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
This was a wonderful sermon. ..I thought so this morning when I heard Trish preaching and I feel it even more so reading it again on here. Delivered so carefully and gently yet it reached me and touched my inner soul.
I agree the poem is inspiring. However the reality is that 1st class passengers went to the USA with no issues. The huddled masses however were sent to Ellis Island where they were processed and if they were ill, uneducated, deformed. etc they had a symbol chalked on the back of their coats. The wrong symbol meant that you would not be chosen and sent back to your country of origin. Mothers turned the coats of their children inside out to cover these symbols up!. This often meant that parents had to send back one of their children. I looked on the wall of names of those who had passed through this process, to find mine and thankfully there were none.
I agree, Darren, by the time the statue appeared, the US had some very divisive policies, very different from the earlier days; I am not in any way endorsing these, but was trying to bring out the theme of the poem, which as you say is inspiring, that all SHOULD be welcome, just as all SHOULD be welcome in our churches.