Rest

Services

Sunday - 9:15 AM Sunday School, 10:30 AM Worship Service

by: Denise Robinson

11/01/2021

0

The 4R's: Rest

Isaiah 40:25-31; Matthew 11:28-30

This morning we begin another new sermon series and the general theme is Stewardship. When we talk about stewardship in the church, we often mean we’re going to talk about money, but that’s not the focus this year. Stewardship is not just money – stewardship, at its most basic, is the task or job of taking care of something that has been entrusted to one’s care. Biblically, one example of stewardship is outlined in Genesis 1:26-28 when God gave us care and authority over the earth that God had just created. God didn’t give us ownership of the earth; it still belongs to God. Being a good steward is one way we honor and show our love for God. We are also reminded that one day God’s kingdom will be established here on this earth. A second example of stewardship comes from the New Testament where Christ leaves us his church. The church belongs to Christ, but we have the responsibility of using the gifts God has given us to protect and to grow the church. This involves more than money: it means we are also called to invest our prayers, our presence, our abilities, our service, and our witness to Christ’s church. Stewardship is about living out our faith for the purpose of meeting the goal Jesus left for us – to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. If all of this sounds like a commitment, it is. And yet, the title of today’s sermon is not “Go forth and conquer” but instead “Rest.” Why are we beginning a sermon series with a focus on Rest? 

We know that after creating the world and everything in it, on the seventh day God rested. God had done a lot, of course. Spoke a world into being out of nothing, made the land and the seas, established the day and the night, created all the animals including very cute puppies and then some strange ones like aardvarks and giraffes and kangaroos. And, then, to top it all off he created us. It’s only fair that after all that creating God wanted to relax for a while – especially since he knew it wouldn’t be long before we began to mess everything up and he’d have to deal with that. Of course, we know that God didn’t really need the rest; he did it to give us an example of how we are to live, because God knew we’d be prone to overworking, or more accurately, overstressing our way through life. God gave us life and told us to be glad and rejoice in it; and we’ve managed to give in to worry, anxiety, and fear. God gave us life and told us to live for the promise of the hope we have in Christ, the promise that this life is nothing compared to the life to come. And we’ve managed to mostly overlook that promise in our obsession with our lives here today. How can we be good stewards of God’s earth and Christ’s church when our lives are consumed by stress?

Stress, of course, is nothing new. It’s so common, it’s simply viewed as a part of life. Just think about this for a moment; is it really possible to separate life and stress fully? The answer for us today is no, we can’t do it. We will stress over our own lives, the health and welfare of loved ones, the question of what will happen tomorrow. And, as we prepare to close out 2021, there’s no question but that since March of 2019, with the COVID-19 pandemic, our stress levels have changed for the worse. For some, it’s the fear of yourself or a loved one coming down with COVID. For others, it’s the isolation caused by mask mandates and social distancing. In the midst of all of this there’s anxiety about work, school, travel, the increased cost of living, the fact that people just seem to be angrier and more on edge. Then there are the questions: Will it end and, if so, when? And when it does, will life return to normal? To be honest, stress is not altogether bad. A little bit of stress helps us to stay alert, plan for the future, and be prepared for situations. The problem is that stress has no upper limit, and left unchecked it can become crippling, as we, individually and as a society deal with increased feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, loneliness, and frustration. This is true for each of us in our daily living, but it is also true for our spiritual living and our call to stewardship. What is the answer? We know we need physical and mental rest, but one area that is often – and too easily – overlooked is the need for spiritual rest. 

This morning’s sermon text comes from Isaiah 40. The people of Israel, in Isaiah’s day, were facing a lot of stress. They were under attack by foreign nations, particularly Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon, and were facing national defeat; their homes were burned, thousands were killed, and their young people were deported to serve in the cities of those other nations. For those left in Israel, there was a small group of rich (who had done favors for the invaders) and the rest of the people were poor to the point of starvation. There was rampant injustice, oppression, and an overall lack of concern for those in need. In the midst of all of this stress, God was mostly forgotten except by those who cried out wondering if God still heard them at all or cared if he did. 

