Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 27; 147:12-20, Deuteronomy 9:23-10:5, Hebrews 4:1-10, John 3:16-21
Rest requires a lot of work.
In the fourth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, the evangelist compares the rest that waits for us in God’s presence to the rest experienced on the Sabbath. A first-century Jewish audience would have thought of a Sabbath very differently than we modern Christians think of a traditional Sunday. The command to honor the Sabbath was not merely a suggestion to take it easy – it was a command (actually a whole lot of them) about exactly what could and could not be done. Because so many types of activities were explicitly and implicitly forbidden, lots of things – such as meals, stove fires, and candles – had to be in place before sundown on Friday. Without proper preparation, one would spend the Sabbath hungry, cold, and in the dark.
That’s the difference between idleness and rest. Idleness is inactivity when and where there should be activity. Idleness now can actually make it almost impossible to rest comfortably later. Proper rest re-energizes our bodies, fuels our creativity, and focuses our spirits. When we don’t prepare time and space for such rest – when mundane demands creep into the space and gobble up the time – we end up more tired than when we began.
Just because we aren’t toiling doesn’t mean we’re resting; vacations can be exhausting! And rest isn’t necessarily unproductive. Jews observing the Sabbath can share festive meals together, take walks, read, sing, pray, play games, and make love. Each of our lists of restful activities may vary, but we still need to be intentional about them: cramming them into random spare moments reduces their benefit.
The author of Hebrews suggests that if we want to enter eternal rest with God, we ought to be preparing now. There’s no set checklist to accomplish before the time comes, nor a minimum number of brownie points to acquire. Through grace is given freely, the choices we make now prepare us to better receive it. Let’s prepare so as not to leave any unfinished business, any nagging worldly concerns, when that day of rest is finally offered to us.
Comfort: You are allowed to rest.
Challenge: Be deliberate about your periods of rest. Mark specific times/daysRest for it on your calendar.
Prayer: Loving God, I look forward to the day when I rest in your presence. Amen.
Discussion: Are you able to rest/relax? If so, how? If not, why?
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