Text: Matthew 11:25-30
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the peace of Christ’s resurrection and life be especially with you [family names]; and with all of Zelma’s family and dear friends. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, that I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” These words from the Lord are both an invitation and a promise, a promise which He has fulfilled for Zelma. He has clothed her with the garment of salvation, the robe of His righteousness. He has given her rest from the good fight and from all her labors. In Jesus, Zelma has found rest from her labor, rest for her soul.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus spoke these words to a crowd of His followers at a time when it appeared as if His ministry was failing. Though He had performed many miracles – healed the blind, the sick, and the lame, even raised the dead – there were many who did not repent of their sins nor believe in Him. But, to those who, by the work of the Holy Spirit, did receive His Word in faith, Jesus gave this invitation and promise – rest. Rest for those who weary and are heavy laden. Rest for those who are burdened by the weight of life in this world. Rest for souls.
Zelma Mae was born December 14th, 1942. She was baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection on March 25th, 1951. June 9th, 1963 she was united in holy matrimony to Gary and became Zelma Mae Fink. She was confirmed in the Lutheran confession of faith, here, on April 28th, 1974. Throughout her many years of membership here she remained active in various positions and as a member of our congregation’s women’s group. She also served decades in the American Legion Auxiliary. But, amidst all these things, Zelma was also one who was burdened and heavy laden. Perhaps, most of all – as of late – by her health.
I had the opportunity a few weeks back to visit Zelma in the hospital. During or shortly after my first sermon here, she took ill and went to Waterloo. Later, when I visited her, she received me warmly. We prayed together and spoke of the hope we have as Christians in Christ and His resurrection. I learned there and since, that her health was an ongoing concern for Zelma. Between bouts of cancer, her heart, and the pain that seemed frequently to be present, it is safe to say she was heavy laden and burdened. Weary, even. Beyond her health and the trials of this life, there was another burden Zelma carried – a weight which all men bear – sin. Zelma, as all born since Adam and Eve, inherited the corruption of original sin. Having inherited this corruption, Zelma did sin; She was not perfect. But then, neither are we. Had she been perfect we would not be here today, for she would not have died. More seriously, if she were perfect she would not have needed Christ. But, now, she has found rest from her burdens and labor. She has found rest for her soul in the arms of Jesus.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is both and invitation and promise. Jesus is able to promise rest, even for our souls, because as He says, He is gentle and lowly. He is humble even, to suffer death – a death He did not deserve – death on a cross. Though Jesus is both fully God and fully man, He did not count that as something to be prideful of. Instead, He set aside His glory and became the servant of all mankind. He bore the burdensome weight of all sin – of Zelma’s, yours, and mine – in His body on the tree. He suffered, died, and was buried. Then He rose. By His death, He paid the price for all sin. By His resurrection, He restored eternal life to all who believe. He brought eternal life back into the picture for Zelma. This is the rest He promised.
Zelma received that promise as a child, by the Holy Spirit’s work through the Word of Christ. She received here the true body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of her sins and the strengthening of her faith. By these things her burden was lightened, and she was led to fight the good fight. Now her burden is fully-lifted and she has received the yoke of Christ, which is light and easy. She has received and now enjoys rest for her soul. This rest, however, is not a sleep, but a joyful experience of Christ’s presence, and fellowship with all the Christians who have gone before her. This is the rest we also aspire to, the rest promised to all who, like Zelma, are the beloved of Christ.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Let us hear these words today and be comforted. By His death and resurrection, Jesus has secured for us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life – rest for our souls. And let us also be thankful, that though we are saddened and mourn Zelma’s death, we know that she has found rest for her soul in Jesus. She is now in His presence and awaits with all the faithful the Day of Resurrection and our joyful reunion in heaven. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though He die, yet shall He live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die,” even Zelma. Amen.