Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Rest for our souls

As we enter a New Year after a busy Christmas filled with the blessing of our children and new granddaughter and our wonderful church family, I sit at the start of this New Year thinking about rest and how much I need it.  A sermon I heard recently left me exhausted just listening to the preacher as he exhorted his congregation to be more, do more and give more. 

I have in the past been a part of a large church where the act of serving (and giving) was seen as of the highest importance. The 80 –20 rule unfortunately still applies in church where 20% do most of the work. This leads to many exhausted folks who eventually give up on church and opt for the quieter life and to be honest I cannot say that I blame them, life with work and family is busy enough. 

We read in Genesis 2 v 1-3 ‘Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

This Rest associated with Restoring is important; we need to see that after a busy period we all need to catch our breath. 
Exodus 34:20 “Six days you shall labour, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the ploughing season and harvest you must rest – even during our busiest periods our body needs a break. 

The sleep pattern consists of a series of distinct cycle and stages that restore and refresh our body and mind. It is known that even minimal sleep loss takes a toll on our mood, energy, efficiency, and ability to handle stress. If we want to feel our best, stay healthy, and fulfil our potential, sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. The rest of sleep brings restoration to our world it’s an essential part of our natural rhythm. We have time to look back to what we have accomplished but from a place of restorative rest.

This rest associated with Remembering 
Exodus 20:8 tells us to, Remember the Sabbath day and keep it Holy
And again in Deuteronomy 5 Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

The Sabbath to the Jewish community represented a joyful celebration and well-deserved rest; it is holy, because on this day God rested. It was a rest for all which included the servants and even the animals. It was not only to be a physical rest but a time of remembering there past as slaves in Egypt. 

Unfortunately in the Talmud, the Hebrew commentaries on Scripture, there are 39 categories of work that should not be done on Sabbath. 
These included basic tasks such as cooking, construction, repairing, writing, and making fires, cutting wood and any other things considered as general labour. There are even restrictions on certain activities that would lead one to inadvertently doing these types of work. For example, an individual is not allowed to climb a tree during Sabbath in order to avoid accidentally snapping a twig, which would technically be defined as cutting wood. Another adjustment of the labours prohibited to modern times is driving. One is not allowed to move one object to another during the Sabbath, thus driving a vehicle falls under this category. 

As we can see many rules were added by the Jews to this rest. A documentary shown recently on channel 4 showed the life in the Jewish community, a wife and mother portrayed adhering to these rules revealed how exhausting execution of them was and it certainly was not the rest that the command implies. 

Is this what we are now seeing replicated in our modern churches, do we have a 'evangelical Talmud' full of rules and regulations used to measure how committed we are to the church? As a church leader I take this seriously, I want to make sure that I live my life with a pattern of balance and a rhythm of rest.

Wherever you are feeling stressed and exhausted from working/serving I want to encourage you today to take a rest of remembering. 
God rested and saw that it was good let us take time to remember, review and hopefully say, ‘it is good’ and then press on into this New Year filled with possibility. 

This could also be a good time to make changes in this new season, especially from this place of remembering rest.

Rest associated with Renewal
Jesus said to his followers in Matthew 11:28-29
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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. In the Old Testament we see that it prescribes rest for the body but here, Jesus describes a rest for our SOULS. 

In Mark 6:30-32 we read ‘the apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.  Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place, I love this thought after my week of so many people coming and going (all truly wonderful) but today I needed sometime to get away to that quiet place. I have found that place writing this today, reminding myself of what I want to see in 2013, and the plans and thoughts I have for this New Year. 

We need to find space to refuel and recharge our batteries, getting away to find this rest of renewal helps us to not grow weary during the busy seasons of our lives. We can then be ready to share with others from this place of rest. 

This New Year holds the challenge for us to find this place of rest, we should resist letting anyone steal it, we also cannot and should not if in a place of leadership knowingly take it from others by demanding they exhaust themselves in doing too much of what we prescribe as service. 

I pray that you will find on this new day at the start of this New Year a time to remember, and a rest that restores and renews.

Isaiah 40 v 31 But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
And I say a huge AMEN to that, 2013 here we come