The 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time at St Mark the Evangelist Church in Norman, OK
July 7, 2002
Zechariah 9:9-10 + Romans 8:9-14 + Matthew 11:25-30
Humor me while I demonstrate something to you.
(Hold a dissonant chord on the organ/piano an uncomfortably long time and then lift.)
That is noise. Now watch this.
(Play the same notes with some rhythm breaking up the chord.)
That is music.
The difference between the two sounds is something called “rest.” It makes music out of noise, and it is also what makes life out of time. One of my favorite definitions of life is what happens we are not at work. Rest is what Jesus speaks of today, and it is an essential element in the life of a disciple.
Deep within us there is a need to express and experience our relationship with God by making things “holy”, but sanctifying them. It says as much about us as it does about God, but it is important, and when we do not have that experience, things go wrong. At a civic/political level, this is what reacts in us when we see the American flag burned and ripped apart. This is what reacts in us if we see a tabernacle violated and the sacred hosts trampled. It is what has led legislators to make the vandalism of a church or a cemetery a felony in civil law. In our effort to relate to and connect with God, human kind has always set aside things and places for exclusive use in communion with God. It is the same with time. From its origins, Israel was instructed to sanctify its time on this earth, to set some of it aside for exclusive use in communion with God. Israel called this time: Shabbat.
If there is to be a sacred place, like this church, in which only things related to God take place, then there must also be sacred time. Part of God’s creative action was rest, the final act of creation. Since that divine rest was begun on the day after humankind was created, human existence itself cannot be imagined in a world where this is no Shabbat, or holy rest. As a lived experience, the word means “to cease” or “to desist.” It calls for a break in routine and a period of holy rest that allows an invites us to enjoy God’s world rather than do battle with it, to relax rather than struggle, and live in harmony rather than achieve domination.
Without rest there is no balance in life, no integration of one’s gifts and relationships. This rest is what allows us to stand in the middle ground between the opposites and contraries that mark out lives so painfully. There is more to this rest than simply the interruption of work. It is an opportunity to celebrate what God has done and remember that it is God who is doing. Without this kind of rest, we are very likely slip into thinking that we are the ones who are in control.
In this stress-ridden world that is production driven, fast paced, and filled with workaholics, “rest” is looked at with suspicion. Many think of it as a waste of time, and they feel guilty if they are forced into it. “Time is money.” Says one way of looking at life, and in that system, to waste time is to waste money, and to waste money is to fail. To this world, Jesus speaks today, and to those who would follow him and experience the Kingdom of God today and every day, rest has an important place in life. “Come to me”, he says, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you…come to me and you will find rest for our souls.”
To rest in Jesus does not mean to flop into an exhaustion-induced “coma”, but rather to appropriate his mind, his wisdom and his strength. It is to drink deeply of the Spirit of Jesus and be renewed and refreshed. What Jesus speaks of empowers the disciple to compliment service with prayer, and meaningful preaching with quiet thoughtfulness. It is a rest that allows the disciple to have values, rethink priorities, and adjust attitudes. It allows disciples to regroup and re-center themselves in him and in the cause of the Gospel. Understanding this Gospel and accepting the invitation of Jesus, silences the guilt and anxiety of unfinished work. Failure to hear what this gospel asks of us turns life into misery and little more than unfinished work that never sees an end, a purpose, or a value.
Those of us who will be disciples of Jesus, can be set free from slavery, and doubt, and worry that we have never done enough. We can be free of marking our worth and the value of others by things done rather than by what we are as children of God and be free to life in joy filled peace and loving kindness. This is the day of the Lord. It is the day we make holy. It is the time we set aside for God, for remembering God and for remembering our place and our share in God’s creation. It is the day in which and by which we too are made Holy. Without it, we shall never be a holy people. With this gift of rest, God can write the music of our lives.