Reflecting on Rest

by | Mar 7, 2021 | Sermons

Reflecting on Rest

Our passage today doesn’t feature Jesus at rest. In fact, it display’s the opposite. Jesus is rather busy during his visit to the temple in Jerusalem. In some respects we don’t even recognize Jesus, as his behaviour is very aggressive when he sees what is transpiring in the temple. However, his reaction and words tell us something very important about why we worship and what Sabbath means. 

Scripture: John 2: 13-22

Special thanks to Margaret Greenwood, Brian MacInnes, Rob Lenters, Janet Leadbeater, John McDougall and Diana Carr for participating in today’s service. 

Children’s Time

Parent’s we have a new Children’s Video for you to watch with your kids. The video is about 1:30 minutes long. Have your bible handy or click on the link above as about halfway through you’ll be asked to pause the video, read the scripture lesson with your family and then resume the video. We hope that you find this enjoyable and are always looking for feedback and how we can improve. 

Lent Garden – Week Three

Enjoy exploring this week’s Lent Garden. There are a variety of interactive activites for all age groups. 

Reflecting on Rest

I think I’ve shared this fact with you before, but I am a big fan of naps. A fifteen-minute cat nap will refresh and recharge me and allow me to get on with the day. I can recall visiting Nicaragua years ago and witnessing an entire town shut down during the afternoon. Why? It was siesta time and people were napping or otherwise relaxing before getting back to work.

Rest is important, especially now as we combat the fatigue that comes with remaining vigilant for this past year over Covid-19. The way we approach our work, in almost all sectors has changed, there are extra steps and precautions that need to be taken. Our working environment has changed dramatically. Many people use their living room as an office during the day and a leisure space during the evening, it is difficult to separate the two. The result is that we always feel like we are in work mode.

Zoom fatigue takes its toll on people as well. Research is being done as to why and it is fascinating. A shift I have noticed is that when a meeting finishes I immediately resume the task I was engaged with before the meeting. I don’t take time to reflect on the meeting and digest it. I just carry on with the work. We used to have an elevator ride, walk down the hallway or a drive separating this space out. Now the lines are blurred and a sense of exhaustion pervades.

Jesus knew the value of rest. There are countless passages in scripture where we are told that Jesus went to spend some time apart from the crowds. He went there for rest and for prayer. When he arrives at the temple and sees that it has turned into a market he is enraged. He fashions a whip and chases people away. It’s probably the last thing we expect Jesus to do as it has overtones of violence attached to it. Yet it should send us a powerful message about the way we approach life. Jesus is making a powerful statement about Sabbath.

Cameron Howard writes, “In these days when many of us are unable to congregate in our traditional sacred spaces, and when remote work has further blurred the lines between our 9 to 5 and our 5 to 9, it may feel especially difficult to find places and times that are set apart for holiness. We can do our shopping and our worshiping, our working and our movie-watching, all in the same room—on the same screen! But sabbath rest is not something else that we have to produce. Sabbath rest is a gift to us. Holiness is the resting state of God. We are called simply to be with God and not with the marketplace.” (Cameron Howard)

When many reflect on this issue, they lament the loss of Sunday as a day for rest. That somehow over the last thirty years we went from places of commerce being closed on Sunday to having them open. However, this is about more than the loss of Sunday as a day of rest in society. It is about the larger conversation of Sabbath rest. Of ensuring that we take time, set it apart and rest in the holiness of God.

As Christians living in a post-Christendom world it does us no good to argue over the loss of Sunday as a day of rest. Taking Sabbath isn’t a societal preoccupation, rather it is a Christian one. It is something each of us should practice.

Society calls it self-care, in religious language we call it Sabbath, I will simply call it rest. And by rest I mean that deeply profound rest that allows you for a moment to disengage from the problems of the world and ensure that you are healthy, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. 

One of the problems I notice in society is that the ability to rest is not afforded to us. What I mean by this is that many people simply don’t earn enough money to rest. A living wage in our community is approximately $17.50 and assumes two individuals earning this amount. Or we might say a household income of $72,000. The problem is that many in our community earn minimum wage and are only employed part-time. To make ends meet they must work to such an extent that they are unable to rest and I don’t believe that is right or just.

Walter Brueggemann has repeatedly emphasized the economic implications of the sabbath, both for the ancient context and for our current era. He writes that “sabbath concerns the periodic, disciplined, regular disengagement from the systems of productivity whereby the world uses people up to exhaustion.” (Walter Brueggemann, “The Book of Exodus,” New Interpreter’s Bible v. 1)

I believe that Jesus felt the same way and when he sees the temple turned into a marketplace instead of a place of worship and rest, he is furious. Furious because the religious establishment of his day has put up economic barriers to worshiping God. At the temple you could find everything you needed to worship God properly, except all you needed to worship God properly was to worship.

As it was being used Jesus didn’t see the temple as a holy place, he viewed it in the same way we would a shopping mall. It had become the market, goods were bought and sold, and God had become an afterthought.

Self-care is important but employers don’t build the capacity in to working life of their employees. Many of us as individuals are also poor at keeping Sabbath. We are too busy being busy, our Protestant work ethic doesn’t allow us to slow down and rest. The economic engine of our time measures productivity, not worker health and well-being.

We have lost the ability to create sacred space and to live in sacred time. What we should be doing is cultivating this space and time, finding ways to create more of it.

Alicia Myers reminds us, “As we walk the path to Jerusalem during Lent, we join crowds of pilgrims from millennia before preparing for festivals remembering God’s salvation. But we, too, should be careful lest we miss God’s earth-shattering Word in our midst. Rather than coming to a physical temple, or church building, we need instead to come to Jesus (John 12:9, 20). Worshipping in Spirit and truth wherever we may be, we see God’s glory by remembering God’s love made manifest in Jesus—even when he disrupts our usual plans.” (Alicia Myers)

We are travelling through Lent and as we continue to do so for these coming weeks, I encourage you to find ways to create sacred space and time in your life. I would also encourage you to reflect on Sabbath, on rest and whether the society we are a part truly offers opportunities to rest and disengage from economic activity so that we can live. Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security. 

Kristina Nairn

Public Health Nurse, HKPR Health Unit

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Thank you for visiting St. Andrew’s. It’s our prayer that this sermon was helpful to your walk of faith. We would ask you to prayerful consider donating to the mission of St. Andrew’s. You can make an online donation through our website. 

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