February 17, 2019

Epiphany: Rest

In our Epiphany look at the Way of Love disciplines of Go, Bless, Worship, Pray, Turn, Learn, we come to the last one: Rest. Perhaps it should really be the first one. During Advent, some of us used planner pages to take on one of the disciplines each day, and Saturday was the day designated to Rest from the week; and prepare for Worship on Sunday.

There are different kinds of rest. What do you think of when you hear ‘rest’? Taking a nap? Reading a book? Sitting and doing nothing? Being free from stress? Feeling warm and cozy? Sitting in the sunshine? Creating or baking something? Being on vacation? Singing or listening to music? For me, vistas like the one below, call me to pause and remember that God is in charge!
I like to look up word origins. Rest comes from the “Old English ræst, from a Germanic root meaning ‘league’ or ‘mile’ (referring to a distance after which one rests)”. Isn’t it interesting that you Rest after having traveled a certain distance, reached a certain spot, (or even come to a specified place in music)? We do our tasks and then we Rest. The Rest gives us strength to go on again. 

In the Gospel reading for this Sunday (Luke 6:17-26), the people flock to Jesus. They are seeking consolation and healing, a reprieve from the daily struggles. They are seeking Rest. Jesus has just been with his disciples, praying and designating the 12 apostles. (Luke 6:12-16) Then he comes and “stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.”

The Rest Jesus expounds is not a time of doing nothing. It is a time to take stock and renew. “[Jesus}…said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets."

Jesus tells his disciples, and those gathered around, that the sorrows and concerns of this life are fleeting. They can rest in the assurance that better things are coming. In the Letter to the Romans, Paul notes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

Jesus goes on with some warnings to those who think they ‘have it made’, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets."

Rest is both active and passive. We reach a spot in our faith journey where we need to pause, review, and be renewed. Then we are called to move on. We may feel poor, hungry, sad, or just tired. As Jesus tells the crowds, ‘you will be filled’, ‘you will laugh’, you will ‘leap for joy’. The time of Rest refreshes our bodies and souls so we can continue along the road of life.

When we rest in the Lord, we are empowered to respond with love to the cares and concerns of the world. Throughout the Bible, we find verses that encourage us to Rest with God. The Book of Genesis tells us that God ‘rested on the seventh day’ (Genesis 2:3). When Moses receives the Ten Commandments, keeping Sabbath rest was one of them (Exodus 34:21). Jesus calls for us to ‘come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11:28) Isaiah promises, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’ (Isaiah 30:15). Many of the Psalms refer to rest, including Psalm 46:10 which says, ‘Be still (rest), and know that I am God.’

Take a minute to define Rest. What is your favorite way to Rest?

Find a Bible verse that talks about Rest and return to it this week during your quiet time. Perhaps commit it to memory or write it on a card to keep with you.
Write the word Rest in the middle of a page. Decorate it with pictures of that symbolize Rest to you, or draw and embellish it with your own art.

February 10, 2019

Epiphany: Turn

Welcome to the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany and our sixth step on the Way of Love journey. There are only a couple of weeks left of the liturgical season of Epiphany. Then comes Ash Wednesday on March 6, and Lent.

Today’s discipline on the Way of Love might seem more suited to Lent. We are called to Turn. What does it mean to Turn? The 1972 pop song by Pete Seger Turn, Turn, Turn, based on Ecclesiastes 3 suggests that “To everything/Turn, turn, turn/There is a season/Turn, turn, turn.” The song and Ecclesiastes chapter 3 both insist, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” They would suggest that everything that goes around comes around, and around, and around.

But is that what the Way of Love means by Turn? In the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (Luke 15:1-11) we hear of Simon Peter’s encounter with Jesus. Because of the crowd, Jesus “got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.”

This seems like the normal activity for a traveling rabbi. Teaching is, after all, his job. However, after “he had finished speaking, [Jesus] said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’"

This is not in a rabbi's job description, and Simon (Peter) argues, before agreeing. "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." Then something amazing, or even miraculous, happens. “They caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break…and [they] filled both boats, so that they began to sink.”

Imagine for just a moment that you are in one of the boats. Just a few hours earlier, when the fish should have been present, there was nothing. Now in the heat of the day, when the fish normally aren’t near the surface, there are so many that the boats and nets are overwhelmed. It is no wonder “Simon Peter...fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’”

This is the type of Turn that Jesus calls us to. When we realize that we are unworthy, immediately we hear, “Do not be afraid.” We Turn, we are reassured, then we are given a job to do for the Kingdom-for the Way of Love. We make a U-turn from our old self and follow the new way. And, for most of us, we do it many times a day, day after day. As the song says "Turn, Turn, Turn". 

Peter, James, and John were told, “’from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” Each of us is also called to ‘catch people’ in a variety of ways. We can only do that after we Turn to God.

In her book True You: Letting Go of your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created, Michelle DeRusha is quoted in Life for Leaders as saying, “How can I know where I’m going or what I should do if I don’t know who I am? And how do I know who I am if I don’t know who God is? The reason I’m not clear on what to do (my calling) is because I don’t truly know who I am—my authentic self—and the reason I don’t know who I am is because I don’t truly know God in a deep and intimate way. In fact, I don’t know if I know God at all. I don’t know ‘the hope he has called me to’ [Eph. 1:18] because I don’t know him.”  

Until we Turn, look at ourselves, and esp. at our relationship with God, we cannot truly follow. There is indeed, as Ecclesiastes says, “A time for every purpose under heaven”. We each have a part of that purpose to live out
The Rev. George A. Studdart-Kennedy, a WWI chaplain, wrote the poem Well, in which soldier dreams of having died and meeting God. After being confronted with images of his life, the soldier realizes:

“It seemed to me as though 'Is face, Were millions rolled in one.
…'Twere all men's face yet no man's face, And a face no man can see,
And it seemed to say in silent speech, 'Ye did 'em all to me.
…'For all their souls were mine…'
And then at last 'E said one word,…'Well?'
And I said in a funny voice, 'Please can I go to 'Ell?'
And 'E stood there and looked at me,…And then 'E answered 'No
'You can't…'You know that you 'ave earned it, lad, 'So you must follow me.
'Follow me on by the paths o' pain, 'Seeking what you 'ave seen,
'Until at last you can build the "Is," 'Wi' the bricks o' the "Might 'ave been."'

The soldier recognizes his failure, and then is called to ‘build the ‘IS’”. We are also called to Turn and build the ‘Is’, the ‘Now’, the Kingdom of God!

God allows U-turns. Do you need to make one?

Have you felt God’s tell you to ‘do not be afraid’ and allow you to Turn and start again?

Is there a purpose you think you need to Turn to do?