“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
After the frantic activity of Holy Week, when so many people pulled together to make it a special opportunity to encounter God and our neighbour in exciting ways, even our hard-working vicar is having a well-earned break.
From the numerous behind-the-scenes activities that make the church and its grounds a warm and welcoming space to visit; through the public-facing roles of serving tea and cake or helping entertain and teach the many children who passed through our doors; to those who toiled tirelessly on Saturday to prepare the church for the beautiful and joyful celebration of Easter Day; there was a massive collective effort made up of all those activities, large and small, done for the glory of God and to contribute to the inexorable advance of his kingdom.
From the beginning of the Bible however, God ordains rest as well as labour. Even God, in all his power and majesty, takes a rest after finishing his work of creation. This built-in period of rest and reflection is recalled in the fourth commandment:
“Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.”
This theme continues throughout the books of the Law, with periods of rest, restoration and renewal decreed for people, nations and even finance systems.
The converse is also true, the bible considers lack of rest as a curse, such as God’s punishment of Cain:
“You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
or in John’s vision of judgement:
“There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”
God’s gift of rest is not just for the chosen few, but extended out to bless all creation:
“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.”
In the hyper-connected modern world of frantic activity and constant shopping, it is easy to be drawn into a damaging cycle of continuous labours of one sort or another. This is not what God wants for us. We are given periods of rest to refresh ourselves and to give us an opportunity to reflect on our relationship with God. This isn’t just for our benefit, time to rest and recuperate also improves our relationships with each other, preventing the build-up of stress and strain that can so easily fray tempers.
For many of us the long weekend was all too short and it is back to work today. Others will be busy finding activities to occupy young children during the school holiday. But if we are able to carve out a small amount of time to regularly rest in God’s presence, then we will reap the benefits and find our strength restored.
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.”