In the midst of summer’s last gasp, as those going back to school might phrase it, we can do a gut check and ask ourselves if we got enough rest this summer. I learned a lesson as I began my vacation – a lesson in rest, a lesson passed on in today’s message, based on Matthew 11.20-30. Listen here:
Welcome to Labour Day weekend, when, ironically, we celebrate the value of work by not working! For most people outside the trade union movement, however, Labour Day weekend is mostly about getting away for one last weekend before mundane routine returns with the onslaught of September.
Maybe, though, it isn’t so ironic that we pause to celebrate work. After all, work can’t be done in any meaningful way without time to regroup and re-energize. I know people who work seven days a week, and I can’t quite figure out how – or why – they do so. The Creation story tells us that God created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh. It wasn’t that God needed to rest; he’s God, after all, and God possesses limitless energy. No, God rested on the seventh day to give a model to his covenant people that the rhythm of life needs to include rest.
At St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, I will be talking on Sunday about the value of rest, and I will touch on how important it is to work not into our rest, but from it. It may seem subtle, but there is a difference.
We can push ourselves to the point where if we don’t take a day off, our bodies will force us into it through illness. That’s working into our rest – we’re resting because we are left with no other viable alternative. And it’s not healthy.
Instead, we should work from our rest, where our Sabbath time is used in such a way as to re-energize us for the week that is to come. And in that process, we can pace ourselves so that we don’t find ourselves saying, “Boy, I sure hope I’m going to make it to my Sabbath this week.” We should look forward to it eagerly, of course, and our bodies, minds and spirits should become accustomed to the rhythm of expecting rest in the midst of our efforts.
For many of us, that means scheduling that day of rest – actually putting it in the calendar. Nature abhors a vacuum, as the saying goes, and if we have blank spaces on our calendars, we are inclined to fill them – often needlessly. By blocking off an entire day for rest, it keeps work activities at bay. And it frees us to do things that energize us and bring us joy. This should include, but not be limited to, worship, sleep, and time with those we love.
So if you’re celebrating Labour Day weekend by not labouring, good for you! Enjoy the rest, and ask the Lord to let it prepare you for the week that is ahead.
Jesus said to his followers that “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath” (Mark 2.27, NLT).
On a Facebook recommendation, I pre-ordered, and received quickly from Amazon.ca, the latest publication by Rowan Williams, entitled, Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer (Eerdmans, 2014). It is a surprisingly small book, at under ninety pages. And it is a quick read; it arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon, and I had it completed before going to sleep (with several other needful things done in between).
I recommend this book for those looking for a basic refresher on some of these fundamental aspects of what it means to follow Jesus. As the subtitle suggests, he writes (about twenty pages on each) about the meaning and implications of the sacrament of Baptism, how we read (or hear) the Bible, what it means to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and then gives a brief summary of three views on the Lord’s Prayer (from Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Cassian, all classic Christian writers from early [pre-AD 600] Christianity).
Williams is clear, concise, and accessible in his writing style. He writes with a modest Anglican bias, which the reader would only expect coming from the immediate past Archbishop of Canterbury! But even with that ‘filter’, Williams could be read quite satisfactorily by an inquirer, or by a believer from any branch of the church.
There were six especially helpful learning points that I noted for myself in the book:
- In the Eastern Christian tradition, some icons for the baptism of Jesus depict Jesus up to his neck in water, with river gods, representing chaos being overcome, beneath the water. The old ways are always trying to claim us back.
- The Bible is, in a way, our own story, so history matters when reading Scripture.
- In the Eucharist, Jesus is telling us he wants our company.
- Prayer is about changing your attitude.
- Prayer is a promise to God.
- This one deserves to be quoted: “[Prayer] is opening our minds and hearts and saying to the Father, ‘Here is your Son, praying in me through the Holy Spirit. Please listen to him, because I want him to be working, acting and loving in me'” (p. 80).
Reflection and discussion questions are provided at the end of each chapter for use by individuals or groups. This is a short and helpful read, and I recommend it.
Yesterday afternoon, commuter traffic was snarled in the area around Burlington and Hamilton, Ontario, due to an accident. While this is nothing new, the kind of accident was a bit unusual. A tractor-trailer operator, with a long dump trailer, had failed to lower his dump hoist while travelling on the Burlington Skyway, which bridges Burlington and Hamilton across Burlington Bay. And because it was in the Toronto-bound lanes, there was superstructure overhead, and the raised dump hoist meant that the truck crashed into the bridge’s superstructure, causing damage to the trailer and to the structural integrity of the bridge.
As it turns out, the operator has been charged with impaired driving. I suppose that’s not too surprising; ordinarily, those who drive dump trucks are extremely careful to lower their dumping mechanisms, since they can get caught not only on bridge superstructures, but also hydro wires and the like.
I liken an inappropriately-raised dump hoist to human pride. If we let our pride stand out, it can cause us trouble. Like that dump truck accident, it can also cause others trouble, too. Because of that accident yesterday, hours were added to people’s commutes.
On this first day of a new month, take a few moments to do a gut check on your pride. Ask yourself: Have I given my pride over to God? Am I living in humility as God calls me to do? The traffic of your life will flow along more smoothly when pride is lowered to clear any overhead barriers.
“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” (Proverbs 16.18, NLT).