Intro to Rest: Connection, Shalom, and Sabbath

John 14:22-27

In this series, we are looking at Rest: What rest is, why rest is important, and how we rest in different areas or dimensions of our lives.  Specifically this morning, we’re looking at rest as Connection, Shalom, and Sabbath.

[READ John 14:22-27]

What is Rest?

At it’s simplest, rest is about these three words: connection, shalom (peace), and Sabbath. The Bible uses the word “shalom” or peace to talk about the proper kind of connection among people and between people and God. Jesus says in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” The peace the world offers is always, at best, the absence of conflict. And the absence of conflict never lasts. As long as sin remains in us and in our world, we will continue to see conflicts; but Jesus offers a better way. Jesus gives peace that is not based on human effort or human character. Jesus’ peace is based on God’s action and God’s character. From the beginning, God creates Man and Woman in his image and in his likeness—to be like him and to be in relationship with him. God walks and talks with the man and the woman in the garden. God’s perfect rest is about connection from the beginning. Likewise, Jesus’ summary of the law includes the instruction to “love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbour as yourself”—these instructions are about proper connection to God and others within the family of God.

It’s ironic that our digital age talks so much about connectivity, but actually delivers isolation and exhaustion. The Good News, including in this morning’s text, always includes the instruction to obey and to sacrifice (to give up) something; but the good news actually delivers Shalom—shalom is “universal flourishing.” Everyone and everything in right relationship; the ultimate connectivity.

We each have a role and a purpose given to us by God; within that role and purpose we have responsibilities, but also relationships. Rest is entrusting our responsibilities to God and tending our relationships. This is the heart of Sabbath, which is the last facet of rest. Jesus says, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath, so the Son of Man is lord even over the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28). Referencing Jesus’ words, author Andy Crouch writes that Jesus is “asserting his lordship over—not exemption from or indifference to—this very good gift from God to his image bearers.” Crouch continues: “There is perhaps no single thing that could better help us recover Jesus’ lordship in our frantic, power-hungry world than to allow him to be the Lord of our rest as well as our work. The challenges is disarmingly simple: one day a week, not to do anything that we know to be work” (Playing God 252). In other words, sabbath is about “embracing our limits”.

Submitting to Jesus’ lordship is not is a cheap way to solve all your problems; it is a method of personal transformation that will affect every area of your life and that will bring you hope, healing, and comfort. Rest is about connection—about peace for all—and about Sabbath—embracing our limits. As humans we face physical and mental fatigue on a daily basis. We are not gods. We have limits and hurt ourselves and others when we do not accept or recognize them.

Why Don’t We Rest?

One of the reasons we don’t rest is that we have a screwy definition. Rest is not first about running away and exploring all the corners of the world. I’ve mentioned before that we are people who, when we do this kind of vacationing, come home and say to ourselves, “Wow, I need another vacation!” Rest is not busyness in some other place! Rest is not running away from our daily lives and hiding. Both of these are actually examples of disconnection rather than rest—we disconnect from our lives, from God, and from others we love when we go on vacation. If you do family devotions or personal devotions at all, who of you continues them while on vacation? This is just one example of why, when we come home from breaks, we immediately find ourselves exactly as stressed and busy as we were before.

Our inability to rest is, at its core, a problem of pride. We do not trust someone else to be in charge! So we slave on; even when we hate it, when we’re exhausted, when we’re bitter. We don’t trust others (so we disconnect); we don’t trust God (so we ignore, dishonour him); we don’t even trust ourselves (so we work HARDER!). We struggle to get to the end of a week and say “that was enough for now!” So we work overtime, we worry about our jobs, we take our computers into the bedroom. It doesn’t have to be this way!

A few years back when Kaylee and I were in Denmark, I was chatting with the family we were staying with. It was an afternoon and Martin, our host, was home, so I asked him about his work. He told me he worked in a bank in Copenhagen. When I asked him why he was home in the middle of the day, at first he didn’t understand the question. Then he explained. He said, “Danish people work about 32-36 hours per week full time. In that time, employers expect their employees to get all their work done. If you work overtime, we think you must be slow at your job because you couldn’t get it done in regular hours. Businesses know that there is more to life than work.”

People with different experiences can remind us that it is okay—even healthy—to take a break from our work—daily and weekly—and to do so as an act of trust in God, for the purpose of working for healthy relational connection—with our families and friends, for health within ourselves, and even for a deeper relationship with God.

Why is Rest Important?

