Scripture Readings: Zechariah 9:9–12 | Psalm 145:8–14 | Romans 7:15–25 | Matthew 11:16–19, 25–30
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).
What a gift it is to be able to gather together for worship and prayer in this sacred place: surrounded by the reminders of our many sisters and brothers in Christ, who in their days laboured in all sorts of ways in this community… in the hopes of sharing the peace of God with their neighbours... and having completed their labours, are now at rest in Him.
Their names and their stories, even if they may be unfamiliar to us, serve as hope-filled signs of the ongoing work of God in the lives of His people here in Gondola Point… a work we too are called to share in, just as we also look forward to sharing in God’s everlasting peace… along with our departed brothers and sisters… a peace which is ours in Jesus Christ.
And true peace is something we all need… something that deep down, all of us desire... and yet, we can so easily take peace for granted: forgetting the hard work and efforts required in order to make real peace possible.
For whether we realize it or not, peace is the fruit of God’s own Holy Spirit at work in us… inspiring and empowering people to put aside our prejudices, and pride… and to work towards harmony and fellowship with one another instead… leading us forward together, and bringing our sad divisions and acts of destruction to an end.
We heard about God’s message of peace from the prophet Zechariah this morning, and his vision of God’s promised Messiah, the Chosen One who would one day come to His war-torn and battered people… not as another bloodthirsty conqueror atop a warhorse, but as a peace-driven Saviour riding on a humble donkey. Zechariah 9:10 says,
“He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war-horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
How wonderful a vision of world-wide peace God gives to us. And yet how unlike so many pictures of peace we are offered today.
For the work here begins with the disarming of God’s own people… with the healing of the divided hearts of Ephraim and Jerusalem… and then with all the nations of the earth. In other words, Zechariah invites us to see that God’s Messiah brings to His people a peace they must first put into practice themselves, so that they can share it with everyone.
And the Scriptures go on to show us that Jesus Himself fulfills this prophetic promise… not by ignoring the deep divisions at work all around, and even inside God’s people, but by exposing the root of what truly divides us: our selfish desires, our fears and foolishness… our sins… and worked to undo their destructive force… enduring the cross to conquer the powers of sin and death with God’s longsuffering love… and revealing His life-giving victory as He rose again from the grave.
Jesus Christ purchased our peace not through force or through compromise, but through giving up His own life.
The true peace of God is won through the labour of His self-giving love.
And we know, following Jesus on this road to God’s peace is not easy. We daily face all sorts of temptations to give into this or that impulse or desire that only lead us to more divisions and destruction. Even lifelong followers of Jesus experience these kinds of struggles; storms within our souls that threaten to sink us, and shatter our relationships.
Giving voice to this war within each of us, St. Paul asks that vital question: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).
But thankfully, we know St. Paul doesn’t stop there, but instead exclaims: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25). The Good News is, Jesus does not just show us the way to practice peace, Jesus shares His peace with us. Christ brings God’s peace into our lives… working in and through us even when our strength and hope runs dry.
In those times, we can turn to each other, to our Christian brothers and sisters here on earth, for much needed encouragement, companionship, and help.
We can also remember and be inspired by the stories of our fellow Christians who have remained faithful to the end, going before us into the blessed peace of God… resting from their labours, and waiting to share with us the joys of God’s glorious resurrection.
And we can turn to Jesus our Saviour, and hold onto His own promise to us: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
This morning, surrounded by our Christian brothers and sisters, both those living, and those who have already received their rest from our Saviour… we know there’s still work for you and I to do in this community. There’s still many divisions to undo, many hearts to heal, and many ways to make the peace of Christ known to our neighbours through our words and through our actions.
So let us look to Jesus, and follow Him today as God’s faithful servants, working for His Good Kingdom… and trusting that He is leading us to God’s true Peace. Amen.
Rev. Rob serves as the Priest-in-Charge at St. Luke's Gondola Point, and as the School Chaplain at Rothesay Netherwood School