Luke 5: 12-16
Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.
If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.
Yesterday, I introduced the idea that through His incarnation, Jesus offers us a pattern for living into the fullness of life. Or in words of Peter, Christ has left us an example, that we should follow in His footsteps.
In today’s scripture reading, we read of the heightening momentum surrounding Jesus’ ministry, as news about Him spreads with crowding gathering around Him. It would be logical for Jesus to ride the wave of such energy and attention, when in fact He does the opposite; for in the next verse we read:
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Luke 5: 16
Throughout His ministry, we see Jesus retreating back into wilderness like spaces to be with the Father. Even when life reached its most intense moments, Jesus stuck to a pattern that He had cultivated through a rhythm that prioritised abiding rest.
Have you ever answered the question, “How are you doing?”, with an answer other than, “Good, but busy”?
Pre-lockdown, our lives were full, disrupted by the tyranny of the urgent and hassled by that lingering feeling that there’s one more task to complete before we can relax. Life took on two modes: either we were busy or we were crashing. Over-stretched, over-caffeinated and over-notified, our minds, bodies and souls became busy and we were okay with it, even though, as Eugene Peterson puts it, “busyness is the enemy of spirituality.”
The past year has forced us to slow down, to simplify life and to breathe once again. Once over the initial lockdown flurry, many of us began to come home ourselves and our souls had time to catch up with our bodies. We learned accept and even appreciate limitations, becoming content with the simplest of things and adopting new rhythms of rest and work with our families.
As we face the easing of restrictions, the question we need to consider is whether we will return back to our frantic, always teetering on the edge of burn-out kind of life?
Let’s not go back to the way things were pre-coronavirus as we pushed ourselves right to the limit of ourselves, neglecting the good, true and beautiful aspects of life. Yet, may we go back even further, to the beginning, to a command for living that has been woven into the fabric of creation.
May we learn to Sabbath.
For those of us who grew up around church, we can slip into thinking that Sabbath is all about “should nots”; others of us can think that Sabbath is about doing nothing. Yet Sabbath is about choosing to do things on a certain day of the week that lead us into intentional rest, worship and delight.
Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shabbat, which means to stop. Through the practice of Sabbath, we are invited to stop our work for a day and to enter into, as Tish Harrison Warren puts it, “the holiness of rest and the blessedness of unproductivity.” Through intentionally carving out a day to live differently from all the other days, we can learn to recover Jesus’ lordship over our lives and see once again that the world doesn’t hang on what we achieve, but it is sustained by what Jesus has accomplished.
Sabbath is a day for us to recover our identity in Jesus once again.
By taking a Sabbath, we are invited to receive God’s gift of repetitive and regular rest, drawing us into communion with Him. Through this weekly practice, we are formed into the ways of trust and the surrendering of control, establishing a counterpoint for frantic living with a renewed awareness of God’s presence.
This rhythm is the foundation for living, for in Genesis we read:
“By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had been doing.”
Genesis 2: 2-3
Here’s the thing:
So should you.
God has established a rhythm of life, rest and work into the operating system of creation. Jesus Himself modelled out the way we are to live, showing us how to take a real rest and bear much fruit.
You are invited to practice the Jesus way by taking a weekly Sabbath; a day to relax, enjoy life and allow God to take care of us as we draw on Him.
And why not start this weekend?
We have created a practice guide to help you and your family withdraw for a day and rest in the Father’s presence. Now is a good time to adopt a Sabbath rhythm, practicing it week in and week out, so that it may become like muscle memory and sustain you into the future.
You can access the Sabbath Practice Guide here.
Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
St. Francis of Assisi
If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.
Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.
Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.
“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.