Rest is important for (at least) three reasons.

Rest reminds us of who is in charge (God).

Speaking about Sabbath above, I said that it’s healthy to rest as an act of trust in God, for the purpose of working for healthy relational connection—with our families and friends, for health within ourselves, and even for a deeper relationship with God. In rest, we are able to push back against personal temptation to be in charge of everything in our own lives and learn to trust God. When, one day each week, we “do nothing that we know to be work” we remind ourselves that limits are healthy and good. That we do not need more hours in the day or more days in the week; instead, God has given us enough. Likewise, God is in control, even when we are not. God is not limited as we are. 

Rest refocuses our hearts on what is most important.

When we fail to rest, we lose focus on our priorities. We think we can do it all and so we try…and we end up doing more than we should and doing it poorly! Rest as Sabbath—taking a break from the things we know to be work—gives us time and space to reflect on what and who is most important in our life. When we have time to reflect and to take a break from our creative and directive energies, we not only give others space to step in; we also remember our priorities, our goals, and our focuses. We find it easier, after a time of rest, to make wise decisions, to say no to distractions and temptations, and to prioritize what and who is most important. Sabbath rest prepares our hearts for deeper connections when we return to periods of production.

Hopefully you’ve been getting a sense in this sermon of the need for regular rhythms of rest—going from times of production and creation to periods of rest—swinging back and forth, like on a pendulum. Because of the effects of sin in our world, some of us look first to our work for fulfillment, while some of us look to other people for fulfillment. To see this, we need to look no further than God’s descriptive curse of Adam and Eve. To Eve, God said, “Your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you.” And to Adam, God said, “through painful toil you will eat food from [the ground] all the days of your life.” Unfulfilled longings, along with the exhaustion and isolation in our lives are a result of the fall. But rest points us toward the shape of things to come.

Rest points us toward the shape of things to come.

Do you ever stop and imagine what the world will be like in ten years? Or what the church will be like in a decade? Here’s my take on our world in thirty seconds: technology will become a bigger part of our lives, we will continue to pressure young people to train for more and more specialized jobs, we will buy yet bigger houses and more expensive vehicles; personal debt will grow as will social disconnection—we will all be so busy managing our own lives that we will have less time and energy for community pursuits.

If it sounds like a bleak forecast, I’d like to hear your thoughts! What do you think will be different? The question of “what will the future look like?” is an important one because the Bible paints us a picture of life for God’s people in eternity that is a life of rest! It’s a life of direct and intimate connection between God and humanity; a place of universal flourishing where everyone and even every animal gets along; and it’s a place where Sabbath rest continues—God’s power and glory fills all of life.

The role of the church is to usher God’s kingdom into our world now! If we know the shape of things to come—both in heaven and on earth—then we know what it looks like for us to stand in the gap! In terms of the life of the church; here’s where I think we’re heading: Like anything else, people can get content anywhere. You can find a better preacher than me, better singers and music than ours. You can hear the news from your own perspective, your own language, and easily experience confirmation bias (and good feels) whoever you are. Christians too will continue to fill our lives with busyness: kids’ activities, personal travel, consumption of all kinds. In other words, it will be very tempting to follow the way of the world. 

But remember for a moment Jesus’ vision for church: Love the Lord your God; love your neighbour as yourself. And remember RPC’s vision: Reaching Out, Drawing In, Creating Mosaic Community. The future of the our church (and others in the Global West) will be people gathered together by strong relational bonds. Collections of spiritual families, bound together by common love and common mission:

Love for God, love for neighbours as self.
Mission to share God’s love with our neighbours, friends, and family.

We will learn that a good preacher and pastor is not one with the most engaging content; but one who knows and cares for your situation. Likewise, we will learn that the best church community is not the one that is busy doing all kinds of programs, it’s one where people are deeply known and loved. The right kind of doing flows out of the right kind of love. We already know this in our families: there are other parents (better parents) out there—but they don’t love you. You see, we are a family, journeying together on the same path. We are one. Not in agreement, but in position. We are in the same boat.

There will always be the temptation, in every area of our lives, to look elsewhere: “Oh that church has more programs/better program!” and “Oh life will be easier/the grass will be greener over there”; but this is a view based only on my personal benefit and an external view. When we see the future of the church from God’s perspective, we see more gratitude, joy, rest, and peace. We see a deepening of commitment to one another and a widening of love. Won’t you come and rest? Won’t you stay awhile? 

Let’s pray.

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