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Pastor's Corner: Remember a day of rest

 

Last updated 7/17/2020 at 7:44am



If there had been no pandemic, I would have found myself preparing for vacation bible school next week.

Instead, I find myself on vacation this week.

When this newspaper hits the stands, I expect that I will be on the highway with my family, returning from Whitefish with stops at the Dinosaur Trail museums in Bynum and Choteau planned as a slight detour off the fastest route.

For a while this spring, it didn’t look like that trip might be possible.

It is a blessing to find rest after the recent weeks and months of our world being turned upside down. I know that not everybody has been able to pause and recoup or make alternate arrangements after time and energy went into plans that had to be canceled.

This is certainly the year of the “staycation,” if a break can be found at all.

A meme made the rounds early on in the “lockdown” days of March and early April. It read, “God was spotted walking among the hills, mountains, rivers and plains of Montana this morning. A passer-by asked God what God was doing in Montana. God replied, ‘Working from home.’”

Good for a smile and a chuckle. Even the bishop of our synod shared that one.

I don’t know that I have lived anywhere that proud locals did not describe as “truly God’s country,” though.

This takes not only the eyes but the ears into account.

Our pastor while serving as missionaries in the Dominican Republic always assured us the hymns of praise would be sung in Spanish in Heaven, as surely it is the language of God. Given the musical talent present in our Methodist congregation in Santo Domingo, I couldn’t really argue the point.

Truly, the whole world, the universe in its expanse and its mystery, is “God’s country.”

The work we are meant to do is God’s work. But we are also meant to rest and have it be God’s rest.

Genesis 2:2-3 tells us that “on the seventh day God finished the work (of creation) that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.” In Exodus 20:11, we are reminded that “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.”

People being people, we have since managed to argue for ages since about what constitutes “days” in God’s timeline and whether that seventh day is Friday night, Saturday, Sunday or otherwise. I am not particularly interested in those debates. I do, however, believe that if God sees it fit to take a holy rest, we are called to do so as well.

Everyone has their limit. We were not made to work every waking hour until we die. It is not any new wisdom that few, if any, are found to have lamented on their death bed that they should have worked harder. If there are regrets in our last days, they usually center around not having devoted enough time to the people and the activities we love.

A newer insight developed in the pandemic era, however, does also ring true. We are not all in the same boat but we are all in the same storm. Some of us have become overworked due to the “essential” nature of our labors in the last several months. Far too many have been let go from the livelihoods we knew as the economy shed jobs and this time off presented itself as stress and not rest. Others are some where in between, pressured to work more to justify our jobs for fear of winding up in the second category.

Though this time is endlessly challenging, it also presents for us new opportunities. There is a chance for our society to regain the concept and spirit of Sabbath, of holy rest, putting aside our labors to honor the God who made us.

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The Rev. Sean Janssen is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Havre and Christ Lutheran Church in Big Sandy.

 

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