"That Church"

Just Breathe

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Scripture: Matthew 11: 28 – 30
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
September 3, 2017

It is Labor Day weekend.  The Labor Day holiday, however, emerged during one of the most dismal chapters in America’s history.  At the height of the Industrial Revolution, in the 1800s, the average American worked 12 hour days and 7 day weeks just to squeeze by on a basic living.  Children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country.  People of all ages, especially those facing extreme poverty and recent immigrants often faced very unsafe working conditions void of fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.

On September 5th, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off and marched in the streets of New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade.  They held up signs that read, “Eight hours for labor.  Eight hours for rest.  Eight hours for recreation.”  Shortly, thereafter, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday and began the move toward a 40 hour work week.

Though, we as a country have come a long way in the labor world, we still often find ourselves overworked, overtired, and over exhausted – as depicted in the video, “Just Breathe”.  (Play “Breathe” youtube video by Jonny Diaz, created by Joel Valle.)

Jonny Diaz sings,

I wonder if there’s something more to this crazy life

I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see

That I only have time for me, me, me

There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life.

All through these opening verses, the music is building and building, faster and faster, louder and louder – just like our lives, spinning out of control. Until it hits the chorus and drops to vocals only as we hear:

Breathe, just breathe

Come and rest at my feet

And be, just be.

Significant words to remember this Labor Day weekend, breathe – just breathe.  Research shows the many benefits of deep breathing.  Let’s take a deep breath.  Congratulations you just extended the length of your life! It’s been said that if you breathe 15 times per minute, you will live to 75 or 80 years of age.  If you breathe 10 times per minute you will live to 100.  Deep breathing leads to longer living.  Research shows that deep breathing makes us calmer, relaxing the mind and body.  Deep breathing detoxifies the body, releasing 70% of its toxins.  Deep breathing releases endorphins which are the body’s natural feel good pain killers.  Deep breathing gives us energy. Deep breathing makes us happier. When you find yourself feeling overworked, overstressed, overanxious, remember to breathe deeply.  Breathe, just breathe.

Jonny Diaz goes on to sing, “Come and rest at my feet.”  Similarly, in our scripture passage, Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  The passage in Matthew, however, goes on to say, “Take my yoke upon you.”  Together, those two statements appear contradictory.  Why would a person who is weary and burdened already volunteer to take on a yoke?  

A famous study was done on two horses.  The first one could pull 10,000 lbs on a sled.  The second one could pull 14,000 lbs.  What would you think they could pull when yoked together in the same direction?  Most people would guess something like 24,000 lbs, but the answer is 49,000 pounds.  The sum is much, much greater than its parts.  

But we often leave Jesus out of the equation.  We try to do it all ourselves.  We have learned to trudge along, no matter how steep the path, staggering under the sheer tonnage of our burdens.  And it is the most tiring work in the world. (Barbara Brown Taylor).  All the while Jesus is there in front of us, ready to take our burdens, ready to carry the brunt of our load. “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jonny Diaz sings,

I wonder if there’s something more to this crazy life

I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see

That I only have time for me, me, me

There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life.

His song reminds me of a story I once heard from Pastor Mark.  One day this man came to Pastor Mark and he said, “I’ve got about 5 minutes, something has been happening in my life and I really need to talk with you about it.”  O.K., what’s up?

“Well, my wife’s been coming here to this church and I am a very busy person.  I have a very demanding job, unbelievably demanding.  I am the CEO for one of the most significant firms of business that there is…  and I really don’t have time for this, but my wife has started hanging out here in this church and dinner has become really awkward and she is saying things that are just strange.  I am wondering if I could just get a few little bullet points so that dinner won’t be so offensive.”  Really, just a few little bullet points?  

“Yes, just some bullet points.  I don’t want to take a lot of time, I don’t have a lot of time.  Just some bullet points.”  Well, I don’t know – the bullet point thing is more complicated than that.  

“Look, I don’t have long – just some bullet points.”  And if I were to give you the bullet points and they really began to seep into your life and I know that you don’t want that but if they were, from this very brief conversation, you’ve told me about –your power, your sense of time, your prestige, your priorities – it would really mess things up.  It would get a lot worse before it could get better.  If you were really to understand those bullet points it would redefine you and I really don’t think you want to be redefined.  

“No, I don’t want to be redefined.”  Exactly.  That’s the point you don’t want to be redefined.  So I’m not sure the bullet points are a good idea.

I agree I don’t think they are a good idea.”  Exactly.  

“Well, what if I came back for longer – like for a half hour conversation.”  No, a half hour won’t do.  Give me a couple of hours.  But I want you to sign a disclaimer right from the start.  I’m not liable for the consequences of our conversation because it could really mess with things that you are clearly indicating are so important to you.  

“I have to think about that.”  That would be a good idea.  Pastor Mark really didn’t think that he would ever see this guy again.  And Mark said that he doesn’t normally treat people at his front door like that, but that time it seemed to be the right thing to do.  Well, the husband came back and did the 2 hour thing and that was followed by another 2 hour thing which was followed by another 2 hour thing and he began to come to church.  Six months later, he came to see Pastor Mark, burst into tears and said, “Remember when you said this would mess up my life; it has really messed up my life.  I don’t see my job the same way; I don’t relate to my family in the same way; I am giving more money away than I even knew I was making; and I am really caring about how I treat people.”  He then produced the disclaimer sheet.

Jonny Diaz sings,

I wonder if there’s something more to this crazy life

I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see

That I only have time for me, me, me

There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life.

Jesus will turn our world upside down, but in the process it will become right side up.  On this Labor Day weekend, may we hear Jesus say “Breathe, just breathe.  Come and rest at my feet.”

If you are weary and heavy-laden, you are invited to come to this table, to eat of the bread of life, to drink of the cup of love and to “Be, just be”…

Amen.