Saturday, September 24, 2011

"A God-given Rest" - Hebrews 4:1-11 - Sept. 25, 2011

(This sermon/homily is offered following a testimony by a congregation member that after the death of her husband and a season of grief and pain, God brought her a peace/rest that would sustain her, a joy that would define her, a person to share her life, and a ministry to touch the lives of others.)

There are so many voices clamoring for our attention. There are so many demands for our time. There are so many memories that fill our minds. There are so many hopes that have yet to be fulfilled. There are so many unresolved dreams that clutter our heart. There are so many tasks that wait to be done. There are so many needs that are yet to be met. There are so many unresolved concerns and conflicts. There are so many wounds we have sustained in life and relationships that we are weary. There are so many times we have failed or fallen and have gotten up, dusted ourselves off, and moved forward that we fear that the next time we fail or fall there will not be enough energy left to for us to get up again. There are so many people who want something from us – sometimes what they want is worthy, and sometimes what they want from us distracts us from where we are going and who God wants us to be. There are so many….

In the Genesis 1 and 2 story of creation we see the God institute the idea of the Sabbath. With the work of creation done, God rested and modeled the idea of the Sabbath – a time to rest, reflect and recover. It has always been God’s plan for His people to claim a God-given rest. He knew we would live lives of “so many “ that would drain us, strain us, and distract us from the kind of relationship with Him and others we were created for. We heard Katie Smith read our focal passage in its entirety. In this complex passage we hear we the story of disobedience to God and that they had failed to claim a God-given rest. What an incredible indictment of God’s people! It is an indictment we share.

Our culture blesses lives of unfettered chaos – the dead sprint of trying to fit everything in. I hear people say over and over again that they wish that could squeeze one more hour into their week. The problem is that we would probably fill that hour just as quickly as we have filled the hours that God has already given to us. Our work and our play seem to be defined by our capacity to multitask. Can we watch our kids play sports, while checking email, text our friends, and checking out the last score or movements in the stock market all at the same time? Phones are no longer defined by the capacity to make a call, but by how many apps they can hold and how many functions can the offer. We do not give our minds or our bodies any substantive rest. In an effort to keep awake and function we consume an alarming volume of caffeine intensified energy drinks. The energy drink market now tops 7.5 billion dollars a year. We seem to be trying to squeeze as much work and as much play as humanly possible into our days, with little thought of the consequences of our frenetic ways of life. As I listen to people tell their stories, the price seems to be the quality of our relationships with our spouses, with our children, with our friends, and with God. We quietly know we were meant for more. We silently wish for more.

It is not only our pace of life that threatens the kind of God-given rest God intends for us. Our woundedness and brokenness also gets in the way. We keep trying to figure out how to fix ourselves. We keep trying to fill our emptiness with something or someone. We keep trying to “get over it and get on with it” only to find ourselves still weighed down. We find ourselves stirred with heart break and emotion. We quietly wonder if we will ever be better. We silently wonder if we will ever know peace or joy again.

Our passage brings a promise that we need to hear and claim. Verses 9 thru 11 tell us; 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. The Scripture tells us that the price for rejecting the God-given rest is that we will perish. Most of us do not worry about being consumed by the shark of a grand act of evil. No, for most, the fear is that we will be nibbled to death by a thousand small obligations and expectation and consumed by the profound sense of isolation form God and others that can emerge in our hurried life styles.

We have heard in song and testimony that God offers a rest that can sustain us. We are called it remain in a Sabbath-rest; to make it a part of who we are and how we live our lives. This leads us to the promise of a Sabbath rest that brings recovery, reflection, and renewal.We have heard in song and testimony that God offers a rest that can sustain us. It is the promise of a Sabbath rest for recovery, reflection, and renewal. It is a rest for our body, our mind, and our spirit. It is a rest from our labors and the chaos of life. It is a rest that gives us real time to connect with one another and to connect with God. It is a rest that leads to real peace. It is a rest that leads to wholeness. But we must claim this rest in an act of obedience – to claim time for Sabbath and to make time in our life for real rest. This is more than taking a nap or scheduling one less thing. It is about claiming space for rest in God where God can speak into our lives – where God can shape our lives – where God can bring us peace- where God renew us. When we enter the God’s rest we thrive. When we respond in chaotic disobedience, scripture tells us we are lost –consumed – we perish.

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish. Let us make every effort to enter that rest that we might find the kind of rest in God where God can renew and restore us. Let’s not settle for less.

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