This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, July 6, 2014 (my first Sunday as their pastor).
Reading: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
It is great to finally be here! Before I get started, I thought you might want to know a bit more about me and my family. We’re coming, most recently, from a small town in North-Central Indiana that is roughly 35 miles south of South Bend (the home of Notre Dame University). As of tomorrow, my wife, Chandra, and I will have been married for six years and one month. We have a beautiful daughter, Stella, who just turned two.
I have had the privilege of serving under appointment in The United Methodist Church for the past 6.5 years; and, I firmly believe that God has called me—through Bishop Devadhar and Bishop Coyner, all the way from Indiana—to be your pastor.
I shared a little about myself in the Newsletter a few months back: I love to woodwork, cook, and garden. It’s a little late to get a garden in this year, but we hope to have a large one next year. I am a Trekkie. I have seen every episode of every season of every spin-off of Star Trek except The Original Series (TOS) which I am currently working my way through.
We’re going to have more opportunities to get to know one another in a few weeks. Starting next Sunday, there will be signups for us to meet in small groups so that I can learn more about you and Lee Church. But, if there’s one thing you need to know about me for this morning, it’s that I’m not the greatest dancer.
Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but live your Word in the world starting today. It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray. Amen.
I can clearly remember the dread on my wedding day. I was anxious, nervous. There was really no question: Chandra is the one person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I knew that then. I know it now. So my fear wasn’t driven by the commitment I was making. It wasn’t fear about professing my love to Chandra in front of my friends and family. It wasn’t the ceremony itself that scared me. It was the reception.
Chandra’s and my first dance and the dance Chandra and I would end the reception with before we left for our honeymoon: they scared the ba-geezies out of me. I’m a terrible dancer, just ask my wife. My kind of dancing is the “Hokie Pokie” and the “Chicken Dance.” I don’t even like the “Electric Slide” nor do I like the “Cha Cha Slide.” I’m a terrible dancer. And, if given the choice, I’d rather not dance especially in front of other people.
In our Gospel Lesson for today, Jesus pines the fact that his generation—and, perhaps, ours—often wants things, especially faith, “my way.” “To what will I compare this generation” (Matthew 11:16a, Common English Bible)? says Jesus. They’re like spoiled little children, who refuse to dance or move regardless of the music that is played. They refuse to dance to the rhythms of God’s grace thinking they know a better way to live and be. And the unfortunate thing, in refusing to dance to the beat of God’s love, they—oh, let’s be honest… We are wearing ourselves out by trying to “walk to the beat of our own drum” instead of listening for and following God’s lead.
Christ came in order that we might hear the beat of God’s heart and learn to dance to the rhythm of God’s unending love. Christ invites us to join him in the dance.
If you’re a horrible dancer like me, the invitation is a bit scary. But, listen carefully to what Jesus has to say:
“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads” (Matthew 11:28a, Common English Bible). Come to me all of you who can’t seem to keep up with the inconsistent and harsh rhythms of life. Come to me all of you who are tripping over your own feet. Come to me all of you who can’t find a reason to dance. Give me all your fears and failures “and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28b, Common English Bible).
“Learn from me” (Matthew 11:29b, Common English Bible). I will help you find the beat. Watch my steps. Follow my lead. Don’t worry about stepping on my toes. Don’t worry about falling. Don’t worry about being akward. I’m here to help you find the beat so that you might come to know it and move along with it. “I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves” (Matthew 11:29b, Common English Bible) just follow my lead. And when you’re too ashamed to hear the beat, look to me, and I’ll keep you in step.
As you learn the rhythms of God’s grace, you’ll find that all of this dancing—which seems tiresome—will no longer be a burden. It’s through this constant movement that you will find rest. By following my lead, you’ll experience a joy and peace that defies all understanding. Follow my lead. Lock step with me and you’ll find yourself “cutting up a rug” and enjoying life (real, abundant life) like you’ve never done before.
Christ’s invites us to join him in the dance. It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced dancer. It doesn’t matter if you trip over your feet or step on your partner’s toes. It doesn’t matter if you dance like Fred Astaire or jiggle like Jell-O. The invitation is the same for all whether you’ve got it figured out or not. Jesus is inviting us—even terrible dancers like me—to dance in order that we might discover the beat of God’s heart and internalize the eternal rhythms of God’s love.
As we begin our journey together, I hope you’ll recommit (or, perhaps, for the first time, commit) to the dance. I hope you’ll reaffirm your commitment to learn from Christ that we might live lives full of grace so that a hurting world might come to know the heartbeat of God, the love of God, found in Jesus Christ.
As we begin the journey together, I pray you’ll join me as, together, we learn to dance to the rhythm of God’s grace.
The rhythms of this life can be harsh and inconsistent. The beat of our day-to-day lives can be tiresome. Teach us to dance. Help us to hear the beat of your heart. Help us to know your unending love. Help us to turn our burdens and our struggles over to Christ that we might be free to move to the rhythm of your grace. Teach us to dance! Lead us step by step. We pray all this in the name of the one who never lost the beat, Jesus the Christ. Amen.