Meanderings

Rest … Why Not Bother?

Matthew_1128cwScripture: Jesus said, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away
with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real
rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly"
(Matthew 11:28-29, The MESSAGE).  Jesus said, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30, NRSV).

Also consider the following:

  • "Heaven and Earth were finished, down to the last detail. By
    the seventh day God had finished his work. On the seventh day he rested
    from all his work. God blessed the seventh day. He made it a Holy Day
    because on that day he rested from his work, all the creating God had
    done"
    (Genesis 2:1-3, The MESSAGE).
  • This [resting in God, see Hebrews 4:1] is still a live promise. It wasn’t canceled at the time of Joshua;
    otherwise, God wouldn’t keep renewing the appointment for "today." The promise of "arrival" and "rest" is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God. So let’s keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience"
    (Hebrews 4:8-11, The MESSAGE).

While on retreat about six weeks ago these words "come unto me and I will give your rest" settled into my being in the midst of a time that did not feel anything like rest.  The word from God that stuck with me is that Jesus promises rest when we bear what God wants us to bear, not what I (or others) might deem important burderns to bear.  The rest that God promises is one that involves wearing a yoke as if we were a beast of burden, but not just any burden – only the God-burden.

I may be making a false distinction today between "Rest" and "the Sabbath" we discussed several weeks ago.  If I am, I pray for God’s forgiveness.  But I am struck that Jesus promises rest by taking on God’s burden for the world, while Sabbath was a reminder that God invited us to stop work.  In the competing versions of the Ten Commandments one reason to stop was to model God and the other was to not fall into the trap of a 400 hundred year of work without a vacation (see Eugene Peterson’s comments in Stop and Go – What Is Sabbath Anyway?).  When I discussed Sabbath I was talking about stopping before you worked a 400 hundred year work-week.  Today I am focusing on resting by sharing the God-burden with Jesus.

Have you thought about what God-burden you are to bear?  I think this is what Rick Warren is getting at in The Purpose Drive Life
when he asks, "what is your life’s purpose?"  Have you been following
the news this week out of Atlanta?  Consider the news of Ashley Smith
talking her captor Brian Nichols in surrendering himself after an extended
conversation.  It began like this:

Nichols said, "I
feel like I’m a warrior — that people of my color have gone through a
lot." But he says he’s had enough. "I don’t want to hurt anybody
anymore. I don’t want to kill anybody. I want to rest."

Ashley responds by reading the following words from The Purpose Drive Life: "We serve God by serving
others. The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions,
prestige and position. If you can demand service from others you’ve
arrived. In our self serving culture with its me first mentality,
acting like a servant is not a popular concept" (see the account at Beliefnet.com).

Rest is found when we give up those "p-words" of power, possessions, prestige, and position (could we add some more?) and learn to walk as a servant of God.  Does that resonate in our souls?

Unfortunately, we usually find ourselves deciding between competing burdens.  I remember the times when I served a church on the coast when a walk on the beach with my family became a counseling session with a passing parishioner.   Was that rest?  I continue to debate the question in my mind, because I was bearing two yokes in my mind … family and church.  In each circumstance I was trying to be a servant, one as husband/father the other as pastor.  But the God-burden was all that I was called to carry then and now.  Was it rest?

Where are you wrestling today with rest?  Personally, I have worked 30 hours since Monday (its noon on Wednesday) and Holy Week is coming like a whirlwind.  I invite us (me!) to come apart and rest with Jesus so that we don’t come a part. How does Peterson translate those words?  Jesus said, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get
away
with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real
rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the
unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on
you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly"

Restful Quotes:

  • "People would have more leisure time if it weren’t for all the leisure-time activities that use it up." – Peg Bracken
  • "There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is in having lots to do — and not doing it." – Mary Willson Little
  • "It would be glorious to see [hu]mankind at leisure for once. It is nothing but work, work, work." – Henry David Thoreau
  • "There is always time for a nap." – Suzy Becker
  • "Some
    monks asked Abba Poemen if they should awaken those who fell asleep
    during worship. Abba Poemen responded: ‘For my part, when I see a
    brother who is dozing, I put his head on my knees and let him rest.’"
    Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Practices to Consider for Rest:

  • Declare a personal and/or family Sabbath … it may or may not be on "The Sabbath."
  • Create a discipline / practice for your Sabbath that marks it as different.
  • Eat, play and take delight in nature and one another, worship joyfully, REST.
  • Schedule meetings on days other than your Sabbath.
  • As much as possible, avoid spending money on your Sabbath.
  • Let go of worrying about bills, work, people, and life for your Sabbath.

Thanks to the Upper Room’s MethodX website for helpful thoughts about Rest.