Up: Rest Up
Sunday, May 27, 2018
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
1 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”[a]
3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.
4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;[b] their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.
5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.
7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I keep the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.
10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.
11 You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
REST! Who needs rest? We are a society that thrives on the going, the running, the fastest and quickest way of completing a project! We are a society that thrives on the ability to accomplish a task first, and then take the credit for such a wonderful job. We are a society that puts our children through the ringer, so to speak, in order that they can learn how to be busy with their time, their energy, and their resources. The problem is, we forget to allow them time to rest.
Growing up, I just figured being able to rest and taking time to rest was natural. Sure, life was busy but there was time for rest! Sunday afternoons for the most part were restful in my house. Church, out to lunch, home to play outside while my parents read the newspaper, and then their was usually quality quiet time in the late afternoon just to rest. I never really thought anything about it, I just assumed that it was natural. There were no youth sports played on Sunday, TV was limited and it was a time to be spent with those who were closest to you. That my friends was a sabbath, a time to rest!
Having said that, heck! We forget to rest as adults! Over the past month my life has been anything but rest, closing out details at one church and preparing to enter the details of another church. Exciting? yes. Restful, no! Yet, two weeks ago I attended the “moving clergy” workshop, a great workshop on transition, moving, closing out, and starting again. But, tagged onto that seminar was an optional workshop entitled, “A Space for Grace.” An afternoon/evening that was dedicated to ways and practices of finding the need for a sabbath in our lives. Again, it was wonderful, needed, and practical. It reminded me that even in the midst of our business, our hurried life, that we need this time to be in the presence of God! I would be a lying preacher if I told you that it was not without struggle that I seek to practice this, but whoever said “hard work” was easy? Whoever said “resting” was going to be easy?
As Augustine reminds us, “God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
As we read and hear the Psalmist this morning, from the 16th Psalm we hear words of a Song of Confidence and Trust. Much like Psalm 23, but as we read deeper we see that it is a Psalm concerned with the abiding Trust we (and the writers) have already placed in God. It is a Psalm laying claim to the land that was inhabited and to the righteous that lived within that land.
Scholars break the Psalm into two parts, vs. 1-6 and vs. 7-11. Our concentration is on the second half of the Psalm, especially v.9, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices, my body also rests secure.” For it is here that we find the need to rest and to dwell in the presence of God through all the stations in life. The Psalmist brings us to a point of absolute praise and thanksgiving for all that God has given us.
The great preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick, pastor of Riverside Church in New York reminds us “He who cannot rest, cannot work; he who cannot let go, cannot hold on; he who cannot find footing, cannot go forward.”
It is in our living in the fast paced and hustled world that we find the need to “rest” ALL OF OUR BEING in God. The Psalmist reminds us that we must first rest “our hearts and our souls,” literally “Our inner being” in God. Second, the Psalmist reminds us that we must utter praise from our external body for what God has given us, once again literally, “my throat” will “be glad” and “rejoice.” Then when all of this is complete and practiced, the external being “my body” will “rest secure” and not experience corruption or as the Hebrew translates, “the Pit."
How well are we doing that? How well are we putting all three of these things together in our lives and learning how to “rest well, to rest secure” in the presence of God? Rest, for the Christian is essential! For it is in our utmost being that God has created us to learn how to rest in a way that is secure and satisfying not only to us, but to God!
One of my early mentors in ministry told me that his daily Sunday practice always included an afternoon nap. Over the years, I have struggled to put that into practice and apply it to my Sunday routine. What I have discovered over time is that napping and sleeping are our answers to rest! Seldom do they accomplish what we want them to do. I believe the Psalmist, and for that much, this sermon series has given us a pathway to living! We have covered everything from “Stand Up” to “Fire Up” and now at the end we must learn to slow and “Rest Up.” For it is only in resting up that we can be the best and give the best we have to God! For if we are not “rested up” then our dwelling place is always corrupt.
The Rev. David Wilkerson, founder of Teen Challenge and esteemed pastor of Times Square Church in New York, commented recently on the issues that we are facing in our world today and was adamant about the understanding that the created “body of God and the soul of God” needed rest in order to do the proper work, “In these times, God’s people must trust Him for rest of body and soul.”
In the Grand Canyon they use donkey’s to take tourists and visitors into the depth of the canyon. One “donkey vendor” was struggling with the fact that after seven days of using his donkey’s to carry travelers in and out of the canyon, their life-span, their agility, and their speed was quickly dwindling. It wasn’t until he figured out that if he gave his donkey’s one day off a week, a Sabbath, that their potential and energy would increase, they became safer to ride and were able to make better time. He came to understand that the donkey’s craved rest! They craved it because they needed it! I liken this story to the fact that we as Christians, who are all about doing everything in our power to change the world, crave that rest! And without it, our energy, our potential, our clear thinking, and our agility is altered!
Matthew Henry, the great Biblical scholar said about this text and this problem the following:
“Gracious persons, though they still covet more of God, never covet more than God; but, being satisfied of his loving-kindness, are abundantly satisfied with it: they envy not any their carnal mirth and delights.” What Henry is saying to us is that our perspective on coveting what God has given us is our task! To live abundantly in the midst of a God who loves us, cares for us, and requires that we rest in the secure presence of the Holy! Once again, I ask ourselves, How well are we doing this?
I have asked myself many times over the past several weeks, “How well am I doing this?” As I have worked on closing things out at two churches and preparing to start things off at a new church, what can I do to make sure “my body rests secure”? With lists posted around the house and post-it notes throughout my office and in my car, rest seems to be at a premium. So what do I ask myself and I invite you to ask these same questions as you reflect upon this Psalm today:
How is my pace of life in step with God’s leading of my life?
How am I finding rest in both “Being with Jesus” and “Doing things for Jesus”?
How and when do I find myself resting securely?
My friends, in asking these questions it is not an exercise in finding the “right answers.” It is my hope that Christ United Methodist Church will move forward doing the work of the Kingdom of God and in so doing, find rest in the presence of God Almighty! May God continue to bless you as a congregation and move with you in the years to come so that the completeness of the Psalm rings true, “You Lord, show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures forevermore!”
AMEN & AMEN