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Doing What I Hate: Last Sunday's Sermon

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The Readings

The Epistle
Romans 7:15-25a

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

The Gospel
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Jesus said to the crowd, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“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.”

The Sermon

There are two ideas in today's scripture readings that jump out at me. The first is Paul's letter to the Romans where he writes: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do the thing I want but the very thing I hate.” Does anyone in this congregation relate to Paul's dilemma? Me too!

I don't believe any of us behave badly all the time but the times when we do tend to hang over our heads and as we reflect on them we become miserable. We all know what we should do in various situations but somehow at the time we rationalize doing what we should not be doing. Rationalizing your actions can sometimes be a slippery slope.

Can you think of an example where you talked yourself into doing something you knew deep down you shouldn't be doing? I remember many years ago when I was eleven. The sixth graders in my school were going to be playing a big basketball game against Garfield school that evening. It was lent and during lent our whole family went to 7AM mass every day. I was to be the altar boy for the mass. I did not want to go to mass so when my mom went to wake me up to get ready I told her I wouldn't be going because I needed extra rest for the big game that night. She scowled at me but she did let me stay home that day and not go to church. I felt badly about it afterward. In fact I am probably still carrying some guilt or I would not remember something that happened fifty six years ago.

You might be thinking “is this the worst thing this guy has done?” You should know it isn't even close but it does not paint as black a picture of me as the some of my other misdeeds might, so this is the one I am sharing.

God knows we mess up. We are human and Jesus understood human frailty because he also had both a human and divine nature. Jesus told us with contrition God will forgive.

The second piece of scripture I would like to talk about is near the end of our reading in Matthew. Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls.”

There is so much beauty and comfort in that statement. Jesus is telling us to join him, to follow him and when we do the troubles that seem to follow us in this world can be turned over to him and our burdens will be lightened. We all have things that trouble us in this world. It could be debt. It could be relationships. It could be any number of things. Jesus is telling us to give them to him and follow his teachings.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying that I really like. The say “let go and let God.” Sometimes I think we forget that if we ask God to guide us through the troubles we face in life it becomes easier.

In the Book of Common Prayer there is a prayer for quiet confidence that speaks to me about this reading from Matthew. Would you please join me in reading that prayer. Page 832 no. 59

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord . Amen

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