For almost everyone, this year’s rest times will not be as we would have planned if circumstances had been different. The Pandemic has thrown so much of our lives up in the air and the well-trodden paths that we know will restore us are not all available.
This is an opportunity. Whether we are able to get a break away this summer or not, it is an opportunity for us all to reflect on what is rest and, as we are a Christian community, to reflect on what rest is within a theological framework. What is rest to us as Christians? Rest seems essential. God the Trinity rested after the work of creation. Jesus withdrew to quiet places after seasons of intense service of others and the Gospel writers thought this was important enough to pass on to us. It’s one of the few things that are consistently held as an ethic throughout the Bible.
Christians should take time to rest. Perhaps it is because rest is a protest against an idolatrous view that suggests someone other than God is holding the world together. A view that states that the only important thing a human being can do is to change things. Rest can be an acknowledgement that in the end, our capacity to change things is limited. It’s interesting that when Jesus comes across a little girl who has died, he says she is just ‘sleeping’. Rest is a daily surrender to weakness and something that can even train us for death.
I was speaking with a member of our congregation who has to rest more than most due to disability and ill-health. They were sad that they couldn’t contribute as much to our community as some others. I wanted to tell them, to tell all of us, that their membership of our community at this point in their lives is a gift; a prophetic statement of how we will all live in the world to come, a statement that in the new creation. One day God will wrap up all the broken and improvable things in a sweep of love and creativity and there will be nothing left to fix. We will still exist and still be valuable, not for what we can do for the world, but for who we are.
So join in this prophetic witness this summer. Plan time to step away from work, not to ‘do nothing’ but to be a living work of art pointing towards a different value system, a different world. Live our theology at St Martin’s that human beings are valuable to God just as they are. And start this with you.
Revd Sally Hitchiner