Come Away and Rest A While

“Come away to a deserted place
all by yourselves and rest a while”
(Jesus in Mark 6:31 NRSV)

Modern people live hectic lives. So hectic even our vacations leave us more exhausted than the jobs from which we are seeking a break. Study after study reports that Americans are overworked, overstressed, overweight, overextended, and overtired.

While there may be many complex reasons for this situation and by no means am I offering a single fix-it-all solution, but one spiritual discipline that holds out promise toward a solution would be a rediscovery of Sabbath. There was a time not so long ago when Sabbath was a value embedded in our society. Perhaps quaint now, we once believed that Sunday was a “Sabbath” on which work was not to be done unless absolutely necessary. Youth sporting events would never be allowed on this sacred day. Even Wednesday evenings when churches met for prayer and Bible study was granted a quasi-sacred respect. Those days are gone and I’m not altogether disappointed in seeing the quirkier blue laws related to this holy culture set aside, however . . .

However in losing all of what Sabbath once was, we have lost what we now need the most: time for rest.

The biblical story is punctuated with the human need for Sabbath. Sabbath is an interesting word in Hebrew that looks like both the word “rest” and “seven.” So it was an easy association between the need for rest and the seventh day. Even the creation story was told to climax in God resting on the seventh day. The Old Testament has two takes on why the ancient people of Israel should rest at the end of every week. First, based on the creation story, God did (Exodus 20:8-11). Second, however, was that the Israelites had once been slaves, thus forced to work every day, and now God had set them free. Resting then was a symbol of being free (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).

Ironically by the time of the New Testament, Sabbath had become a burden rather than a blessing. Jesus challenged the religious leaders of the day for turning Sabbath into a test of orthodoxy for separating the faithful from the irreligious. Jesus intentionally did his ministry and miracles on the Sabbath and more than once did the powers confront him. In each case Jesus would rebuff them with sayings like

“Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath? … Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:10–12).

Or in another place,

“The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27–28).

Jesus sought to restore Sabbath as a good thing for people. Consistent with this Jesus once invited his busy disciples to “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

We invite you to come rest a while with us through this season of Lent.

Copied from my article in our church newsletter at http://www.fcchammond.org/FEBOUTLOOK2013.aspx.

Do You Have a Passionate Spirituality?

This is not a question you get asked everyday. Nonetheless it is still a very good question to ponder.

To define our terms a bit, spirituality can refer to anything from how I feel about myself to what God is doing in and through me. However, while the word spirituality does not occur in the Bible, related words such as spirit and spiritual do. The words translated spirit, in both the OT and NT, can also mean wind, breath, or spirit. Thus, this word group can be used to describe both internal and external “unseen” processes.

There is much that could be said here, but in sum, when the Bible and Christian tradition speaks of spirituality, the notion deals with some connection we have with God’s Spirit. Christian spirituality is when God’s Holy Spirit touches our human spirits. It is a way to speak of our journey towards God. This journey is the primary work and mission God has placed on the church.

When I ask if you have a passionate spirituality, what I mean is your spirituality alive, vital, and practiced? Again, the Bible and Christian tradition has passed on to those who seek to follow Jesus certain practices that will condition them for the journey. These practices include, but are not limited to, the following: prayer, meditation, reading scripture, giving, fasting, worship, spiritual conversations, reading works of spirituality, and service. Those who have a vital, passionate spirituality are those willing to commit to these practices.

While these spiritual practices can’t make God respond to our (self-)perceived needs—would we really want that anyway?—they can posture us so that we are more useful to God’s purposes.

Pray right now, if you can, that God will give you and your church a deeper, more passionate spirituality.