8. Pentecost: Godly Rest

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

22 July 2012

St. John United Church of Christ

St. Clair, MO


“Godly Rest”


Based on St. Mark 6: 30-32

By Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell


            Shortly after Jesus tells his disciples how they are to go out and share the Good News of God, he tells them “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Why does he tell them this? We hear that already “many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” So many were coming to them to be healed, to hear a word of hope, that the disciples didn’t even have time to eat! So Jesus tells them to do what he does in times like these – to go away by themselves and rest. Though we often think of Jesus mainly in the activity of healing so many and teaching large crowds, after such events he would go away to a deserted place and pray and rest, to regroup and rejuvenate himself. He urges the disciples to do the same. Episcopal priest Greg Syler reminds us, “Even as popular and public a figure as Jesus still understood the need for balance between programming and solitude, between time spent with the throngs and meaning gained by being with the inner circle.”[1]

            Jesus’ message to us is essentially the same: rest. What an appropriate time to hear this message. We are mid-way through summer, past the church picnic and barbeque, installation, and now Vacation Bible School. I know all of our dedicated VBS teachers, helpers and volunteers can appreciate a word of rest. Certainly our church life continues with just as important activities as any time of year, though it seems that we have passed some of our more time-intensive and substantial summer commitments.

            Summer is traditionally a time for rest and recreation. But sometimes we end up packing it with so many things that we come to Labor Day just as tired as on Memorial Day. From family reunions, cross country trips, all those summer weddings, taking kids to camp and summer school, baseball games,  to Independence day celebrations and fireworks – these are all good things, but they sure do add up quick – and before you know it, here we are, almost done with July.

            So Jesus’ words to the disciples and to us are well-timed: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” If Jesus needed time to rest by himself, and the disciples did too, we certainly do as well. Jesus really does want us to get away from it all – to pause all the busyness of our lives and simply rest. When we keep going and going without any rest or rejuvenation, we are on a sure track to burnout. I’ve seen it here in the church with dedicate, loyal volunteers who have taken on multiple responsibilities and gone too long without rest or appreciation. It is not only physically and emotionally taxing, but spiritually as well. We need to heed Jesus’ words to take time away for ourselves and to simply rest.

            Rest is a godly value and responsibility. The creation stories of Genesis tell us that after all the activity of Creation, God rested on the seventh day. Daniel Kirk, a professor at Fuller Seminary says that, “Rest is one of those things by which God intends for us to know God’s goodness…In Genesis 1 humans are created to rule and then, it would seem, imitating God in the weekly action of rest. In contrast to the slavery they endured under Pharaoh, God brought his people out, freed them so that they cold serve God–and rest.”[2] As Christians, we believe in the importance of Sabbath rest. But like summer, too often the Sabbath day becomes another time to catch up on everything from the past week. But that’s not what the Sabbath was created for – it was created for our pure enjoyment, for recreation, for lazy afternoons. I think of Andy Taylor and Barney Fife sitting on a Mayberry porch as a perfect example, rocking in their chairs as Barney says, “I think I’ll go home, take a nap, then go over to Thelma Lou’s and watch a little TV.”

            In the midst of our busy lives, Jesus bids us to go rest awhile. Now for some of us it isn’t exactly easy to find rest – for those with demanding jobs where the only vacation day is a day without pay, for those raising a family, for those always on the go, for those who wouldn’t know what to do if they weren’t busy. For all of us, even in those situations, I invite you to find time to rest. Find ways to carve some rest and recreation in your life. If you can’t afford a week away, find an hour, an afternoon, or day  to be unscheduled, unplugged, unconnected from your phone, your Blackberry, your iPad, email, facebook and Twitter. Disconnect and rejuvenate. Find ways to refresh yourself. Your body needs it. Your mind needs it. And your soul needs it. Whatever it is that sustains you, that gives you energy and life. What restores your soul? What makes your load feel lighter? What fills you with life? As many of you know, for me it is theatre. Whatever it is for you – spending time at the river, fishing until dawn, reading a favorite murder mystery, taking a trip, playing with your grandchildren – do it! By all means let it fill and refresh your soul. And take some time to yourself to be quiet, to contemplate, to rest in God’s presence and just listen.           

            There is enough busyness in our world for all of our lifetimes, no matter how long each of us has to enjoy this life. There is always more work to do, there is always something calling at our attention. But remember the same held true for Jesus. There was always another person to be healed, another word to offer. But what did he do? He went away to rest. He told his disciples, and that includes us, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” So in these waning summer days, lay aside whatever you can to find rest. It’s not lazy, it’s part of our responsibility as Jesus’ disciples to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others.

            In closing, I want to share with you the beautiful words of artist-poet Jan Richardson from her “Blessing of Rest”:

Curl this blessing
beneath your head
for a pillow.
Wrap it about yourself
for a blanket.
Lay it across your eyes
and for this moment
cease thinking about
what comes next,
what you will do
when you rise.

Let this blessing
gather itself to you
like the stillness
that descends
between your heartbeats,
the silence that comes
so briefly
but with a constancy
on which
your life depends.

Settle yourself
into the quiet
this blessing brings,
the hand it lays
upon your brow,
the whispered word
it breathes into
your ear
telling you
all shall be well
all shall be well
and you can rest





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