June 2, 2019
by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch

TEXT:   Matthew 11:28-30


            Back in 1990, a newspaper in Tacoma, Washington, carried the story of Tattoo, an 8-month-old basset hound.   Tattoo was in his master’s good graces, as the leash was put around his neck and Tattoo was so excited!   He was “going for a walk!   But – his walk. . . ended up being a run!   It was definitely an unplanned run, because somehow, his owner shut one end of his leash in the car door and too off for a drive with Tattoo on the leash’s other end, still outside!    Motorcycle Officer Kerry Filbert was on patrol when he noticed a car that seemed to be dragging something… and amazingly it was Tattoo, the basset hound!   Officer Filbert said that the poor dog was, “picking them up and putting them down as fast as he could.”   He chased the car down, but not before the dog had reached a top speed of 25 miles per hour, falling down and rolling over several times.


            When Filbert told the driver that he was dragging a dog, the car’s occupants, a man and a woman, jumped out and ran to the dog calling, “Tattoo!  Tattoo!”   Thankfully, the dog was not injured!”1


            Too many of us are living our lives like Tattoo, picking them up and putting them down as fast as we can – rolling around and feeling dragged through life.   We want someone to pull this world over and rescue us from the crazy pace of life and the overwhelming burdens of our lives.


            Back in 1967, a report was given to a Senate sub-committee by time management experts.   They believed that all the advances in technology, satellites and robotics, would radically change  the workplace in the years to come.   They forecasted that the average American would be working 22 hours a week, 27 weeks a year or retiring at the age of 38!   The greatest challenge in the future will be figuring out what to do with all the excess time!2  


Over 50 years later, how many of us are wondering what to do with all the excess time on our hands?


            How many of us ever feel like the world is just going by too fast and seem to always be in a hurry?   Let’s take a quiz and see how you answer.    How many of you have ever honked your horn because the person in front of you didn’t turn fast enough?   Or how about at the grocery store.   Have any of you ever changed lines to get to another, faster grocery clerk, because the person in front of you had too many groceries – or the other line had fewer people and you knew you could get out faster?   Ever done that at a bank or a parking garage – trying to find the fastest lane?   Or what about switching lanes because car in front of you is just going too slow?  Or have you ever stood in front of a microwave or even a coffee pot and complained that it was taking too long?


            We all, at some points, can get infected with what some are calling “hurry sickness”.3   Hurry sickness is that mixture of feelings of anxiety and urgency – being stressed and overwhelmed.   And the more we give in to that “faster pass of life”, it affects us emotionally, physically and spiritually.


            We are beginning a new sermon series for this summer is all about being BUSY and our need to reconnect with our Unhurried God!   While we find ourselves often in that frantic, busy lifestyle, we know that is not a description of Jesus in Scripture.  In fact, just the opposite!   Jesus never rushed because He was moving at God’s pace.   He wasn’t overwhelmed by life even though He had a great mission in a very short amount of time.   He wasn’t stressed or anxious – and didn’t even seem to mind interruptions in His day.    No – we serve an “unhurried God” who calls us to “Be still and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10).  


            Busyness, anxiety and stress are not of God.   It is the world’s pace.   It really is Satan’s pace.   Psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, “Hurry is not OF the devil.  Hurry IS the devil.”4   Our busyness and hurriedness can affect so much of our lives – physically, emotionally and yes, spiritually.  Because you see, it really isn’t just a scheduling problem – it is (as Frank Powell says in Christianity Today says) – a heart problem.   We really need time – and stillness – and focused attention to be in a close relationship with God.   And it is only through having a close relationship with God that we will know our joy, our purpose, our true and deep love.


            And so, Jesus spoke to this very issue 2000 years ago in Matthew 11:28-30.   I invite you to get your Bibles out and turn to that first book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew.   Turn to the 11th chapter where we will find Jesus speaking to crowds of people who oftentimes found day to day living impossible – and were driven to weariness and burdened…people perhaps like you and me.


            Look at verse 28.   Jesus says: 28“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”


            This is an invitation from Jesus to draw close to Him…right in the midst of being over-burdened, exhausted and worn-out.   And when we come to Jesus, what will He give us?  Rest.


            Now if we were reading this in the original language of Greek that it was written in – we would find that word rest is Anapauo.    And it means to have an intermission from labor or to refresh.  Kind of like in sports where there is a half-time or a 7th inning stretch.   Or an intermission half-way through a concert or like when you have a coffee break during the workday.    It is taking a few moments from your routine to stop and take a deep breath, slow down and settle down – to rest.   And then after we take that rest, when the intermission is over, and we must return to work or to the game.


            I believe that the rest that God gives us enables us to get back to life with renewed strength and power.   When we come to Jesus and make the time for solitude and prayer – we can receive peace in our hearts and the rest and renewal we need, so that we can go back and carry on our work for God.


