This is a time of great temptation for the church of Jesus Christ, because it is a time of great testing for his disciples. But our time in the wilderness may become a season of great strength, renewal and restoration if we seek the Sabbath blessings so available to us now.
Come and see!
The sky was so clear the day the disciples set out in their boat, but the storm overtook them furiously fast, overwhelming the experts at the helm and tending the rigging. All looked lost, and Jesus was asleep. They roused their Lord, shook him back to consciousness, if for no other reason than so he could share in their distress. But the Lord of heaven and earth, the Lord of storm and calm, the Lord of every battered heart and windblown soul looked out over all that he had made and gave a simple command: "Peace. Be still." And all was still. Then, he looked at his disciples and asks us all: "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" (Mark 4:35-41)
It might seem an awkward link to make, but had the disciples been more faithful practitioners of the Sabbath, they may have been better prepared for the storms that overtook them. When God established the Sabbath is was to offer his children a moment to pause and ponder all God was capable of. It was our chance to look around and behold the majesty of what he fashioned by his hands, the bounty he had provided, and listen again to the promises he has made to his people. So that when the storm comes, those moments of peace-filled rest will have prepared us with the spiritual resources of faith, hope, and love, all so essential to moments such as this. That is what Sabbath rest is all about: being renewed in the Word (promise) and Spirit of God now actively at work in the world, so that we may be faithfully engaged in all God calls us then to do.
Jesus claimed himself to be the Lord of the Sabbath, and as he was leading his disciples to the cross, he was preparing all creation for rest from ceaseless struggle, restoration from depletion, and regeneration from the sin and death that exhaust us every day.
Many of us are anxious these days because we simply do not know what to do with ourselves during this time of forced exile and isolation. Our schedules gave our life momentum. Our responsibilities gave our life purpose and meaning. Without them, many of us feel disoriented. There is so much to be done for people, but we are powerless to do it. We've all also acknowledged that we let ourselves get too busy, too stressed out, too overworked. Now we wish for a bit of that to return.
Last week was exhausting for many of us. As we watched the news and sought to make sense of it, many of us felt disoriented and emotionally depleted from it all. Worry is hard work. Along with our leaders, health care providers, store clerks and first responders, we have been doing a lot of heavy lifting in our souls. Many of you have been very diligent in your prayers. Intercessory prayer is hard work. Thank you for doing it! That work needs to continue.
As you pray your way through your numerous concerns, take a moment in this wilderness and look around you. Take a deep breath. Let the storms become still in your mind, and rest.
Rest in the peace of the Lord.
Rest in the beauty of his creation.
Rest in assurance that you are loved.
Rest in the grace that you are saved everlastingly.
Rest in the quiet of prayerful union with God.
Rest in the hope saturating each moment of your day.
Rest in the knowledge that this is God's world and he knows what's best for us.
It may be a hidden work of grace: God is offering us a chance to be obedient in the very best of ways by taking that pause so we may ponder the blessings of his love which get lost amid the scurry. Take note of those blessings. Report on what you see. Share them with the rest of us.
But in the meantime, crawl into a hammock called Gratitude and let the gentle winds of the Holy Spirit rock you. Imagine yourselves to be cradled in the arms of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, who holds the whole world in his hands.
And as you rock, hum yourself a tune:
Be still my soul: the Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to your God to order and provide; in every change God faithful will remain.
Be still my soul: your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still my soul: your God will undertake to guide the future as in ages past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake; all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still my soul: the waves and winds still know the Christ who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still my soul: the hour is hastening on when we shall be forever with the Lord, when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tear are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
(Katharina von Schlege, 1752)
Sabbath can feel irresponsible when there is so much suffering in the world But God needs people who are refreshed to carry out his call. One day, all of this will pass and the restrictions will be lifted. Then we will be thrown into a different kind of busyness with fresh demands calling forth from us our very best. We will be well prepared for that day if we rest, truly rest in the Lord.
God be with you all! Yours in Christ - Clay
Rev. Dr. Clay Berry
Pastor, Wakefield Baptist Church
236 Main Street
Wakefield, Rhode Island 02879