Rest

Matthew 11:25 – 30, The Message

25-26Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.”

27Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.

28-30“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

This weekend I visited Foothills Christian Church, where I will probably end up attending. The pastor, Erin Wathen, began a series that will run through the end of October on living a different way. I gather that the series will largely be about incorporating spiritual practices into our routines. Erin is a winner of the 2010 Craddock Award from the DOC church, and I can see why. Her content is creative and thoughtful and her delivery is engaging and creative.

The topic of this week’s sermon was Rest. Erin used the NRSV and the Message translation, but leaned more heavily on the Message, which I appreciated in this case (I like the Message for some passages, not every passage). There are a couple of things about this version that resonated with me as I listened to her share, so I wanted to share them here. You’re welcome.

1. The traditional version of this passage has Jesus telling us to take his “yoke” upon us and learn from him. I only know what that is because I grew up in church and they explained the agricultural imagery somewhere around the 3rd grade. One of the elders of the church is a retired pastor and he talked about the yoke being intended to evenly distribute the burden so the oxen can easily bear the weight. We aren’t alone. We not only have Jesus helping us evenly distribute the weight but we have others who can take some of the weight from us.

2. “Get away with me and recover your life”. There’s a difference between rest and a veging on the couch. Both are necessary. Rest is pulling away from things that are draining but it’s also about refueling. When we have time make time for rest, we have a choice about how we spend the time. Sometimes watching TV and not thinking is great. Sometimes we need to be more intentional about how we spend our down time, doing things that are more nourishing. When this subject comes up I always remember the song Doug Eats Dirt by everybodyduck, a band a friend of mine started back in the 90s. Here are the lyrics:

Doug is in the garden, It’s his third time there today
With napkin tucked under his chin, He bows his head to pray.
thank you’s said he turns his full attention to the soft brown clay
and Starts to scoop fistfuls of dirt into his mouth.

Well his family, quite perplexed, have done all they can think to do
No plate of decent food distracts Doug from the soil he’s partial to
And he otherwise seems normal when his feeding times are through
Still there’s something not quite right with mud-stained teeth.

Cuz while on one hand we’re glad that eating dirt’s not something you die from
When there’s healthy food available it just seems sort of dumb.

Doug eats dirt! Lots of dirt!
Breakfast, lunch and dinner Doug only eats dirt!
Mud and clay and silt and sand, Doug just didn’t understand
That it doesn’t become good for you because it doesn’t hurt.

Sure if Doug was drinking poison there’d be much cause for alarm
But despite the brown ring round his mouth dirt can’t do Doug much harm.
So we tolerate his swallowing like pigs out on the farm
Still it doesn’t change the fact we wish he’d stop!

Cause if he’d eat healthy food not only would it help him grow
It would help improve digestion which has become rather slow.
It’s a proven fact that dirt clods make it really hard to grow
That decided would really clean him up a lot

Cuz while on one we’re glad that eating dirt’s not something you die from
When there’s healthy food available it just seems sort of dumb.

We’ve all got a choice between the bad, the neutral and the good.
Choosing death by drinking poison clearly no sane person would.
Still we don’t choose that which grows even though we know we should.
We’re satisfied with that which doesn’t hurt or help.

All these awkward minutes that don’t contradict God’s will
But not all things benefit us yet we choose do them still
And how can we ever hope to be like Jesus was until
We start refusing that which doesn’t help us grow.

Cuz while on one we’re glad that eating dirt’s not something you die from
When there’s healthy food available it just seems sort of dumb.

We eat dirt! Lots of dirt!
Breakfast, lunch and dinner we only eat dirt!
Mud and clay and silt and sand we just don’t understand
That it doesn’t become good for us because it doesn’t hurt.

3.  “I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.” I’d never thought of this before, but this is a great way to measure things in my life that are uncomfortable. We all know when there are things that just aren’t right going on. We spend time with people, join a group, do something at work, and something about it just rubs us the wrong way. It’s not from Jesus. He doesn’t do that to us. I’ve definitely stayed in things too long even though they felt wrong because I thought they were the right thing to do, and they may have been. They  just weren’t right for me.

4. “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” This goes hand-in-hand with #3. The rhythms of grace are unforced, not ill-fitting or too heavy. They’re also learned, not automatic. That’s the real discipline of rest. Slowing down and taking time to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn the rhythm.

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