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Just rest a while

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. – Mark 6:30-32

We dedicated a bench in front of my church last weekend.

It was purchased in memory of two members of my congregation who have both gone to be with the Lord, Uva and George Conner. As someone said about the Conners, “If you go to heaven and you don’t see George and Uva there, you know you’re in the wrong place.”

Wonderful, godly people.

It’s an inviting-looking bench, on the lawn under a tree, and it’s our hope that people passing by on High Street might pause and take a break there in the shade. Just before we offered a blessing on the bench and I was thinking about what to include in my prayer of dedication, the words came to me, “Jesus rested.”

And so I told those gathered that Jesus took time out to rest his body and his spirit. The pressures of ministry often became too much – can you imagine having huge crowds following you absolutely everywhere? He simply had to take a break and reconnect with his Father, the source of his power.

As the passage above from the Gospel of Mark says, “For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Not even time to grab a bite of dinner, amid the press of needy, sick, hurting people. Sometimes, when Jesus, alone or with his disciples, would try to retreat to a deserted place for some down time, they would find the place far from deserted. The crowds had somehow beaten them there. Ministry was waiting.

Well, I’ve found in my years as a pastor that ministry is always waiting. There’s always more to do than time to do it in. And you don’t need to be a pastor to experience that kind of pressure. These days, with the speed-of-light rush of our society, everyone feels it, to one degree or another. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom with children Velcroed to your legs, or a businessperson, or a teacher or a student or a cashier at the supermarket, stress and pressure rule our lives.

So why are we often so reluctant to claim the rest that we so desperately need? For many of us, “Busy!” is the only proper response to the question, “How are you doing?” In some lines of work, it’s a competition to see who has put in more hours, whose planner is more jam-packed, who is about to drop from overwork. This is no way to live – not if we seek any sort of quality of life. And definitely not if we are Jesus-followers. Jesus went away to a deserted place, time and again, for prayer or just to receive the blessed sacrament of rest. We should, too.

Write to me and let me know how you are incorporating the spiritual discipline of rest and Sabbath in your lives. And if your boss asks what you’re up to, you can say, “Jesus made me do it.”

REV. SUSIE THOMAS is lead pastor of Farmville United Methodist Church. Her email address is sthomas@farmvilleumc.org.