I love it whenever I find evidence of a "refrain" in the Scriptures. What I mean is this. Sometimes we sing hymns with recurring melodies that we call "choruses" or "refrains." Not only is the refrain fun to sing...and oftentimes an island of familiarity in a song that is difficult (think Mr. Bean singing "From All That Dwell Below the Skies")...it usually has important content that bears repeating. Such is the case with the refrains we find in the Scriptures. They are a delight to discover. They are also God's way of highlighting our Bibles for what is certainly Life-giving for all of us to notice.
The refrain in question speaking to us this week is the refrain that our work is more creative and our relationships more whole when we step out of the torrent of schedules and expectations of others that so easily carry us along in their relentless current...finding our rest and peace in God, who brings us Life!
It all starts with GOD's day off. "On the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it" (Gen 2:2-3). To "hallow" means to set aside as special. So the Almighty God of the universe is NOT a workaholic. If a day-off was taken by the Almighty, how much more important sacred rest is for the less-than-almighty people of God's creation. But that's just the first time we hear that refrain about the importance of rest. When God uses Moses to bring ten "words" of Life to Israel later on, the directive about sacred rest is tied to release from slavery in Egypt: "Remember the Sabbath day" because "you were a slave in the land of Egypt." The days in Egypt were all about producing and performing as workers for Pharaoh. The Lord of the universe wants us not to perform but to receive...the day God hallowed on God's own day off is an opportunity for us to do so. Then there is Jesus. Jesus directs us past the letter of the Law (thinking we can fulfill the Law perfectly, check each box of the Commandments, and move on). Jesus directs us to the heart and soul of God's Law of Life. Sabbath rest is so much more than "Thou shalt not" do on Sunday certain things that are done other days of the week, though that might be a place to start. Sabbath rest means having a day to be healed...having a day to take part (again!) in Jesus' victory over sin, death, and the Adversary. For the early church that Sabbath was Day 1 of the week, the day of Jesus' resurrection. But God's Sabbath rest can continue any/every day of the week...wherever/however we receive the gift of Life God's Word brings when it restores our faith in the fact that we are forgiven sinners. The irony is that our work and play occurring alongside this Sabbath rest actually becomes more meaningful...our broken relationships more whole...when the peace our souls crave is restored by God.
It isn't easy to step out of the torrent of activity that pushes us along in life. It is so much easier to give in to the schedule book, the demands of others, the need to be appreciated, the expectation that we will perform better than before. Sometimes there are real needs to be met RIGHT NOW. But this is not where Life is found. This week, we not only hear the refrain of sacred rest in the Scriptures....we rely on the gift of the Spirit to more perfectly sing it ourselves. As we do, the God who took a day off, is faithful. There is no longer the need to perform. We simply receive.