Into this setting comes the prophet Isaiah, speaking the words of God to the people. Isaiah 40 opens with these words: “Comfort, O comfort my people.” In those few words, Isaiah reminds them that God is still their God and God cares for them. All of Chapter 40 is filled with words of comfort and promise from God. Life wasn’t going the way they expected it to go. Life wasn't making sense. The future didn’t look good. When they looked at what was happening around them, they were discouraged. Sound familiar? God’s words to the people reminds them to lift up their eyes, to focus on who and what is really important and to remember God’s promises. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator … The Lord gives power and strength … Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

God knows we struggle. God knows we sometimes feel let down or abandoned. God knows we wonder why we aren’t protected from trouble and how easily we get distracted thinking life isn’t fair. God knows we get confused and we give in to stress, that we lose our perspective on life. God knows we just get tired. God’s desire is that in such times we see ourselves, and this world, through his eyes and that we remember God’s incredible love for us and the assurance we have of a future without pain and suffering and unfairness and stress. In the meantime, we are called to keep the course and run with perseverance – but we don’t have to run alone. We can exchange our weariness for God’s strength. As Isaiah 40:31 reminds us, it happens when we “wait” on the Lord. The Hebrew word for wait is “quavah.” It means not just to wait, but to do so with expectation. It’s not just a state of passivity. It’s an attitude of faith. 

When was the last time you felt a longing for God, a longing to live your life as it is meant to be lived in God? How badly do you want it, this transformation or metamorphosis of life that leads to, as John 10:10 says, not just life, but life lived abundantly? Stage one is to create the space within you for God to work, to encourage, and to strengthen. It begins by releasing or letting go the deep unrest that is at the core of our being, those private places of pain and disillusionment. Most of us, if we’re honest, are more tired than we know at the soul level. We need to learn to rest in God. 

In Mark 6:31, Jesus invites his disciples to come away to a deserted place and rest a while. That’s good advice, but these words are even more compelling when we look at the context. Jesus has just commissioned the disciples for ministry and sent them out to make disciples and transform the world. They were exciting times, but they were also exhausting times, physically and spiritually. They are now returning to Jesus ready to share their stories of success, but there is also a personal loss to deal with. While they were out sharing the good news about Jesus, John the Baptist was executed by Herod. Jesus knows that as far as they have come, they still have a lot to do; so, he invites them to a place of rest. When we’re tired and stressed, its often our spiritual disciplines that are the first to go. We’re busy trying to make stuff happen rather than waiting on God to make stuff happen. 

In Exodus 14, Moses and the Israelites are backed into a corner. The Red Sea is in front of them and coming up fast behind them is the might of Pharaoh’s army. Talk about stress! What do they do? They start in on Moses. Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt that you had to bring us here to die? What have you done? Didn’t we tell you to just leave us alone? Moses responds firmly in vv. 13-14: “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance the Lord will accomplish for you today. The Lord will fight for you, and you only have to keep still.” Jesus said similar words to all of us in Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

We can’t be good at stewardship, at caring for Christ’s church, making disciples, and transforming lives, until we are ourselves transformed. It begins with being still, trusting God, and giving all our burdens – our stress, worry, and fear – over to Christ. So, we’re going to do something different this morning. I’m going to ask DJ to just quietly play something for the next few minutes and I invite you to sit and be still. In your bulletin there’s a small piece of paper. The paper dissolves when placed into water and you no doubt have been looking at these bowls of water here. I invite you to write down on the paper what’s been stressing you most this past year, your greatest fear, your concern that God has let you down. Maybe you have one thing to write and maybe this paper isn’t big enough for it all, but it’s time to take God at his word and let God do the fighting for us. During the offering time or as you leave the sanctuary, I invite you to put the paper into the water and watch it dissolve as you give it to Jesus. If you’re not comfortable coming up, I invite you to take this time to pray and give it up that way. For each person individually and as a church, let’s acknowledge the difficulty of the past year and our need for spiritual rest, and look to a time of new beginning.   

