Trish our Parish Reader preached the following sermon this morning, 6th July:
Matthew 11:28: “Come unto me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”
Two days ago, the United States of America celebrated Independence Day, and their legal separation from Britain in 1776. Having an American mother and a Scottish father gives me rather mixed feelings about that, but one thing I definitely admire about the US is the Statue of Liberty, and I remember, although I was only 9 at the time, the feeling of awe as I gazed up at her… she stands at the entrance to New York harbour, a symbol of freedom, gazing down the Hudson River towards the Atlantic Ocean, towards Europe, where so many of my mother’s ancestors came from… some were loyal subjects of the British crown, some were looking for religious freedom, some were escaping poverty… all were hoping for a new life, a better life.
So when I read today’s Gospel, I immediately thought of her… I read the words of Jesus “Come unto me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” and I remembered the poem, written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus, which is engraved at the base of Lady Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me…”
Whatever we may think of today’s immigration policies, the intention of the poem is to portray the welcome given to all who arrived there. No matter where they were from, they were given the chance of a new life. For example, in 1832, three generations of the Swiers family in Yorkshire sailed from Liverpool to New York; eventually they settled in Kansas, where today their descendants, my mother’s cousins, farm the same land.
Jesus said “Come unto me”
Change your life, take a journey into the unknown, trust me
“Come unto me, all you who are weary”
All you who are tired, all you who are homeless, all you who are bruised by the storms of life…
“Come unto me and I will give you rest”
Jesus didn’t say “Come unto me and I will make your life perfect, he didn’t say come unto me and l will make you healthy, wealthy and wise… He offers rest, rest for the weary, rest for our souls
And when people come to us, when they come to the church, seeking rest, do they find it here? Do we offer it?
We welcome everyone, the weary, the tired, the poor, the unhappy, the unwell, the released prisoner…My ancestors sailed to America looking for a new and better life… we offer new life to those who come through our doors
We may think it is just a smile and a cup of tea, but to them it may be a new start…
“Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Amen