July 31, 2011: We’re not in Eden anymore

Let us pray: Dear Lord, many times each week we feel inadequate, tired, and played out when it comes to this business of life. Wherever we turn, people seem to take our efforts for granted, to downplay our hard work, and as a result we often want to throw in the towel and quit. Lord, today remind us that we work for You, and You always see our efforts. We work for You, and You always bless our efforts. We work for You, and You always inspire our efforts with Your power, love, and compassion. Do all of the above today and every day. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, GOD’S PRESENCE AMONG US THIS VERY DAY!

TEXT: Exodus 33: 12-23

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Earlier this week I heard a little blurb on the radio about American workers suffering from burnout. I believe it said that a new study confirms that over ½ of older workers (whatever that means) suffer from burnout and are not happy in their current positions. My first thought was: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread.” My second thought was: talk about stating the obvious. My third thought was: I’m surprised the figure’s not higher. We really have succumbed to the rah-rah, high school guidance counselor mentality in our country. It would be nice to have a totally fulfilling, totally satisfying job where you never were taken for granted, where every moment energized you, and where you always met with success or at least appreciation. But, alas, no such job exists unless you live in Oz.

We’re not in Eden anymore. Sin has entered the job market and controls it. Life is about work, not constantly having fun. And then there’s God’s judgment upon all humans concerning the result of sin: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread.”
My calling happens to be as your pastor. Generally I like what I do. It challenges me and satisfies me. I especially like to write and preach sermons, to teach God’s truth in classes, and to apply Godly help to souls in need. That being said, “clergy burnout” creeps up on me, just as “worker burnout” creeps up on you. You get stressed, the well starts to run dry, and some days you slog along feeling bone tired over it all.

Now, I’ve learned such times don’t last forever—unless you let them. I’ve learned to break up my day with physical labor that is tangible—like brushing out the woods—because it provides instant gratification. But, most of all, I’ve learned to ask God for help directly when I’m feeling a bit blah about life.

I

In our modern world, everyone who works sometimes dreams of chucking it all and living out some fantasy away from responsibility. Or, people adopt the “revolving job” mentality and hop from place to place thinking that “voila!” the next job will usher in Nirvana. Idealistic young people suffer especially from these delusions. But with time, they get ground down, become accepting of their status quo, and live with the “burnout” that was reported on the radio.

Guess what? You and I are not alone. Guess what else? God can and does help us to cope and/or overcome such times. Sometimes His help is simple, quiet, and unassuming yet effective. Sometimes it is grandiose and shocks us to attention. Our lesson lays out the latter scenario. Moses was tired. He was a bit down-in-the-mouth. We’d say today that he was suffering from “clergy, or prophet burn-out.” He has spent the past few years freeing Israel from Egypt. He has led them to Mt. Sinai. He brought down God’s 10 commandments to them. He found them worshiping a golden calf in his absence. Talk about being emotionally crushed. Everything Moses taught them they disregarded and threw away. It’s almost as if his life and his ministry had been worthless.

Meanwhile, God keeps telling Moses “Lead these people.” Day after day, week after week, God speaks to Moses at the Tent of Meeting just outside the camp and tells him to: “Lead these people.” Moses is at his wits end. He’s tried and from his vantage point, failed. Finally, one day Moses speaks to God within that tent and says: “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me,’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

To me, this response to God is the dignified cry of Christian at his wit’s end. Sometimes as believers we try and try and seek to live out our faith and do our very best as parents, as office workers, as employees, as teachers—only to be met with frustration. We want to live for God’s glory. We want to help make a difference in life and let God’s light shine from within us. But, as Paul says in today’s epistle, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” In other words, our good intentions just don’t always cut it or bring satisfaction. We need God to jump start us.

II

And right here, we hear of how God did just that to Moses! “The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'” What is God’s Presence? It is His personal power of wisdom, strength, goodness, love, forgiveness, and justice. It is Jesus Christ long before the Messiah was born. How do we know that? Listen to our Gospel from Matthew 11 where Christ tells us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Jesus, God’s Presence, dwells with you and me each day. Why? Because we were baptized. At our baptism God put Christ’s clothes upon us. He transferred our inferiority complexes and our frustrations to Christ and put His peace within our hearts. Just remembering that fact can provide an instant jolt of confidence when you’re down.

Moses now realizes that without Christ accompanying him and the Israelites, their life’s work, getting to the promised land would be doomed to failure. Indeed, with Christ with us today, everything we do is for naught.—As Jesus says in John 15:5: “Without Me, you can do nothing.” So, Moses asks God for a direct sign of His grace. And then, God agrees to show him His glory. “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But, you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

You know the rest of the story. God hid Moses in that cleft in the Rock, covered him with God’s presence, and when Moses came away from that encounter, Godly strength and resolve had vanquished his burnout.

God may seem far off and distant from the pressures of your daily life. But, He’s not. He dwells with you and within you. His Presence, Jesus Christ, has worked saving faith within your soul. His Presence, Jesus Christ, seeks to take away your inner burdens and provide you with satisfaction and a feeling of worthwhileness in everything you do. So, let Him! Ask Him for such proof in prayer. Ask Him to hit your re-set button. Don’t be afraid to go to His “Tent of Meeting” or His church on Sunday morning and have Him meet you there. And perhaps most of all, learn from Moses who here typifies Christ. Moses wasn’t self-centered when he asked God to bless the people. No, like Christ, Moses put the welfare of others before his own. And when that occurred, when he stepped out of his self-centeredness, immediately his sense of burn-out ceased smoldering. Do you want to feel alive this week? Then, go, and remember to do likewise. Amen