by the Reverend Dr. David Madsen
On Independence Day we think of all those who gave their lives, knowing that others would benefit from their sacrifice. I was wondering where I could start on remembering our nations heroes, because there have been so many.
Naomi and I went to school with a group of 4 veteran students from the Vietnam War. They all somehow ended up going to Bible College together after they got out of the service. This group of guys served, fought, and shared foxholes together. It was in one of these foxholes that they experienced a live grenade landing on the ground in the middle of them. This is where Mark took his helmet, put it under his stomach and fell on the grenade. Mark saved the lives of everyone in that foxhole. He miraculously survived, but was told that he would have severe health problems the rest of his life. Mark received a Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic deed.
Mark had a secret. (Of course I am not using his real name) He was the one who threw the grenade. He pulled the pin and as he was attempting to throw the grenade, it slipped out of his hand and fell to the ground. His fellow soldiers in the foxhole knew what happened, but to them Mark saved everyone’s life that day. A live grenade is a deadly thing in a foxhole, however it gets there. This haunted Mark, and he too was a casualty of war, both physically and mentally. But, to his family and to his friends he served alongside of, Mark is a hero, yet agreeably a casualty of war.
Jesus says to be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48) The Greek word for perfect “telioi” means complete or perfect. The Hebrew Word from Deuteronomy is “Shalom” which means complete or perfect and complete peace. In other words in the context of this passage Jesus is instructing us to be “set apart for God” as completely mature in our mind and character, just as our Father in heaven is complete. Another Hebrew word for “being set apart” is “Kadosh” or to “be holy” taken from Leviticus. “Make your selves holy, for I am holy”. (Leviticus 11:44) Strive to have a holy soundness in your mind and body and especially in your love for one another, and for those that are not part of your social structures. We are called to be set apart, a higher calling to live a principle of the Kingdom of God that is at odds with how others might respond or not respond to our world view as we attempt to pattern our lives and actions in obedience to our Higher Power-God.
How do we apply this to our lives? How should we then live our lives? Jesus says earlier in Matthew the statement of what we refer to as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you have them do unto you”. (Matthew 7:12) Even when people do things that are not appropriate or good, it is not unusual to respond out of fear or paranoia, and it takes real courage to stand up for injustice. It takes courage to stand up against things that are wrong, and not to buckle under and be a floor-mat for others. We have all heard comments like: “I don’t just get back with people, I get even.” When I worked in sales I used to say something similar, and I’m not proud of it, “If you take one of my accounts, I will take two of yours.” This is totally alien to what God is saying here: Jesus specifically tells us to love our neighbors and love our enemies. (Matt: 5:48) I am reminded of the periscope in I Peter that says: “Love each other deeply or fervently-from the heart” “Love covers multiple sins, or as another translation puts it this way: “Love makes up for practically anything.” (1 Peter 4:8)
Perfect love casts out all fear-the paranoia that threatens our mental wellness, casting out those fears that threaten careers, reputation, and my way of life. It’s going to cramp my style, impinge my lifestyle in some way. It’s going to put a hitch in my get along. Perfect love casts out fear. What does that mean? In our gospel for today we read about the “abundance of love”.
In our liturgy this morning we read this passage: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) We need to lay our burdens down. Lay them down. Give them to Jesus. Take them to the cross and leave them there.
I remember a phrase from a Country western song from that was built on this phrase: “Somebody done somebody wrong”, Yes, somebody did do and will continually do somebody wrong. Take it to the cross, because if you don’t, the bitterness, the hated, the envy, the paranoia, will rob you of that peace.
Jesus says “come unto me all that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. Abide in the love of Jesus Lay your burdens down. Don’t let them rob you of your peace. Let it be God’s burden. Don’t let it rob you of that Sabbath rest that is intended for you. There is a Sabbath rest for you.
Jesus says: “Lay your burdens down. Come unto me. My burden is light and my yoke is easy. Abide in me and I will abide in you”.