Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Pentecost - July 23, 2006

“Come away to a deserted place, all by yourselves and rest awhile.”  Jesus said that.  Jesus told his disciples to rest.  It seems like a good verse to think about in the middle of the summer.  This is a time of the year when rest would seem to be a little more available for many.  People go to camp, they take vacations, which is good; but do they rest?  I’m not sure.  I know for example I talk to people who say, “I went to camp this weekend Pastor, and boy did I work hard,” which always leaves me wondering what’s the point if camp is just another house, another piece of property to take care of.  But there’s all those projects that have to get done before winter! 

People come back from vacation and say they really need another week to rest from being on vacation.  Kathy and I have done that; we go back to New England and then drive around every day we’re there trying to see everyone we can think of and that’s vacation.  It’s nice to see everyone, but it’s not restful.  People in the business world and people not in the business world for that matter go on vacation but take their laptop and cell phone and other electronic devices because they have to be connected, able to check their e-mail, able to stay in touch. 

As a society, we are not real good at resting.  Everyone acknowledges the need for rest but then we kind of feel guilty if we actually do it, or is it just me?  We’re programmed to be productive and we admire those who are productive; we reward them, maybe giving them more money, often by giving them more to do.  But if you went for a job interview and were asked, “What are your greatest strengths?” and you said, “Well, I’m really good at resting,” you might not get the job.  But Jesus said to his disciples, “Come away to a deserted place, all by yourselves and rest awhile.”

And the disciples were doing important work!  Remember a couple of weeks ago how they had been sent out by Jesus?  He cautioned them to anticipate failure but apparently things at that point were going well.  They were anxious to tell Jesus where they had been and what they had done and they were probably anxious to get back out there.  They had momentum and when you have momentum you don’t want to stop.  But Jesus says stop; come away, and rest awhile.  He gives permission to rest.   

What Jesus really does here is hearken back to the commandment on Sabbath.  It’s there, number three in our ordering of the commandments right after having no other gods and not taking God’s name in vain so being that high on the list one would think that it’s pretty important.   I think it is, but it is also largely misunderstood, this commandment to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, and we probably have Martin Luther to blame for the misunderstanding. 

In the catechism, his “what does this mean” for this commandment focuses primarily on the word and worship:  “We are to fear and love God so that we do not despise God’s Word or preaching, but instead keep that word holy and gladly hear and learn it.”  You remember that, right?  In other words, respect and honor the word of God and come to church to hear it and learn more about it.  Good advice, but not really what this commandment is about because what it’s about is rest.

You hear me talk fairly regularly these days about the Bible being an alternative script, an alternative to the way the world does things.  In the Old Testament, the commandments as presented to Moses on Mt. Sinai represent an alternative script.  They are not intended as a restrictive set of prohibitions.  They are intended to represent God’s alternative intention for the world, specifically at that time an alternative to the production and anxiety of Pharaoh’s Egypt.  In the middle of that alternative intention is rest.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work!

In the Bible Sabbath is not about worship as much as it is about rest.  But before you jump to the conclusion that you can remember the Sabbath day to keep in holy by sleeping in on Sunday, let me continue.  First of all remember that the first two commandments in this alternative script do clearly orient human beings toward God.  That relationship must be nurtured and it is nurtured in worship and praise of God so worship has been covered here.  Sabbath rest is not a replacement for worship.   Worship is part of Sabbath rest.

So Sabbath is about rest, but it is God oriented rest.  It is rest designed to break the cycle of production and consumption and busyness and to trust that God will provide, that you don’t have to be “on” all the time.  I think that is what Jesus was trying to get across to his disciples when he told them to come away and rest for awhile.  He had given them important work to do but at the same time it wasn’t all about them and they needed to know that.  He gave them permission to rest and to trust that things would be OK. 

So…think about it:  in the first chapter of Genesis the seventh day of rest is built into the created order of things.  In Exodus, as the commandments are given, rest is part of God’s alternative to production and consumption, accumulation and acquisitiveness.  Jesus frequently looks to get away by himself and also encourages his disciples to rest.  Do we need further evidence that to be who God intends us to be, rest is important, spiritually as well as physically?

I’m going to tread on some rather unsure theological ground here and suggest that there are certain Yooper men who really understand what this biblical rest thing is all about better than I do.  Early on in my time up here, back when I was in L’Anse, I learned that November 15 and the days following are high holy days.  I also learned that what hunting camp really is is men’s retreat.  It’s less about getting your deer, although that is important for some, more about just being there.  What I think of especially here is that more mature hunter who perhaps doesn’t even take a gun anymore or if he does he hopes he doesn’t see a deer because he really doesn’t want to deal with it.  He just likes being out there, the quiet, the slanting fall light, steely gray skies, the smell of the woods, maybe even a little snow.

That hunter has gone away to a deserted place to rest for awhile.  There is no thought of production.  There may be thoughts of consumption of various things but I won’t get into that; I’m trying to be idealistic here.  There’s fellowship with a group of people he care’s about.  There’s little anxiety about what’s going on back home or at work.  There’s trust that he can rest and everything will be OK without him for a few days.  Maybe there’s even the occasional thought of God and a quiet prayer of praise and thanks.

Did I just place a theological, Sabbath rest stamp of approval on hunting camp?  I guess I did.  Admittedly I’m being idealistic here, but I’m creating an image for you of how Sabbath rest might be experienced.  We all need to find those times and ways that we can rest and just be and not worry about it or feel guilty that nothing’s being accomplished, nothing’s getting done.  Such rest creates space for that alternative reality the Bible talks about, where God is trusted as the provider and sustainer and where we care for ourselves so that we can care for and be a blessing to others.  The projects and production will get done.  There’s plenty of time for that. 

But  Jesus says it’s OK.  Come away to a deserted place and rest awhile.

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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