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A Time of Work and a Time of Rest

In Mark 6:31-32, Jesus said to His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.

Now I would be lying if I did not share that I am looking forward to getting away next week on a long planned-and-hoped-for family vacation. However, I would also be lying if I did not share that I feel a twinge of guilt in going away. Because while I am resting, there are needs that still need to be met. And new needs that need attention will pop up.

Taking time to rest can be its own kind of stress, if we fail to give ourselves permission to do it. That is why these verses from Mark are so powerful.

In this text Jesus established the necessity of time alone, or at least time away from the daily stresses and strains of life that consume us.

This scripture recalls a time when Jesus commanded His disciples upon their return from their missionary journeys to “get away from it all.”

He said: Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while. (Verse 31) Notice it was for the purpose of getting some rest in the midst of the heavy demands of all the people around them, for many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. (Verse 32)

We are living in a season of heavy demands.

I recently read these words about the dangers of failing to get away and rest.

One danger we face in our lives is getting too caught up in the constant “busy-ness” of life. Each day can place more and more demands and responsibilities upon us, soaking up our emotions and energy to the point of feeling like we’re drowning in the midst of our activities! Before we know it, relationships suffer, the quality of our work is affected, and we are wide open for the devil’s temptations in our emotional and mental weakness. Keeping busy becomes the “god” which motivates, drives, and defines our lives. It becomes more natural to stay busy so that we don’t have to face our true selves and struggles in the midst of our spiritual decay. The devil takes the blessing of work and turns it into the burden of sin.

There’s a wonderful comic novel by a woman named Celia Gittelson. It’s called Saving Grace, and it was made into a movie — although it’s not to be confused with a more recent film and television series with the same title. This Saving Grace is about a newly elected pope, Leo XIV, who until a short time before had been perfectly happy being a cardinal. Through a quirk of Vatican politics, he’s proposed as a dark–horse candidate for Pope. To the world’s surprise – and his own – he gets elected. This pope is somewhat reminiscent of John Paul I (the immediate predecessor to John Paul II, who reigned only a matter of weeks before dying suddenly).

Dressed as a common priest, he eludes his entourage and bodyguards. This man is still so new as Pope that his face is not yet widely recognizable.

Through a series of unpredictable events, Pope Leo ends up in a tiny Italian mountain village. There he discovers a church in ruins, one that has no priest. The villagers assume he’s been sent to be their priest, and he doesn't contradict their assumption. He sets to work rebuilding the church's building.

Back home, his Vatican handlers comically struggle to cover up the fact that they’ve somehow managed to lose the pope. They issue vague press releases about him being sick in bed, hoping against hope that the Pontifex Maximus will show up again before they’re called upon to actually produce him.

There’s a lot more that happens in this book, but this part of the story is enough to make the point: Even a pope - even the 12 Disciples - even Jesus himself, for that matter – and certainly you and I need to find that sabbath place from time to time, the place where striving ceases and true communion with God is to be found.

Last week I as I stood by a graveside, I read from Ecclesiastes 3. Verse 1 says “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

Yes, there is a time to work and a time to rest.

In fact, as I have studied the ideas of rest and sabbath, I have discovered that rest was a gift created and shared with us by God. In the story of creation, we hear on the seventh day God rested. If we really think of this statement, we might start to wonder why God rested. Because being God there was no need for God to rest. This day of rest was of no benefit to God. As the All-Powerful, Omniscient, and Almighty Creator of all there would be no reason for Him to rest! Our Lord put rest in place for us so that we could be refreshed and re-charged for further work! Both work and rest are God’s gifts to us!

After every break at my school when we return, I hear folks say, “It sure was great to get away but it’s also nice to get back to work too!” A balance of work and rest helps you appreciate them as gifts from God!

Friends, may we all take time to slow down and recharge, both in extended times and in moments of sabbath that are available to us each day if we only make room for them.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Hebrews 4:9-11 tell us there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest.

Take time to rest during these busy days. Next week I plan on doing that. I am going to nap and absorb some sunshine and I am sure eat too much and engage in some mindless activities and laugh a lot. Who knows my wife might even get me to dance.

But I also plan to find some time alone. Perhaps looking across the sea and marveling at the majesty of God. And also by spending time with God reading scripture and praying and listening.

And in so doing I pray I will be renewed and reenergized to continue striving to live a life of as a follower of Jesus Christ each and every day.

In the name of our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Alleluia Amen.


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