and stress, / And let our ordered lives confess / The beauty of Thy peace.

That’s what I really want, the end of strain and stress, the striving after that which never satisfies - never dancing when it is time to dance or mourning when it is time to mourn. Being out of step with where Christ wants us to be. What I want is an easy yoke. Not one that isn’t hard work, but one that fits me and fits the time. One that is right for me. Then I can rest easy, trusting I am where God wants me to be.

And I hope it is here, for a good long while!