Rest In The Lord
REST IN THE LORD
I have learned that in life there are two types of tired. The first type of tired is where you have run the good race. You have done good work. You have given it your best. You have put your heart into what you do. You have put your heart into your work, your family, your volunteering, your recreation, and at the end of the week you are like, “man am I tired.” It’s the type of tired that comes when joy has flowed deep from your bones into your work and you feel you have done something worth doing.
That is how I feel about being the Pastor here at Calvin. It’s not that there haven’t been challenges. It’s not that I haven’t made mistakes. It’s not that I haven’t been frustrated at times. It is at the end of the week I reach my Sabbath day, which is Friday, and I am a good type of tired. Part of it is my attitude has changed. When you get paid to love people you either get better at loving people or you find a different occupation. Living this life has made me a more loving man. It has made me a better human being. And as my perspective has changed I have come to enjoy my job more. You can only enjoy being a minister if you fall deeply in love with people. Because it’s not about us. It is about Jesus. Part of it is my perspective has changed. Yet, part of it is you guys. You guys are sort of awesome. Here is how awesome you are. You guys rock it even when I blow it.
It isn’t much of a secret that I didn’t do my best during Vacation Bible School this year. There are a couple of reasons for that. But one of the main reasons was I was dealing with a head injury at the time. I didn’t do my best. I was sort of out of it. I was pushing myself too hard for the condition I was in. And I have heard that some families that have visited us were surprised to find that I was the pastor when they came to worship. Now I did a good job with follow up with the families that visited us. Barbara went with me to visit a couple of families and she can tell you that. But I blew it in the main event. And sometimes you blow it in work.
Despite the fact that I blew it we have had several families coming to worship as our guests since VBS. That sure wasn’t because of me. That was because of you guys. That was because kids are like, “these folks are awesome,” and they ask their parents to come back. For here is the Spirit of Jesus which says “Let the Children Come to me do not hinder them. For such belongs the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:14).
And then there is a bad tired. It’s the type of tired where you can’t go another day. It is the type of tired where you are dying on the inside. You are filled with anxiety and fear and you don’t know which way to turn. I have experienced this tired as well. While I was taking a break from ordained ministry I worked at Goodwill. Now I have to preface this by saying that Goodwill does a lot of good work. You may not know that their mission is actually to provide services for disabled individuals. Goodwill is a big organization and they help a lot of people. But like many big organizations results may vary depending upon what location you are at. But I didn’t have a great experience at my location. My job was to take donations, lift them into the loading dock, write tax receipts, and sort donations to put on the floor, or trash if they were not suitable for sale. There is a saying that that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. My experience is that one person’s trash is another person’s trash. It wasn’t that people didn’t give us nice use clothes or appliances, but more often than not people used Goodwill as a dump they could bring their unwanted things and get a tax write offer them. We made good money selling what we could but our garbage bill was substantial I learned. I still remember the Christmas I worked there someone donated an expensive set of silverware. When I received it I wept. Because I was so used to people throwing their trash at me. This feeling of being treated like trash extended through the management. I can’t say I met anyone there who actually enjoyed working there.
The most frustrating thing about my time working there was my name is Will. My name was clearly displayed on my nametag. My name is Will and I worked at Goodwill. What a great pun right? And you all know how much I love puns. And in the six months I was there only one person read my nametag and picked up on the pun and laughed. I think in six months only one person cared to read my nametag to know my name. But how often have we done that in our daily lives? We may not all end up being corporate executives. But we are all human beings. We are all made in the image of God. We are all worthy of love. We are all worthy of respect. Those who serve us are worthy of love and respect even when we are not getting the type of service we expect. Even when we are having a bad day. Jesus says the greatest among us shall become servants. But in our society we don’t’ treat those who serve us all that well. We have all been on the receiving end of that. So let us be mindful not do dish it out. Let us honor those who serve us.
There are two types of tired. A good tired and a bad tired. And for each we need the Sabbath. For each we need to rest in the Lord. The Hebrew word for Sabbath means to stop, cease, or keep. And I have found in my ministry and in my life keeping Sabbath is essential for my spiritual, mental, and physical health. So today I would like to answer three questions about the Sabbath
- Why did God rest?
- Why Should we rest?
- What was the Sabbath made for?
First, why did God rest? Exodus grounds the commandment to keep the Sabbath in the creation story where on the Seventh Day God rested from His work and declared it very good. Whether you take this metaphorically or literally it raises the interesting question.
Does God get tired?
We know Jesus got tired in his incarnation, as a human being. But in God’s divine nature does God get tired? Does God answer some of our prayers and is then like, “answering that prayer for a restored marriage for couple so and so was a lot of work. I am going to take a break and not answer the prayers of that other couple. They can wait till I take a nap.” On its face the idea that God get’s tired seems absurd. Elsewhere scripture says this is not the case. Isaiah 40:28-31 says, “ Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
The tradition this church is part of, the Reformed tradition, teaches us that if we don’t understand one part of scripture the LORD might have an answer for us in another part of scripture. And this scripture clearly states that God does not get tired. It even uses creation as an example of His power. So if God did not rest because He was tired why did God rest? I think the key is 1 John 4:8 where the scriptures tell us that God is love. This is not a human love. This is Divine Love. This is perfect love that casts out fear. Think of your own experience of love.
