on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.The Sabbath became a defining feature of Jewish life and for us Christians the Lord’s Day (Sunday) is meant to be a time set apart for rest, worship and gathering with families and friends. Too often it has become a day like any other day or, in many cases, a day to catch up on shopping, washing and cleaning.
We know we need to rest some of the time and, in a way, all of the time. There is a restful way of approaching work and relationships just as there are ways of wasting energy in patterns of thinking and behaviour which are unfruitful. The choice is ours. There is a strong case for times of silence or prayer – on our own or with others specially on Sunday. Good habits are formed over 40 days or so of repeated practice. So, here, I suggest is a time to try. And those blessed with retirement or partial shielding advice do well to use the opportunity.
At its simplest ‘prayer’ is an act of raising mind and heart to God. Or, to put it another way, prayer is the art of calming the mind and heart to become aware of God’s love in our lives. Making time and space for prayer every day (and not just Sunday) is a major challenge if we are not in the habit. But, nothing is impossible where there is a will. A time of mindful and prayerful rest is like an oxygen for the body and soul. We know it when we really try it and stick at it: it gives us space. But, God is the first invitor and mover.
We need Holy Spirit moments when the Spirit comes down over the material of our head-filled Christianity to move not only our intellects but our hearts and our wills.
In Matthew 11: 25 Jesus takes aim at a religion of the head and not a religion of simplicity and childlike trust. Book learning and academic scholarship are excellent means in the human search for meaning and truth and goodness. That Jesus extolled the benefits of a deeper wisdom and insight rather than mere academic discourse and speculation is not to be taken as in any way as justifying a certain anti-intellectualism.
In saying ‘Come to me..’ (verse 28) Jesus is offering himself as an immediate and real friend of our soul. Coming to a place or person or state of mind is the first step. It means going to something and someone greater than our immediate situation where we can be ourselves.
‘.. all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens..’It means coming as just as we are Warts and all, Worries and all and Wants and all (WWW) Specifically, it could mean putting aside special times and places where we can be still for a few moments. The morning can be a good time. Also the evening. Or, in the middle of the day. Or, any other time depending on circumstances.
‘..and I will give you rest..’The rest spoken of here is an inner freedom together with a certain underlying peace and contentedness even in the midst of great anguish, stress and sadness (..peace is never without a price).
‘Take my yoke upon you..’Taking on the yoke of discipleship means dying/denying/losing in a certain way in regards to our own plans, opinions, terms of reference and ways of framing the world around us and within. It means following a call to serve others in ways that we never thought of or expected.
‘and learn from me..’Learning is about changing. Learning is about being open to experience, example and doing with others. It is not to be confused with teaching which may lead to learning. But not all learning (or teaching) are positive. A lot of learning can be about Unlearning.
‘..for I am gentle and humble in heart..’The most powerful form of learning is that which is associated with the example of a teacher who is gentle, honest and humble because the One who exemplifies is a humble suffering servant foreshadowed in the Old Testament/Hebrew scriptures.
‘..and you will find rest for your souls.’Finding rest is the fruit of trust and abandonment to God’s will as it is revealed to each one on the path of life. How do we know when we find rest for our souls? This question is redundant when we find such rest!
‘..for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’Really? Following the high road of lowly service is counter-cultural and always was. In what sense is the yoke of discipleship ‘easy’ or its burden ‘light’? It is the sense that by putting aside our plans and our wishes we find new plans and new wishes that release new depths and expressions of human creativity that we never imagined or dreamed of. The problem, too often, is that our world view and ‘wish-fors’ are small world shadows.
Life is too short to drink bad wine and coming to Jesus and taking his yoke is much too attractive to turn down. Be reckless. Be open to restfulness you never dreamt of.