            Jesus frequently removed himself from the world.   He spent time in prayer alone.   And in these moments, Jesus received the strength to fulfill His mission, the confidence to continue His mission and the wisdom to discern the ways of God from the ways of the world.  Unless we take the time to regularly spend periods of time alone with God through prayer and Sabbath, the speed of the world and the burdens of this life will start to twist your understanding of God.   And then anxiety and stress and fear will start to overwhelm you and make you feel hopeless and helpless – weary and overburdened.  We so desperately need to come to Jesus and receive the rest He gives.


            And then Jesus tells us:   “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.”   Now what does that mean? Well, figuratively speaking – in the New Testament time the phrase “take the yoke of” was used by rabbis to refer to “becoming a student of a teacher.”   Jesus is saying, “Be my disciples and learn from me – for I am humble and gentle of heart.”


            Now the yoke was also literally an agricultural tool. It is a wooden crosspiece like you see in this picture that is used to fasten over the necks of two animals so that they can work together and share the burden doing things like ploughing a field or pulling a cart.   It was a tool that was always meant for two animals – as they were never meant to plough the field alone.   Together they shared the burden and together it was easier and more efficient.


            One day a man went by to see a farmer who was plowing his field with a team of oxen.   The man noticed that one of the animals was seemingly a little bigger than the other, so he asked him about it.   The response from the farmer was very interesting.   He said that the big animal was an older animal that was well trained and the smaller one was a young animal that was new to the yoke.   The man went on to ask why he put them together and this is the answer that he got:


            “Well you see, it’s like this.  The older ox is the best ox that I have ever had; he knows his way around the field.   The reason I put the younger one with him is so the older, more knowledgeable ox could teach him how to plow.   If I never put them together, the younger one would never learn.   By himself, the younger ox would pull himself to death, but together he learns to cooperate with and rest in the strength of the older ox.”


            When we ourselves try to go through life – trying to do our own thing, using our own strength and power – we can “pull ourselves to death” – becoming weak and burdened, with anxiety and stress.   But when we yoke ourselves to Jesus – we have Him to work with us, to set the right tempo to walk and to give us strength for the journey.   When we are yoked with Him, He will teach us how to live – will guide our every step – and help carry our burdens.  


            Notice that Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   The actual word for “easy”, in Greek is chrestos, which really means “well fitting”.  Yokes for a team of oxen are not a “one size fits all”.    Rather, the oxen were measured and then the wooden yoke was then tailor made so it would fit well and not hurt the neck of the animals as they worked.  If the yoke didn’t fit exactly right – as the animals pulled with all their strength the heavy loads, that wood would rub against their shoulders and cause all sorts of sores and problems. 


But the yoke that Jesus has for you and for me is easy or well fitted and His burden in light.   When we are teamed up with Jesus, we won’t have to struggle or stumble or strain. And our burdens will be lighter because of the strength He will give us, walking beside us.    It’s as if Jesus is saying to us – “Come, come and stand next to me.  I can help you through this.   Life doesn’t have to be this hard.  Let’s plow through your life together. Together we can carry your load and you will find rest for your souls.”


Eugene Peterson, paraphrased this whole teaching of Matthew 11:28-30 in the Message Bible is a really wonderful way that makes it really clear.  I have it posted up on the screen and I’d like us to read it together.   As we do, I want to imagine Jesus speaking these words directly to you, for these words are an invitation just for you:


28-30Are  you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”


As we go through our time of Sabbath this summer – we are going to be having a “time-out” if you will.  Each Sunday, we will focus on getting away with God to recover our life – to renew and refresh and find rest for our souls.


You know, if you raised children, or even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heart of a “time out”.   We give a time out when a break is needed.   Perhaps we need to think about the consequences of something we just done – or maybe we just need a break to be quiet and calm down.  Perhaps we need time to think and get our heads clear and get a new perspective. 


During this time of Sabbath and sermon series, we are literally going to give ourselves a “time out” and we are going to send ourselves to a prayer chair.   Each Sunday, we are going to be sharing our prayers of the people as we sit in our prayer chair, here on the chancel.   And we are challenging you to find a prayer chair in your home, where you can daily “get away with God” and find rest for your souls.   Find a time during the day when you can go to the chair for at least 10 minutes, perhaps light a candle, and then spend time with God.   Each week, we will be giving you a hand-out with ways you can pray, based on the theme that we have covered in worship.   I’d like to have our deacons pass those out to you right now.



Christ is calling out to you.   Won’t you answer His invitation?   Won’t you come and yoke up with Jesus?   He wants to walk with you and work with you and give you peace and joy.   Come now, He’s reaching out to you.






1“Unplanned Ride. Tattoo the Basset Hound”, March 10, 1990.   www.orlandosentinel.com/news


2Frank Powell, “Seven Spiritual Consequences of Living a Hurried, Busy Life”, September 20, 2015.