There is a need for rest. Christ invites us to come to him and to rest... to come aside to a quiet place and rest awhile after all that has been said and done. It has been a year since I first stood in this pulpit as the potential new Rector and Dean. So much has happened in this past year and so much more needs to happen in the next few weeks as we host Synod and move into another year of full time ministry within in this congregation and this city. But in this moment, there is a need for rest. There is the call from Christ to come aside with him and rest with him and in him.
Actively proclaiming and sharing the Good News of what God is doing in Christ is hard work. There is a constant and consistent “disturbance” in the life of those who minister the Gospel. There is a constant drawing up the grace and strength that is given to the leadership of the community and their abilities to provide for those around you because you find that they too are without a shepherd. Anyone who finds themselves in ministry is going to feel that urge to try and meet the needs of the people around him who are in need, who are sick, harassed, wounded, dying. It is a Christly thing to want to do so. Jesus himself is moved in himself to want to do things for the people he loves (Mark 6.34).
We are familiar with the words of Psalm 23 and the first line in particular that reminds us that the Lord is our shepherd and that we will not lack what we need. What happens when what we need is rest? Stop for a moment and consider what the psalm goes on to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” One of the things I hear in the words of the psalmist is that we are to rest in places that are provided for our benefit, to have places to be still to hear the voice of God and feel the stillness of the Spirit and there are paths that we will be guided to so that we will be able to enjoy the service we give to God and find that we can love our community and neighbours in the process. We are called to be contented people in a world that constantly demands self gratification and self satisfaction. We are drawn to find our joy and our satisfaction in God and in the real and healthy relationships that we hold with each other rather than the frenetic stampede to that next thing, that next experience that is supposed to make us complete. What we need more than anything in this chaotic life is a chance to rest: to turn off the 24 hour news channels, shut down the computers, put away the smart phones and iPads so that we can find a place without the wireless signal and just be for a moment. And having been quiet to sense God’s presence, then to seek out the community of God (the Church) so that we can offer prayers and praise to the One who not only leads through the Valley of the Shadow of death but who also makes grace and mercy doggedly follow us wherever we go until we find ourselves in his house and his eternal presence.
So ask yourself this: what one thing will you give up this week to give you rest? And what one thing will you do to help you find that green pasture, that stop beside peaceful water so that the Lord can do some renovations on your soul? After all didn’t Jesus say, “Come to me all that labour and are heavy ladened, and I will refresh you”?