There’s Work To Be Done

Heritage Presbyterian Church

July 5, 2020
5th Sunday After Pentecost / 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture readings – Matthew 11:28-30 & John 21:1-19

No matter what type of work each of us does in life, that work is usually on-going.  It is hardly ever “done.”  Doctors see patients every day, but it is unusual for them to see a patient only once; usually, a relationship forms and that patient returns to that doctor again and again over time.  Salesclerks in stores wait on endless lines of people, many of them return customers if they were treated fairly; the only way that relationship ends is when the store closes for the day.  Wal-Mart may be doing this wrong with their 24-hour locations.  Parents…your work is NEVER NEVER done, even when your children are adults.  They still need their parents…that’s just part of the deal.  

So…work is never done, is it?

The work of the Lord in our world is never done either.  The earthly work of Jesus with the people of Judea and his Apostles only lasted three years.  But did it end when he died on the cross?  Did it end when he rose from the dead on Easter morning?  Did it end when he ascended into Heaven?  Did it end on the Day of Pentecost?  The Bible is pretty clear that most certainly did not end.  That work certainly changed, but it continues to this day.

In recent times, how did our work change?  When I ask this, I mean the work you do in your life, as well as the work you do for the Lord.  

  • “In-person” work has been virtually eliminated in many places by various governmental orders.
  • “On-line” work is certainly much safer, but challenges exist that many of us are only now gaining confidence and comfort with.
  • “With masks” continues to be a bone of contention in our society, with everyone acknowledging the increased safety – but disagreeing on the usage and purpose.  Personally, I don’t like masks because they fog up my glasses and make my nose itch constantly.  But I wear one because I feel I need to.  It’s my own choice.

But despite all these changes, the work did not end…not at all.  It changed, but it did not end.  If it ended, my heart would break for its loss.

In today’s Scripture readings – both of which are taken from the Gospels – we are given two examples of Jesus’ thoughts on work.  First, Jesus addressed the physical, hard work that existed in Jesus’ times – and exists in our own world today, of course; in this case, Jesus cared for his Apostles after they had spent a long frustrating night of fishing.  Second, Jesus discussed the work that all of us are called to do, namely feeding and caring for his sheep.  

We may rest from physical, demanding work, but we really don’t to rest from caring for his sheep…at least, not for very long.

And in the case of the second type of work, it truly never ends.

In the final analysis, what was Jesus’ response to work?  First of all, Jesus called on his Apostles to work a certain way – with honor and steadfast courage, but never to waste their time.  Second, Jesus recognized that workers need someone to care for them; all workers get tired – either physically, mentally, or both.  And all workers need rest.  Rest is even in the Ten Commandments.  And it’s not an option…it’s a requirement for God’s people.  

So what kind of care did Jesus exhibit as his example of caring for his workers?  There are two instances from today’s readings that are both very important.

First of all, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus spoke of an “easy yoke” that his workers would encounter.  If you have ever seen farm animals yoked together and pulling a wagon or a heavy piece of equipment, you know that a yoke of that kind is never easy.  Yet, Jesus uses that word to describe the work his followers will be doing.  An easy yoke is a metaphor for something that is not harsh, not done to slaves, not punishing or frustrating or life-draining.  It is work – good, hard work, the kind that leaves the worker with a sense of accomplishment and of making a difference.  That’s a very satisfying type of work.

Second, Jesus cared for the workers, but he demonstrated this by doing work for them.  When the Apostles gathered for the Last Supper, remember what Jesus did first: he washed their feet.  That was servant’s work, lowly work, work that made his Apostle uncomfortable.  Yet, he did it anyway.  In the same way, the Apostles who were fishing came up to where Jesus was standing on the shore of the lake.  They immediately saw that he had already built a nice fire to grill the fish they caught, and he had even brought them some bread.  All they had to do was to rest from their night’s labors and eat a fresh breakfast.  

And you just know that meal was a wonderful one.

Jesus revealed to us one more aspect of his work in his conversation with Peter at the end of the passage.  Jesus seemed to take Peter off a little ways with him and challenged him to love him and to care for his flock.  Jesus explained to Peter that this work would test him, would challenge him, and would compel him to “go where he did not want to go.”  But in the end, Jesus still he asked Peter, “Follow me.”

In doing this, Jesus loved Peter and gave him work to do, but also recognized that the work could cost Peter his life.  Jesus knew then, and of course knows today, that his work here on earth is often hard, frustrating, wearisome, and even sacrificial.  Jesus never lied to Peter, and he never lies to us.  

When we choose to care for his sheep, when we choose to follow Him, when we choose to love him and his sheep, we also choose everything that goes along with that work.

Still, there is always work to be done, even when we don’t realize it.  We are always called to serve and to care.  

It is not forced upon us.  It is always a choice.But there’s work to be done, Christians, and the Lord beckons us to do it.