It was a bit strange to have welcomed folks into worship at Mission Bend this Sunday when we were the first-timers: it really ought to have been the other way around! But Christie and I had a wonderful Sunday of meeting the people of MBUMC, getting to share at least a little bit of our stories, and hearing the Gospel in which all of our stories are situated. Jesus calls to all those who are weary and heavy laden in Matthew 11:28-30, and he isn’t just talking to those of us who have been carrying boxes in and out of new homes and offices! Jesus is talking about exchanging the death-dealing and destructive burdens we have for the light and easy yoke of faithfulness Jesus offers. The burden is the Good News of salvation, which as it turns out is joyful and easy to carry for one another.
It’s still early days and we are looking forward to having an opportunity to get to know people and families, but we already are hearing some stories about who we are as a congregation, about this particular part of the Body of Christ. You see, when Jesus invites us to pick up our cross and follow him, when we take up the yoke of obedience, we discover that we are carrying that cross with Christ, that we are yoked to Jesus who equips and sustains and encourages and gives rest to the weary.
That’s the only way that half a dozen of the Tailgate with a Hero crew can spend their holiday not flipping burgers in their own backyard but at a grill with a crowd of unhoused veterans. Carrying the easy yoke of Jesus is the only way youth and adults can even begin to give up a week of their summer vacations and a week’s worth of pay to repair homes in Kendleton and Richmond and Rosenberg with U.M. ARMY. And only by trusting and resting in Jesus can so many of the people of MBUMC contribute to the backpack ministry and mentoring at Holmquist Elementary. You carry one another’s burdens, and in so doing, fulfill the law of Christ.
That’s a lesson I learned early on. As a kid growing up, I didn’t fit in all that well. I was pretty nerdy—I know, hard to believe!—and enjoyed doing well at school and Scouts. My parents loved my sister and I, but outside of my family, it was tough navigating the social scene at elementary school, junior high, and on into high school. Church was that place where people valued and appreciated me for who I was, not ridiculed me for who I wasn’t. Friendswood United Methodist had countless adults who invested in my well-being, spiritual growth, and leadership capability: Mrs Anderson who was my 2nd grade Sunday School teacher, the Boones who led my confirmation class, countless youth counselors, choir directors, pastors, Christian educators and youth directors, adults from my parents’ Sunday School classes, and so many more. Even my peers respected me and would talk to me without fear of stigma in the hallways…though my most popular days were still when we played “Bible trivia,” and my nerdiness would come in quite handy then!
So when we talk about carrying a load together, as brothers and sisters, when I say that Jesus helps us make the load light and joyful, I say that because I know that’s what it means to be the church. And our church, Mission Bend United Methodist, isn’t 300 people who happen to walk through a set of doors on a Sunday morning, nor is it more or less 500 people who have their name on a roster next to the word “Member.” Mission Bend is one church that happens to have 247 missionary outposts spread across the Highway 6 Corridor to Katy and Sugar Land, and beyond! One church, because we share one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
This summer, God is calling us to enter the kingdom, to begin again, trusting that Jesus will provide, that the power carried to us by the Holy Spirit is abundantly far more than we could ask for or imagine. May God help us to begin again, to lift up burdens on behalf of one another easily, and to carry the weight of the Gospel oh so lightly. Let your goodness, God, like a fetter, bind our wandering hearts to you! So let the whole church say: Amen.
An adaptation of my portion of the sermon Christie and I co-preached our first Sunday at Mission Bend UMC, 6 July 2014.
“Bearing a heavy weight together,” from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55479 [retrieved July 6, 2014]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kom%C3%A1rom554.JPG.