When our lives are full of love, when we are with people that we love, in place that we love, doing work that we love, we feel safe, we feel secure, we are not compelled to move by force, but our hearts move us to serve. When we are in an environment of love we are in a natural state of rest. Even if we are working hard. Love can make time fly by.
Yet, think about what happens when we lack love in our lives. Think of how your life has been when we have been desperate for love. A couple of weeks ago I was listening to the NPR radio show, Another View Episode 9/1/2017 entitled Love Life!
I think it was about internet dating. I remember one woman called in. She was sixty four years old and she had been through a series of broken relationships. She asked why she couldn’t find a good man. One of the experts said something along the lines of we have to accept that there is only one person in common between all our relationships, that is us. Because we believe we are not worthy of love we feel needy and predators use our need. No one deserves to be abused or used. But we must accept that an unhealthy desire to be loved leads us to being used. But the scripture says that God’s Love has been poured out into our heart through the Holy Spirit whom has been given to us so we need not lack for love (Romans 5:5)
So if God is Love perhaps God rested simply because that is God’s natural, or to be more accurate supernatural state. God is Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is a perfect relationship. God is always at rest. He has no need for us to love Him, so nothing can move Him. He moves, he creates, because He first loved us, and by His mercy he gave us the honor of sharing in His love. God created out of His mercy and love, not because He needed us. The book of James tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17). God is not like the shadows that change as the sun moves. God is the sun. He is the light by which we see. Our prayers do not force his hands. But by his grace and mercy His hand does use our prayers and His hand does move in our lives. God rests because God is Love. And the nature of love is to rest.
God rests because God is Love and it is the nature of love to bring rest. So why then should we rest? Well, first we should rest to make room for love in our lives. We need to make room to love our friends, our spouses, our children, ourselves, and our God. We can’t do that if we are frantic and frenzied. We can always make more money. We can gain more prestige and power. But we can never have more time.
Second we rest because God has set us free. Deuteronomy 5:14 gives another reason for God’s people to observe the Sabbath. Because he freed them from slavery in Egypt. And indeed, by his death and resurrection, Christ freed us from death and sin. The people of Israel did nothing but watch as God laid the smack down on Pharaoh. And we did nothing to deserve Christ dying for us. In fact, our sins crucified Him. This shows us that we can rest because God is powerful enough to fight for us. We don’t do good works to be saved. Because we are saved the Lord has given us good works to do (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus tells us that if we love him we will obey his commandments (John 14:15). One of the hardest commandments to obey is to take a day to do nothing. But if we do maybe we will see that it’s not about us. It’s about Jesus. If we take the time to rest in the LORD maybe we will begin to see all the ways the LORD fights for us.
Finally, we must ask why was the Sabbath made? Mark 2:27 tells us the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. God didn’t rest on the Seventh day because he was tired. He rested on the seventh day because before there were days, before there was time, he was at rest for God is Love. Thus God doesn’t need a day off we do. And Jesus tells us if observing the Sabbath hurts people it isn’t the Sabbath. How to practice the Sabbath in the right way was one of Jesus’ big issues. The Pharisees knew the Law of the Sabbath but the not the Spirit of the Sabbath. They set out to kill Jesus because he healed on the Sabbath. But Jesus taught that if your sheep is stuck in a ditch of course you should get it out on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:11). The Lord calls us to rest in a way that is restful to us. Not in a way that hurts us.
For example, when I first came here I was committed to being more serious about my Friday Sabbath. So I didn’t exercise at all. But I found sitting in a coffee shop and reading all day not to be very relaxing because my work is mainly intellectual, I read for a lot for work. So I changed it up to begin my day off with running and stretching. And now I feel much more relaxed on my day off. But if your job is mainly manual labor, doing more manual labor on your day off isn’t helpful. It is also good to do good on the Sabbath. For example, one of my rules for ministry is to accept an invitation. Several of you have invited me to events that are important to you on my Sabbath and I have accepted because I love you guys and it is good to do good on the Sabbath. I went to Tangier Island with Bill and Charlotte and met one of my best friends that way. I have ridden on combines. I have done a lot of different things because people have invited me. One thing I will not do is jump out of an airplane. Other than that I am open to trying things with you all if I am not too tired.
Yet, Often in our lives we convince ourselves that things cannot wait. When in fact they can. The world will not fall apart without us. For it’s not about us. It’s about Jesus. And He will fight for us if we learn to rest in him. So will you receive the invitation of our Lord today? For he calls to us saying, “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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30). Lord let us rest in you for you are all the love we will ever need. For we believe that as we rest in you, you will fight for us.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.