Sermon, Mornington Presbyterian Church, 27th October, Rev. Rachel Judge
Let’s offer to God now in prayer, this time of openness to Him. Let’s pray…Gracious God, giver of all good gifts, as we acknowledge your sovereignty over our lives, and our dependence on you, we offer you all glory and praise. We wait on you now with open hearts and ears, knowing that you will call us and equip us to serve you. Enfold us in your grace, and fill us with your Holy Spirit so that our thoughts may be your thoughts, and my words your words. In the precious name of Christ we pray, Amen
Labour Weekend. What have you looked forward to most about this holiday weekend?
Maybe the chance to sleep in, to catch up with friends and family, to work in your garden or to play some rounds of golf tomorrow?
What will you do with the extra time? Plant potatoes, play music, relax in God’s presence, in God’s creation?
Legend has it that Presbyterians are not famous for their enjoyment of leisure time. The tag ‘Presbyterian work ethic’ points back to a deep history and context.
Most of us are not good at ‘doing nothing’. Even in our worship of God we want to fill it with activity, and are easily side-tracked by distractions.
In Thomas Moore’s book Meditations, he tells of a pilgrim walking along a road. The pilgrim sees some men working on a stone building.
“You look like a monk,” the pilgrim said.
“I am that,” said the monk.
“Who is that working on the abbey?”
“My monks. I’m the abbot.”
“It’s good to see a monastery going up,” said the pilgrim.
“They’re tearing it down,” said the abbot.
“Whatever for?” asked the pilgrim.
“So we can see the sun rise at dawn,” said the abbot.
God’s glory is all around us. Yet many of us fail to see the gifts of God right in front of us, and instead engage in frantic busy-ness. We mistakenly think we have to ‘make something happen’ (and I’m one of the worst culprits) when God has already created abundant opportunities, miracles of grace and an everlasting inheritance for us.
The word leisure comes from the Latin word which means ‘to be free.’ As Christ’s followers we know that Jesus has set us free, but sometimes we chain ourselves back – to our work, to other people’s expectations of us, and to our own desires to please, or perhaps our own fears of silence and inactivity.
One of my favourite Bible verses in John 10:10 ‘Jesus said, “I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.”
Why would we live a half-life when Christ beckons us into abundance? Why would we want to live a fettered life when Christ has set us free?
Portion of CD of Chris Tomlin ‘My chains fell off’
Someone has calculated how a typical lifespan of 70 years is spent. Here is the estimate:
(Our Daily Bread, November 25, 1992)
Really? 2 years of dressing! What a waste! And only half a year for religion – but hopefully a life time of following Christ.
Now obviously such an estimate is something of a guesstimate – for our priorities differ from one another, and also through the seasons of our life our preoccupations change. It also doesn’t include the current (and no doubt long lasting) passion for swiping small screens for hours of leisure. If our 11year old was allowed all the time he wanted on his ipod that would add up to many months already I’m sure!
Jesus had his reasons for inviting his disciples to rest. They’d just returned from the mission on which he’d sent them – the adventure of a lifetime! He’d sent them out in pairs, and in haste. Jesus told them not to clutter themselves with extra gear, but simply to trust God’s provision for their needs. They weren’t to linger where they weren’t wanted. Instead they were to keep moving on, calling people to turn their lives to God, healing diseases and casting out demons.
And why? Why were they to keep on moving urgently proclaiming the Gospel to as many as possible, wherever possible? Why were they to be so focused on this task that they’d need a good rest at the end of it?
The disciples couldn’t know, in their own strength at this stage the extent of Jesus’ power …. and love. The cross was still to come. Christ’s mission was still a work in progress. So these frail, fickle, sometimes faithful, ordinary men couldn’t conceive of the urgency of the message, the need for repentance, and spiritual battle that was waging. No wonder Jesus was insistent on their going quickly. Of course there was no time to be wasted in packing heavy bags, or stopping for theological arguments. This was Kingdom Business.
Today on Labour Weekend Sunday, 2013, what is Christ’s call to you?
Is He asking you to rest in Him, and be refreshed?
Has your life of adventure in God brought you to a place where you need to be cradled and nurtured for a time, to re-discern priorities?
Is Jesus preparing you for active engagement as a foot soldier in the battle that is waging?
I’ve been praying and walking early in the mornings recently with a Christian woman whose husband suddenly left her a year ago for another woman. We are not talking about accepting the situation or moving on but we’re crying out to God together for revelation to hit him between the eyes, for light to dawn in his darkness so that he, and she, may be freed.
There is urgency in our time and our setting to live out the Gospel and proclaim the kingdom of God so clearly that light will again shine through the darkness.
Yes, it may be Labour Weekend, but that’s no invitation to rust.
Instead we are invited to rest with Christ, before the crowds come rushing in with needs again soon. We are called to be alone with him and restored by the One who alone has power to calm the storm. In all times and places God is sovereign. God Himself gave us the model of working and resting as He created the heavens and the earth, and humankind in perfection.
As the wise author of the ancient words from Ecclesiastes remind us, there is a time for everything, ‘ a season for every activity under heaven.’ Because God has everything under control He has predetermined our needs, our desires, our responses and responsibilities. So there is work, there is rest, there is a calling from God, and a willing response from us, a time to give and a time to receive.
This Labour Weekend we celebrate being God’s people with a purpose.
We delight to be people on a mission. As I’ve driven around the Mornington area a bit in the past month or so I’ve been struck by the number of houses – subdivided sections, little streets I hadn’t known of before, and obvious signs of family life.
Your witness as God’s people in this place is obvious, and the stories of Christ’s influence, through you, on young lives over the years are legendary.
But the need is greater than ever. The words of Jesus then speak to our hearts now “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9; 37,38).
Maybe we are entering into a season again where we are sent out, maybe even beyond our comfort zones, to gather in all who respond to the beckoning invitation of Jesus Christ. God is raising up harvesters to disciple those who respond to the Call of Christ.
You might know the contemporary Kiwi worship song that links beautifully the passage we’ve heard today with Paul’s famous words about the power of God’s love, from 1 Corinthians 13 “These three remain , faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.”
(’Our Life has its Seasons’ words)
“For there’s never a time to stop believing,
there’s never a time for hope to die.
There’s never a time to stop loving,
these three things go on……”
Listen very carefully.
Let your ears and heart be opened gently by God’s pursuing love.
Have no fear, says the Lord of Heaven and earth who made you exactly the way He wanted you to be, I’m calling you closer to me, though holiday time and working time, through challenges and joys to rest with me. Come with me, so that God’s Kingdom will come on earth. Come with me so that God’s will is done.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus. Let’s pray….