For a long time, if someone was asked the question, “How are you?” the standard response would be “Fine!” No matter what the circumstances. No matter what was really going on in that person’s life. The polite and socially acceptable response to the question “How are you?” was “Fine!” But several years ago there was a shift. And more and more people, when asked the question, “How are you?” would answer “Busy!” There was actually article published in a national periodical entitled “Busy is the new Fine!” What happened was that we no longer hid behind the wall of denial –“Everything’s okay, I’m fine!” Instead, we started hiding behind what I call the myth of productivity – “If a person is being productive and they are busy and active … then they must be doing okay!” So, we shifted from “I’m fine!” to “I’m busy!”
But then not that long ago, an addendum was added to the response, “I’m busy!” And that addendum was “I’m tired!” So, now if someone is asked the question “How are you doing?” more often than not the response will be “I’m busy…and I’m tired!” In most people’s experience there is a correlation between being busy and being tired.
And then along came this global pandemic! And for first few months, many people saw their activity levels dramatically reduced. They were working from home. Stores were closed. Concerts were cancelled. Trips were postponed. Many people suddenly found themselves far less busy. But you know what? Over that past few months, if someone was asked the question “How are you?” they likely no longer said, “I’m busy,” but they still said, “I’m tired.”
All of a sudden, there was no longer a correlation between being busy and being tired. So, what we must be experiencing is a different kind of tired. I was listening to a preacher a few weeks ago who was exploring this very topic, and he said people are “tired on the inside.”
We’re tired on the inside! There is an emotional and spiritual fatigue that is hitting people hard right now.
Our churches have been closed for almost four months. And we’re tired.
We see violence and unrest in the streets of our cities. And we’re tired.
We are grieved by the political and ideological divisions. And we’re tired.
We are anxious and fearful about an uncertain future. And we’re tired.
We’re tired on the inside.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus is once again in the midst of his ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing. Jesus and his disciples have been busy! On this particular day, he is addressing the crowd that has been following him. Jesus covers a variety of topics. He even stops to pray right in the middle of teaching. But at the very end of this short teaching, it seems that Jesus is able to see the emotional and spiritual fatigue of crowd, and in response he offers them an invitation. He says, “Come to me, all you that weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Now Jesus is saying this right in the middle of his busy schedule. In other words, this is not an invitation to go off on retreat. This is not an invitation to have a few days off or to go on some extended vacation. Because Jesus knows that true spiritual rest is not simply about the suspension of activity, it is about the formation of our hearts. True spiritual rest not simply about the rearrangement of our calendars, it is about the restoration of our souls. True spiritual rest is not about laying on the couch it’s about laying down our burdens.
Because, you see, what Jesus is offering is not an escape, but an exchange. He says, “Come with you weariness….come with your burdens…come with your grief…come with your addictions…come with your pain….come with the chaos of your life and EXCHANGE them for my rest. Jesus invites us to experience the authentic, spiritual rest that we most deeply long for not in the absence of real life, but in the midst of real life.
And this invitation to experience authentic, spiritual rest is an invitation that our postmodern culture desperately needs to hear, because we’re pretty good at denying and escaping the realities of life, but we don’t really know how to rest. We are quick to respond, “I’m fine” or “I’m busy,” but we’re not quick to acknowledge our need for healing and restoration.
We are facing many challenges in our world today. Many people are feeling fearful and anxious. Many are wondering if real change is possible. As the church, as followers of Jesus, we are called and commissioned to be ambassadors of God’s healing and reconciliation. We have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to face head-on the injustice and brokenness of our world. But if we are going to be the agents of changes we are called to be, our hearts must be at rest.
We must be willing to except the invitation of Jesus to exchange our weariness and heaviness for his rest. This morning I brought the Bible that I carried around when I was in college and seminary. I brought this Bible because when I was in college and seminary, if I felt that God was speaking to me in a particular way, I would write it down in the back of my Bible. And as I was preparing this sermon, I remembered that a long time ago the Lord said to me, “Doug, my rest is your base of operations.” God’s spiritual rest is my base of operations. In other words, no matter I do. No matter how chaotic life gets, I need to be able to get back to that place of spiritual rest. Now, my confession to you is that not very good that. It is something I work on every single day. To come to Jesus every day to give him my weariness, my anxiety, my fear in exchange for his rest.
And so, this morning what is it that is making you tired on the inside?
What is the burden you need to lay down this morning?
What is weighing heavy on heart that you need to let go of?
Jesus says, “Come to me. Come to me with your stress. Come to me with your loneliness. Come to me with your anxiety. Come to me with your fear. Whatever it is, come to me…and I will give you rest!”