Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The need for Rest (and why we aren't penguins

On Sunday my minister told us that if we learnt one thing in Church that day it is that we are not penguins. And he has a very good point! But he had a much deeper point than that, and I am going to try and present that now, with my own observations and twist on it. So here goes! (Side note, I spent three years at Uni wanting to finish an introduction to an essay with ‘So here goes’ but never did...)

The sermon started with a clip for the film March of the Penguins, talking about how in the winter penguins never get to rest, as they are constantly having to keep warm and look after their eggs. They never get to kick back, relax and just chill (sorry, too obvious a pun to leave out!). And it is in this way that we are unlike a penguin, or at least should be. Not only do we like, want and need rest, but God orders us to rest. The fourth commandment says:

‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day.’ (Exodus ch 20 v 8-11, NIV)

God sees the important of rest, for He himself rested. And as we are made in His image, then it makes sense that we too need rest. As my minister said, this doesn’t need to be taken to the extreme of the Pharisees who even outlawed spitting on the ground on the Sabbath as this could be seen as watering the ground or some Jewish groups who refuse to press a lift button on the Sabbath. And the rest needn’t be taken on a Sunday, as this is often the busiest day for some Christians by the very nature of their calling. But we should all set aside some time to do what penguins can’t; kick back, relax and chill.

The sermon went on to explore what we need to rest from. It’s not just the chance for a quick power-nap. We need to do what we can to remove any burden on us to properly rest, whether that burden be stress over money, personal lives, job security or worries over health or family or any of the other burdens that we have weighing us down. It is only when we remove this that we can truly rest. I’m not saying that it is easy; I have often been kept awake by various worries or stresses (weirdest of all is that I can never seem to sleep if I know I need to be up early because I’m worried I might over sleep!), and I don’t have a quick-fix solution. But the best person to turn to for help is God. Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew ch 11 v 28, NIV). There is a line from a worship song that says ‘Father, I place into your hands the things that trouble me… For I know I always can trust you’ (Father I Place Into Your Hands, Kingsway Thankyou Music, 1975), and this is what we are called to do, to place all our troubles, our stresses, our burdens and our worries into the hands of the Lord, for He is greater than all of any these and, when we are at our lowest, He will carry us through. And when Jesus took on the greatest burden, to be nailed to a piece of wood with the weight of all our sins on His shoulders, He removed the barrier that keeps us from God, and allows us to hand over our burdens.

My minster told a story of someone he knew who used to give talks to a Young Wives group in Liverpool and, whenever he started his sermons, the women would start nodding off. This worried him, so he thought about it, prayed about it and then it struck him that what he needed to do was to preach for longer! These women were carrying the weight of a young family on their shoulders, and this group was where they felt safe enough to relax, and God was giving them time to rest. So the sermons regularly lasted an hour, so that these young women could get rest before going back to the hustle and bustle of daily life.

So, I challenge you, and myself, to set aside a time to rest, to kick back, relax and chill with God. For it is what we are told to do. So find some time, turn off your computer, put your phone on silent, pray to God to relieve you of your burdens and spend some quality time doing nothing but relaxing in the safety and comfort of the Lord your Father. And this won’t be time wasted, as it should leave you refreshed, re-vitalised and raring to go.

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