REST FOR THE WEARY

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REST FOR THE WEARY Powered By Docstoc
					Ephesians 2:11-22
W-K United Mennonite Church – July 23, 2006
Mark 6:30-34, 53-
56                                                                              Ordinary
Time/Pentecost VII


                     REST FOR THE WEARY
Introduction: In my late teens and early twenties I did a lot of running. I became tired
and needed rest. “Why does a person that age become tired from running,” you ask? I was
not running physically. I was running spiritually – running from God.
           For me the path to a personally owned faith was not easy. On one level it was
because of a misconstrued image of God. I grew up in a more conservative Mennonite
tradition where I came to see being a Christian as adhering to a set of do’s and don’ts –
mostly don’ts. Somehow I ended up with an image of a God who was out to get me. If
that was what being a Christian meant, I was not interested.
        I wanted to be free – what teenager does not? My desire for freedom pushed at
the edges of what I knew was allowed by the community of faith. The need to belong that
is a part of the teen years confused me further and added fuel to my running.
        Another confusing part of my journey to faith was a sense from early childhood
that someday I would be called to ministry. In the particular tradition to which we
belonged, ministers were chosen by lot from within the congregation. Whenever there was
to be a new minister ordained, invariably an uncle or cousin of my parents would be “in
the lot,” as it was said. As I heard my parents discussing these things I always got the
impression that being “in the lot” was a burden. At the same time I felt that some day I
would be called in this manner. More fuel for my running.
        All my running took place while I was very much a part of the church. As a
family we began attending the St Jacobs Mennonite Church where I was able to embrace
God’s loves for me. I was baptized in my late teens and a few years later began to teach
Sunday School. The difference between what I was living on the outside and what I was
feeling on the inside continued to confuse me. I was tired of being confused and longed for
some degree of spiritual resolution. I wanted to come to a place where my weary soul
could rest.
           God finally got through to me the summer I turned twenty two. Along with
three of my buddies we went on a whirlwind trip through western parts of the USA and
Canada – all within 2 weeks. One beautiful morning we were driving through the Rocky
Mountains. I had never seen such beauty before. The early morning sun bouncing of the
snow capped peeks some how spoke to me.
           I recall the moment as if yesterday. Quietly I began to reason with myself. God
created all this beauty I believed. From there I speculated that having a personal
relationship with God could also be a thing of beauty. Perhaps, I reasoned, if I gave God
more attention in my life I could discover the beauty of such a relationship. Not wanting
to do anything too fast, I said to myself, “I’ll think about it when I get home.”
           Within a few weeks of returning home I was elected president of our youth
group. I had not attended for a number of years. My brother was aware of a
transformation that was taking place within me and thought it might be a role for me.
Preparing a devotional for one of our youth executive meetings, I found myself reading in
the early verses of Ephesians 2. Reading from the Living Bible at the time I read, “Once
you were just like the rest, following the crowd….” Something about that verse exposed
me. I was able to see myself for what I really was before God. I kept on reading and in the
next verses I heard of God’s love that was there for me even while I was running away
from God.
           Something clicked for me at that moment. There were no bells or thunder claps.
I simply said, “That’s it.” For the devotional I told the story of my experience in reading
this text. That was the beginning of an exciting year as a leader in our youth group. It was
also the time that allowed me to see ministry in a new light. On New Year ’s Eve that
year I realized that I had found the rest for my weary soul in exactly what I had been
running from – God, as known in Jesus Christ.

There is a correlation between running and stress. Running can be stressful and stress
causes us to run. Before long we recognize our weary bodies and souls need rest.
        This morning I want to invite you to ponder stresses in your life. What leaves you
weary - looking for rest? Currently there are numerous global situations of natural disaster
and conflict. Some may be experiencing major illness in the family. Financial instability
might be causing us stress. Tensions in relationships are immensely tiring. Unsettledness
in congregational life takes a lot of energy.
        On the one hand it can be said these are natural stresses of life. In the middle of
stressful situations that realization is of little consolation.
        In our gospel text today Jesus realized that his disciples were in the middle of a
very busy and stressful period. As a good shepherd of his sheep, Jesus prescribed some
well deserved R and R. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves
and rest awhile.”
        It would be overly simplistic to say that a vacation will ease our stresses. It might
help, but it could also add to the stress. My reflections over the years on both the
Ephesians and Mark texts have lead me to come to some conclusions on finding rest for
our weary souls.

The degree to which we find rest in the scriptures often depends on our personality. I am
an introvert. That means I look within myself to determine how I respond to the world
around me. Ideas shape my actions. The extroverts among us shape their actions by
energy gained from interacting with people.
        One is not better than the other. They are merely different. But they do impact
how we engage scripture as a source guiding us to a place of rest. The letter of Ephesians
has a lot of heavy theology. For someone whose actions are shaped by ideas, this is
helpful. For someone who needs people connections even good theology does not
generate rest.
        It is important to recognize our difference so that we can surround ourselves with
people to bring balance into our lives. Having a spiritual director has been helpful for me.
My spiritual director has a more playful imagination and is able to help me see how God
is present in my life from a totally different perspective than my own. I find rest in that.
        Where will we find the rest we are looking for? Might it be in what causes us to
run? Might it be with someone who brings a different perspective from our own?

