I have been asked to perform the Gospel of Mark from memory in October at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. Thus, I have been re-learning and rehearsing the lines of Mark’s gospel that I first memorized in 2010. Every time I do this, there are two verses that stand out in my mind. Both are related. The first is one I mentioned in this article last week – Mark 6:31. Jesus said to his disciples, “Come away, by yourselves, to a deserted place and rest. For many were coming and going and they had no leisure not even to eat.” Rest is important to Jesus, for the very fact that we cannot fulfill our purpose as his disciples without it. The second is a verse nearly hidden amid all the frenetic activity of chapter 1 (healings, exorcisms, temptations by Satan…): “Early in the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went away to a deserted place. And there he began to pray” (Mark 1:35). Rest is likewise important for spiritual renewal.
At our retreat last weekend at Villa Maria, Rev. Al Keeney told a story about the importance of rest as it pertains to perspective and clarity of vision. A seeker of truth sought out the wise, old hermit, renowned world-wide for his wisdom. The seeker, finding him in a hut in the farthest reaches of the wilderness, begged to know his secrets. “I do not know how to see clearly; how to live or act; how to make my way in the world.” The hermit silently nodded, then beckoned the seeker to follow him. He took a drinking glass before leaving the hut and walked slowly down to the shallow, muddy stream that rolled gently by his hut. He dipped the glass into the brown, murky water and then returned slowly to the hut. He motioned for the seeker to sit down opposite him, and he placed the glass of water on the ground between them. For hours they sat like that, watching the water in the glass. First it swirled, with all manner of dust particles in movement. After some time, the particles stopped moving and began to settle. Finally as the sun was going down, all of the sentiment rested on the bottom and what sat upon it was crystal, clear, transparent water. Sometimes, the lesson learned by the seeker that day, true wisdom in life comes only by “resting” and letting the chaos swirling around us to settle.
Sadly, rest for us may seem like a rare and prized commodity. Many businesses are open “on the sabbath” and, correspondingly, their employees are expected to work. Finding time to rest and let things settle may seem like a tremendous luxury. True, we have days like Labor Day, which has been a national holiday since 1894 and the result of the late 19th century labor movement’s desire to celebrate the accomplishments of factory laborers. But even on this holiday, many businesses – such as hospitals and long-term care facilities – simply must remain open.
And yet rest remains of great emotional, spiritual, and intellectual value. So as you read these words, consider the following, when it comes to rest:
Assess your ability to rest. How often during the week/month, outside of sleeping, do you take time to do nothing but “rest”? And are you resting enough at night (in your sleep)? In whatever free time you have from work, are you able to rest? Or do you tend to pack more activities into that time?
Minister’s Article Continued On Page 3….
Are you able to take a complete day off from you place of employment? If so, how do you fill that time? It may not be on Sunday (the traditional sabbath), but can you find your sabbath day at another time during the week?
Are you able to carve out any sabbath time (time for rest) at all over the course of any given week/month? If not, what is motivating you to fill your time with the activities that you undertake? What would happen if you didn’t undertake them all?
As a pastor, who clearly works every sabbath day, I do believe it is possible to find “sabbath time” at other times during the week/month. It may not seem like it’s obvious, but the time is there. Just think how much more clearly we would be able to see, if we took the chance to let things settle in our lives from time to time. That is my prayer for all of us.
Blessings – Michael