July 7, 2008

Resting with Jesus

            The gospel lesson for this week is from Matthew 11. I want to highlight verse 28, a text we love to cite, but tend to ignore in practice. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”      Many of us long for rest, but feel guilty if we accept what is one of God’s great gifts to finite humans. Somehow we think work will save us.  To put it theologically, we have difficulty receiving grace, particularly in the form of relinquishing our tight grip of productivity. Wendell Berry’s poem Sabbaths encourages the worker to remember “…the field is tilled and left to grace.”

            Our fretting, anxious society needs to accept this invitation from Jesus, who somehow knew how to balance his varied demands by resting in God. The Gospels frequently note that he got away for prayer and rest, an exercise that allowed him to deepen his communion with God as well as be fully present to those he encountered along the way.

            The wording of this text is interesting: literally it says “I will rest you”—a stronger affirmation that “I will give you rest.” Eugene Peterson’s contemporary rendering, The Message, captures this sense. “Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.”  Resting with Jesus is the key to wholeness of life.  It gathers up the scattered fragments and re-creates us in God’s image. Are you weary? Jesus invites us to rest with him.


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