In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
The world is a barren place: physically and spiritually. When God created everything it was perfect (Genesis 1:31). But the world was unfilled and unformed (Genesis 1:2). So He planted a garden, a paradise, Eden (Genesis 2:8). He put a man and a woman in it. He said, “Be fruitful and multiply, increase and fill the empty earth.” (Genesis 1:28) Everywhere they would go, they would shape it, fill it, make a glorious, life-giving garden of the earth. Everywhere their kids would go the empty earth would bud and flower and blossom. They who had the breath of God in them were to be a source of life for the whole earth, fashioning it into a beauteous garden of fragrant blossoms, beneficial fruits, an oasis of joy. All the world would cease to be barren and become bounteous.
We were filled with God’s life (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7). We were God’s way of life spreading throughout the world. But since the Fall we are death to this world. Now work is only thing that keeps physical death at bay. We death dealers are by definition wicked. Alive only by constant work. Is there any rest for the wicked? Maybe you’ve not thought of yourself as wicked, but you’ve felt the exhaustion, the bone weariness, the “Will it never end?,” the “When can I rest?” of it all.
Some bad news. Because of sin in this world there is no rest from physical labour. There is always more to do. The job will never be done. Even if you take great enjoyment in a clean house, a peaceful and successful family, children who delight in the Lord and walk in His ways, even if you have achieved that, a big if, there is always more work. For though your outer world may be in order, how is your inner world? There is always more work, isn’t there? Even when you think you’ve got the balancing act of it all licked, one little thing throws it off. You can never keep it all together. You’re never even close. You never will be. There is no rest for the wicked. Work, only work averts disaster and complete collapse.
Some good news. You wicked are not without hope. There is a sabbath rest for people of God. The Sabbath was the seventh day when God the Father rested from all His work of creating, setting an example of physical resting. Which is simply wise. After all, machines can’t go forever, tanks can’t run on empty, bodies will collapse without appropriate rest. The Father’s example is simply practical. But it is not ultimately about physical rest, but spiritual rest. For you, the people of God, chosen, claimed and named by Him in Holy Baptism, there is rest. Though family demands may never let up, though your work life may always be hectic, though you just can’t please everyone or even yourself, your God has prepared an eternal rest for you.
This rest is not primarily physical, it is spiritual rest. That’s what you need. For when your heart is light and vibrant, your body flows with energy. When your heart is heavy, you’ve got no energy or drive. You need spiritual rest, in the here and now, and for eternity.
The Father eternally rested from His work of speaking things into existence on the seventh day. The Word of God made flesh died on the sixth day of Holy Week for your sins which rob you of rest and peace. He rested the rest of righteous on the seventh day having finished all His work of saving humanity, and rose in eternal victory on the eighth day so that repentance and forgiveness, rest from your conscience’s labours, would be declared to you in and through Him. His finishing His work to save you is your rest.
For you who know and believe His declaration about you there is rest and peace on this side of heaven and the eternal paradise of bliss where you will again walk with God face to face. You rob yourself of rest by clinging to your sin. By depending on your works. By insisting that God really does delight in you the way you are. By saying, “Surely, I’m not that bad.” No, you are. There is rest only in admitting that you are wicked and that He is righteous. That despite it all He has declared you His. That is His rest for you. Cling to that. Only that. By grace you have been saved. Not by your works.
For, lo and behold, with that word in you you are now a spiritual spring welling up with eternal life and hope for any who will hear His Word from you. When you speak of Him, the Holy Spirit causes an oasis of grace to abound in this dreary place. You are the fragrance of myrtle flowers where once was nothing but stink weed and garbage. You are a stately cypress shading weary souls from the scorching sun. For Christ’s cross, likely made of cypress, shades you from the withering sun of eternal judgement. His cross, made of same wood as the ark, ferries you to the beautiful shores of eternal life. That’s what His Word imparts. Him. All He is. All He promises. It takes you spiritually where He is now, and physically where He is on the Last Day. Rest for the wicked. It is your through His Word of forgiveness.
In +Jesus` name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON