I am sitting here at my desk reflecting on this past Thanksgiving weekend. I managed to be very busy. Participating in the Harvest Hustle, decorating the outside of my house for Christmas, then dinner with my family, then several days of decorating the inside of my house for Christmas, with 2 church services thrown in. The weekend went by so very quickly!
Below today’s message I am including a devotional for you to follow this week. Let me know your thoughts about including a weekly devotional in my weekly message. Today’s message is a reflection of the December Way of the Month for St. Paul’s UMC that each committee is following this year.
For 28 years in my first career, I worked crazy hours, and never stopped. I saw it as a badge of honor to work 70-80-90-100 hour weeks. But I never slowed down. I know there were many things I missed along the way. I cannot go back, but I can look forward and find opportunities to step away from the stress of life and enjoy each day. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. My biggest stress reliever is spending time on my boat with friends. It is not quiet, it is not always peaceful, but it provides relief for me like nothing else.
I encourage you to slow down during advent and take time to rest and reflect. It is very easy to get caught up in the rush of the season and to squander this time. Today I had the privilege to be with my granddaughter for a few hours. I was able to set aside my to-do list and watch her excitement as she looked at and played with the many Christmas decorations and activities I have at my house. One toy I bought 22 years ago had more interaction with it today than in the last 22 years!
“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.” (Genesis 2: 2, 3)
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11: 28)
“Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2: 27)
“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.” (Isaiah 30: 15)
REST AND REFLECT. Make time in your week to step back from work, school, and stressful demands. Since Christ has freed us, we no longer must be obsessively driven. Take a walk, play, nap, meet up with friends, share a meal, or just take some time in solitude.
What is your favorite leisure activity?
READ Mark 14:23-28
1. How do you think the Pharisees would define Sabbath?
2. How do you think Jesus would define Sabbath?
3. How is Sabbath for humans? (i.e., What benefits does it bring?)
Scenario: For some reason, the workweek is defined as 40 hours. You are, however, expected to respond to emails at off hours and work until the job gets done. Work consistently spills over into home time. You realize that there isn’t a day of the week that you don’t check your email, and when you aren’t doing work, there is housework that needs to be done. It feels like there isn’t enough time in the week to get everything done.
1. If you feel like this, what is your first reaction to being told not to do work for a day?
2. What expectations and responsibilities push a person to live like this?
3. What costs or benefits might there be if you were to take a day with no work?
4. What are some steps you could take to move towards Sabbath?
In our world, when we think “rest” we think “sleep” but rest is so much more than napping. Rest can be working out. Rest can be reading. Rest can be taking a walk. Rest can be going out with friends. It is not the absence of anything that could be considered work, it is simply taking advantage of God’s good creation and gifts to you. Resting and Reflecting reminds us that we are not in control and that God doesn’t solely desire our service but also our joy. Don’t let Rest and Reflect become constricting rules but let it free you to live the good life God has in store for you.
Day 1: READ: Gen. 2:2-3. THINK: Notice the work that God finishes: the work of creation. There is still much more God can and will do, but instead of getting a jump on His next week, God rests. There is always more work, there will always be one more thing you can do or that is expected of you. Rest and Reflect anyway. Set a day aside where work takes a back seat to rest. PRAY: to God about your difficulties with rest.
Day 2: READ: Matthew 11:28-30. THINK: A yolk is most often placed on two animals so they can work side by side. Where does it feel like Jesus is in this analogy? Is He the farmer or is He at your side as a fellow worker? The yolk of Jesus isn’t easy because there is little work to be done. It is easy because He works at your side. Rest and Reflect by letting Jesus shoulder the burden and work at your side. PRAY: through areas in your life where you feel burdened and ask Jesus for help.
Day 3: READ: Ex. 20:8-10. THINK: None of the 10 Commandments are as easily disregarded by Christians as the Sabbath. No one says, “Adultery was a restriction under the Law, I live in a new covenant of Grace.” The command to remember the Sabbath is not gone but remains today. Ignoring Sabbath is harmful to you and your faith. We Rest and Reflect because it is a part of God’s good plan for our lives. PRAY: that the Spirit would continue to sanctify you towards restfulness.
Day 4: READ: Psalm 55:4-8. THINK: Sometimes the circumstances of life feel so oppressive or overwhelming that rest seems impossible. For David, the only way he felt like he could find safety and rest was to fly away. If you are in a period of anguish, do not let the encouragement to Rest and Reflect be one more way you feel like you are falling short. Sin breaks into our lives and cuts deep. Remember God rescues, but also that He sits at your side in
hardship. PRAY: the Spirit’s presence to be known in the life of someone experiencing anguish.
Day 5: READ: Acts 16:13-15. THINK: Paul and his friends went on the Sabbath to find a place of prayer and instead found people. Instead of finding a different place to pray, they saw the opportunity to live out their faith in conversation. Taking a Sabbath can easily be a restrictive and judgmental practice. Instead, we find Paul Resting and Reflecting by putting his faith into action for those around him. As you Rest and Reflect, let people trump expectations. PRAY: that God would give you good opportunities to care for people.
Day 6: READ: Heb. 4:9-11. THINK: Resting and Reflecting is about more than just enjoying life, it is enjoying life in relationship to God. Sabbath rest is God’s rest. It is His gift to you, and it is by His invitation that we enter it. God invites you into His presence to rest with Him and to know that He is in control. Rest and Reflect and lean hard on God’s promises and power. PRAY: that God would show you the places where He promises you more.
Ideas for Action: Can you make your Sunday more of a Sabbath day of rest for you and your family? Connect with God using worship music. Unplug from the devices for part of or all day. Seek the joy of the Lord in Creation. Eat a meal together. Be silent with God and pray. Prioritize wholeness and rejuvenation in Christ. How can your committee rest and reflect? What does this mean to you personally? PRAY TOGETHER. (Pray in gratefulness for the gifts God has put in your life for you to enjoy. Now, Rest and enjoy them.)
Prayer: Dear lord, please grant us the ability to slow down to hear your voice. The world wants to rush us along; however, we should slow down to rest and reflect. We thank you for the blessings that you have given each of us.