The 4R's: Rest

Isaiah 40:25-31; Matthew 11:28-30

This morning we begin another new sermon series and the general theme is Stewardship. When we talk about stewardship in the church, we often mean we’re going to talk about money, but that’s not the focus this year. Stewardship is not just money – stewardship, at its most basic, is the task or job of taking care of something that has been entrusted to one’s care. Biblically, one example of stewardship is outlined in Genesis 1:26-28 when God gave us care and authority over the earth that God had just created. God didn’t give us ownership of the earth; it still belongs to God. Being a good steward is one way we honor and show our love for God. We are also reminded that one day God’s kingdom will be established here on this earth. A second example of stewardship comes from the New Testament where Christ leaves us his church. The church belongs to Christ, but we have the responsibility of using the gifts God has given us to protect and to grow the church. This involves more than money: it means we are also called to invest our prayers, our presence, our abilities, our service, and our witness to Christ’s church. Stewardship is about living out our faith for the purpose of meeting the goal Jesus left for us – to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. If all of this sounds like a commitment, it is. And yet, the title of today’s sermon is not “Go forth and conquer” but instead “Rest.” Why are we beginning a sermon series with a focus on Rest? 

We know that after creating the world and everything in it, on the seventh day God rested. God had done a lot, of course. Spoke a world into being out of nothing, made the land and the seas, established the day and the night, created all the animals including very cute puppies and then some strange ones like aardvarks and giraffes and kangaroos. And, then, to top it all off he created us. It’s only fair that after all that creating God wanted to relax for a while – especially since he knew it wouldn’t be long before we began to mess everything up and he’d have to deal with that. Of course, we know that God didn’t really need the rest; he did it to give us an example of how we are to live, because God knew we’d be prone to overworking, or more accurately, overstressing our way through life. God gave us life and told us to be glad and rejoice in it; and we’ve managed to give in to worry, anxiety, and fear. God gave us life and told us to live for the promise of the hope we have in Christ, the promise that this life is nothing compared to the life to come. And we’ve managed to mostly overlook that promise in our obsession with our lives here today. How can we be good stewards of God’s earth and Christ’s church when our lives are consumed by stress?

Stress, of course, is nothing new. It’s so common, it’s simply viewed as a part of life. Just think about this for a moment; is it really possible to separate life and stress fully? The answer for us today is no, we can’t do it. We will stress over our own lives, the health and welfare of loved ones, the question of what will happen tomorrow. And, as we prepare to close out 2021, there’s no question but that since March of 2019, with the COVID-19 pandemic, our stress levels have changed for the worse. For some, it’s the fear of yourself or a loved one coming down with COVID. For others, it’s the isolation caused by mask mandates and social distancing. In the midst of all of this there’s anxiety about work, school, travel, the increased cost of living, the fact that people just seem to be angrier and more on edge. Then there are the questions: Will it end and, if so, when? And when it does, will life return to normal? To be honest, stress is not altogether bad. A little bit of stress helps us to stay alert, plan for the future, and be prepared for situations. The problem is that stress has no upper limit, and left unchecked it can become crippling, as we, individually and as a society deal with increased feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, loneliness, and frustration. This is true for each of us in our daily living, but it is also true for our spiritual living and our call to stewardship. What is the answer? We know we need physical and mental rest, but one area that is often – and too easily – overlooked is the need for spiritual rest. 

This morning’s sermon text comes from Isaiah 40. The people of Israel, in Isaiah’s day, were facing a lot of stress. They were under attack by foreign nations, particularly Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon, and were facing national defeat; their homes were burned, thousands were killed, and their young people were deported to serve in the cities of those other nations. For those left in Israel, there was a small group of rich (who had done favors for the invaders) and the rest of the people were poor to the point of starvation. There was rampant injustice, oppression, and an overall lack of concern for those in need. In the midst of all of this stress, God was mostly forgotten except by those who cried out wondering if God still heard them at all or cared if he did. 

