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Updated: Jan 31

Sermon for Sunday, January 29

The Rev. Megan Collins

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Do you remember early in the pandemic, when everything shut down and most of us were at home a lot? (Except of course for those of you who were essential workers, and we are still so grateful to you). But for those of us who were not essential, we were home. All the busyness and the appointments and schedules came to this sudden halt, almost overnight. It was such a strange time and a really hard time too in a lot of ways. Some people got really sick. Families were trying to balance work and kids all at the same time. Some adults were isolated on their own. But there was one good thing that came of it.

We were forced to slow down.

We still tried to fill our time with all kinds of things. We baked lots of bread. We Zoomed one another. We took five walks a day. We watched strange TV shows like Tiger King. Dave and I got so bored one night we live-streamed our dog, sleeping, to everyone we knew. She wasn’t even doing anything. She was just sleeping. But even with all of these activities, life moved slower. Somewhere along the way, we relearned how to rest. It took the whole world coming to a standstill for us to rest.

Then we made big promises that we would take that lesson with us. We would remember, even as things opened up and we were grateful to get back to normal, what we had learned. We would adjust our priorities. We wouldn’t get so busy and we would not let our schedules get so full of things that didn’t really matter. We would make time for the important things and people but we would stay off the constant treadmill of activity and noise and traffic and media. Then we came out of our homes and we promptly forgot. Now things are as busy as they ever have been, maybe more so as it feels like we are trying to make up for lost time.

We are exhausted.

We have forgotten, again, to rest.

Today we are going to talk about rest. The Bible has so much to say about rest as a critical function of who we are, and it starts in the very beginning.

Genesis tells us two stories about God’s creative work in the beginnings of our world. In one of these creation stories it describes everything that God has done, that there was nothing and then there was everything, and then it says this:

And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done (Genesis 2:2-3).

After everything God has done, God rests. So for those of you who heard we were talking about rest, and thought “I’m too busy to rest,” if the God of the heavens and earth can rest, surely you can too. Go back a few verses and it says this:

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

Not only did God rest, but you are made in the image of God. Which means,

You were created to rest.

The need to rest is in your bones. I’m not talking about being lazy. You weren’t created for a six day Netflix binge (as fun as this might be). You were created for the kind of intentional rest that comes after a time of purposeful work. Your body was made for seasons of work and seasons of rest, right from the beginning. When you keep pushing and keep going and find yourself exhausted, it’s because you are denying the very way you were made.

But sometimes people don’t have a choice.

After the creation story, we start to learn about the formation of God’s people. They end up held as slaves in Egypt, where they are worked ruthlessly, day and night. They cry out to God and God frees them from bondage. If you are doing the Bible in a year with us, you will have read a lot of these stories over the past couple of weeks. Then as soon as God’s people are freed from bondage, they are free to rest. God immediately gives them the gift of the sabbath day, and then reminds them of it, over and over and over again.

“Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord; (Exodus 16:23)
For six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest (Exodus 23:12)
For six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord; (exodus 31:12-17)
For six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even in ploughing time and in harvest time you shall rest. (exodus 34:21)
For six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy sabbath of solemn rest to the Lord; (exodus 35:1-3)

Over and over again in Exodus, the people of God are reminded. God takes rest so seriously that the penalty of working on the sabbath in some passages is death. They have been freed from slavery to return to the rhythm for which they were created. Once they were forced to work, day in and day out. Now they are free to follow their work with rest.

Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:15).