Ephesians 2 has been a significant scripture for me. It has served as a theological anchor in
the stresses of life. In terms of my personal relationship with God it assures me that it
was while I was dead in my sins that Christ Jesus died for me. It is by God’s grace, not
my own doing that I experience salvation and have a hope that rises above the
uncertainties of this life. Quite simply it tells me that God is God and I am not. I light a
candle for my morning prayers and say, “God I light this candle to say to you and to me
that you are God and I am not.” In that I find rest.
        The second part of Ephesians 2, which was read this morning, was significant in
my earlier work as the executive staff person for MCEC - Mennonite Church Eastern
Canada. Being in leadership these days means dealing with conflict. While some people
are energized by conflict, most of us find conflict stressful.
        Ephesians 2 gives me images that I find helpful in understanding conflict and how
I see people with whom I might be in conflict.
        The basic premise of this text is that Jews and Gentiles are no longer two distinct
groups. Where Gentiles were once understood to be strangers or aliens to the
commonwealth of Israel, now in Christ Jesus, they also have been brought near to God.
Another way to say this is that at the foot of the cross the ground is level. We are all one
in the eyes of God. No one is more equal.
        The imagery of this text is powerful. Jesus is spoken of as “our peace.” In his
flesh he made both groups one. The next line says it all for me, “… and has broken down
the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us… that he might create in himself one
new humanity in the place of two, thus making peace…!”
        Many years ago I was praying for two people in conflict. In prayer I saw these
two people as snow figures. God’s love shone on each of them and eventually they were
both melted down to form one puddle of water. That image has guided my convictions for
living with conflict.
        The text concludes with a powerful image of a new people of God. Here there are
no strangers and foreigners. All are members of the household of God built on the
foundation of Jesus Christ. Christ is the cornerstone of this new spiritual building that is
being constructed into a dwelling place for God.
        These images have provided rest for my weary soul in the middle of conflict.
Conflict need not be a problem. When we see others as God sees us, conflict can be an
agent of transformation.
The sections read from Mark 6 provide another set of images that may lead us to a place
of rest. It had been a busy hectic time for Jesus and the disciples. The activity of chapter
6 alone makes one’s head spin. It starts with Jesus’ rejection in his home town. Jesus sent
his disciples on a mission trip. Before they give their report we are taken back to the
circumstances around the death of John the Baptist. When Jesus finally hears their report
he determines they are in need of rest. But the crowds keep coming; Jesus feeds five
thousand people, walks on water while the disciples try to paddle through a storm and
then ends up with a large healing session.
          Talk about being busy. In today’s world, busyness is a primary stress factor.
Being too busy eventually impacts us negatively physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Being too busy means we do not have or take the time to care for ourselves and those
around us. These are the times when the “stuff” of life happens only to add further
stress.
          The disciples reported the successes of their mission to Jesus: how they cast out
demons, and how many whom they anointed with oil were healed. With the crowds
pushing in on them they got into a boat and headed for a secluded place for some well
deserved rest.
          Having been to the north shore of the Sea of Galilee I have a place in mind where
they may have gone. What was Jesus’ intension for this time: relaxing conversation,
inspiring interaction, perhaps some naps, prayer and meditation? We don’t really know
because the crowds beat the boat to the secluded place and before long they were back in
ministry feeding five thousand people.
          From there the disciples rowed to the other side of the lake where there was a
further ministry of healing. By now we are asking, “Okay where is the rest in all of this.”
It feels like Jesus is promoting a kind of workaholism.
         What we see portrayed in Jesus is a compassion for the crowds. He sees their
need. On one side of the lake he fed a large crowd. Now he responds to those who are
brought for healing. Earlier Jesus recognized the need for rest, but this was a day to focus
on healing. In the middle of all these activities something else was going on - Jesus was
showing the disciples how the reign of God brings new life.
          Jesus’ ministry was about making a difference in people’s lives. Much of the
busyness that stresses us is only that – busyness – running from one thing to the next –
things we determine to be important. Even in the middle of busy schedules we can find
immense satisfaction and energy when we see transformation and God given new life.
          I recall a summer when we were taking a week of vacation at home. Midway
through the week I was called to the hospital to be with a family who had to decide about
removing their husband and father from life supports. I did not want to be there. In the
waiting room I picked up an article titled, “Death takes no Holidays.” It was not what I
wanted to hear but it was what I needed. Before the end of the week I had a funeral and it
was good to be with the family. I took some more holidays later.
          As followers of Jesus we celebrate times of new God given life; when many are
fed with limited resources and when people are healed. We also know about the stresses
of life; tiring tasks with little or no time for rest. Neither of these realities are a complete
picture of life unless it is connected to the other. That was the part the disciples were
having difficulty grasping.
         And so it is with the weariness we name in our lives. Yes, there are stresses that
tire us out. There are also the moments of pure joy like holding one’s first grandchild the
first time and the second time and the third time. (You get the picture.) Together these
form the reality of life. Finding rest for our weary souls is about striking a balance in life
and setting priorities that reflect our Christian values. In this place we will find rest for
our weary souls. Finally, true rest is found in God, as celebrated by Christians in Jesus
and revealed in the gathered community of God’s people today.

Conclusion: In conclusion I invite you to a place of rest as we sing #526 “In the rifted
rock I’m resting.”

				
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