Into this setting comes the prophet Isaiah, speaking the words of God to the people. Isaiah 40 opens with these words: “Comfort, O comfort my people.” In those few words, Isaiah reminds them that God is still their God and God cares for them. All of Chapter 40 is filled with words of comfort and promise from God. Life wasn’t going the way they expected it to go. Life wasn't making sense. The future didn’t look good. When they looked at what was happening around them, they were discouraged. Sound familiar? God’s words to the people reminds them to lift up their eyes, to focus on who and what is really important and to remember God’s promises. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator … The Lord gives power and strength … Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

God knows we struggle. God knows we sometimes feel let down or abandoned. God knows we wonder why we aren’t protected from trouble and how easily we get distracted thinking life isn’t fair. God knows we get confused and we give in to stress, that we lose our perspective on life. God knows we just get tired. God’s desire is that in such times we see ourselves, and this world, through his eyes and that we remember God’s incredible love for us and the assurance we have of a future without pain and suffering and unfairness and stress. In the meantime, we are called to keep the course and run with perseverance – but we don’t have to run alone. We can exchange our weariness for God’s strength. As Isaiah 40:31 reminds us, it happens when we “wait” on the Lord. The Hebrew word for wait is “quavah.” It means not just to wait, but to do so with expectation. It’s not just a state of passivity. It’s an attitude of faith. 

When was the last time you felt a longing for God, a longing to live your life as it is meant to be lived in God? How badly do you want it, this transformation or metamorphosis of life that leads to, as John 10:10 says, not just life, but life lived abundantly? Stage one is to create the space within you for God to work, to encourage, and to strengthen. It begins by releasing or letting go the deep unrest that is at the core of our being, those private places of pain and disillusionment. Most of us, if we’re honest, are more tired than we know at the soul level. We need to learn to rest in God. 

In Mark 6:31, Jesus invites his disciples to come away to a deserted place and rest a while. That’s good advice, but these words are even more compelling when we look at the context. Jesus has just commissioned the disciples for ministry and sent them out to make disciples and transform the world. They were exciting times, but they were also exhausting times, physically and spiritually. They are now returning to Jesus ready to share their stories of success, but there is also a personal loss to deal with. While they were out sharing the good news about Jesus, John the Baptist was executed by Herod. Jesus knows that as far as they have come, they still have a lot to do; so, he invites them to a place of rest. When we’re tired and stressed, its often our spiritual disciplines that are the first to go. We’re busy trying to make stuff happen rather than waiting on God to make stuff happen. 

In Exodus 14, Moses and the Israelites are backed into a corner. The Red Sea is in front of them and coming up fast behind them is the might of Pharaoh’s army. Talk about stress! What do they do? They start in on Moses. Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt that you had to bring us here to die? What have you done? Didn’t we tell you to just leave us alone? Moses responds firmly in vv. 13-14: “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance the Lord will accomplish for you today. The Lord will fight for you, and you only have to keep still.” Jesus said similar words to all of us in Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

We can’t be good at stewardship, at caring for Christ’s church, making disciples, and transforming lives, until we are ourselves transformed. It begins with being still, trusting God, and giving all our burdens – our stress, worry, and fear – over to Christ. So, we’re going to do something different this morning. I’m going to ask DJ to just quietly play something for the next few minutes and I invite you to sit and be still. In your bulletin there’s a small piece of paper. The paper dissolves when placed into water and you no doubt have been looking at these bowls of water here. I invite you to write down on the paper what’s been stressing you most this past year, your greatest fear, your concern that God has let you down. Maybe you have one thing to write and maybe this paper isn’t big enough for it all, but it’s time to take God at his word and let God do the fighting for us. During the offering time or as you leave the sanctuary, I invite you to put the paper into the water and watch it dissolve as you give it to Jesus. If you’re not comfortable coming up, I invite you to take this time to pray and give it up that way. For each person individually and as a church, let’s acknowledge the difficulty of the past year and our need for spiritual rest, and look to a time of new beginning.   

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