Labor and Leisure

donkeyfogThis morning, as I looked out over the pasture, I couldn’t see the donkey for the fog. The trees were dripping, dripping, dripping from the early morning mist, and the sun had not yet topped the trees to burn it off. The temperature actually dropped below ninety last evening; a sure sign that Fall is on its way. I flipped the page on the calendar, wondering where the summer had gone, surprised again by the onset of Autumn.

September is such a strange month! It pulls you, bare feet dragging, away from the beach and vacation and leisure, back to your labor and toil and routine. Fall programs kick into high gear. The phone rings more often; more demands are made on your time. Your pulse quickens as you pick up the pace of your life, and more often than not, you start your day running. And, yet, warm sands and long week-ends still beckon. No wonder so many people flock to the parks over the Labor Day week-end for one, final fling at summer’s official end, trying to hang on to those precious, leisure days, just a little longer.

Labor and leisure-work and rest. It’s so difficult to find the balance between them, isn’t it? They say we Americans have more leisure time now than ever, but I don’t see it. Everyone I know, even retired folks, seem to be working all the time, in one way or the other. “How are you?” I ask, and, more times than not, the reply is, “Busy. Tired.” Perhaps that is why God made a day of rest not just a suggestion, but a commandment. “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor…but on the seventh day, you shall do no work.” (Ex.20:8-11) God himself worked that way – labor and leisure – work and rest; a rhythm we do well to imitate.

“Come away to a deserted place and rest awhile.” Jesus urges his disciples. (Mark 6:31) They had just come back from an uplifting but very draining mission trip, where they had labored mightily for the Lord casting out demons and healing the sick. Jesus knew the necessity of balance – how a time of work needs to be followed by a time of rest. If you are tired and depleted, you have nothing to give to another, no matter how hard you work. Activity for activity’s sake is fruitless, and you end up spinning your wheels.

So, they gathered together around Jesus, away from the crowds and the labor, to rest and praise God for the miracles God had done through them. It wasn’t long before the crowds found them, and they were at it again, miraculously feeding five thousand people from a small boy’s lunch. This is the nature of the Church – to be a safe place for believers to gather, to rest, to worship, to pray, and to swap stories about how God is working in each of our lives. Gathered around Jesus, the Church is built up, strengthened, infilled with the Holy Spirit, and equipped to go back out to impact the maddening crowds.

Treasure your days of Sabbath rest. Guard them jealously, zealously. Claim your birth right to a day of leisure; a day dedicated to sitting in the presence of God, soaking up his Spirit and enjoying his good company and that of your fellow workers. Then, return to the labor to which you have been called with new energy and a vigor that may surprise you!

God bless you this Labor Day, so that you may find your balance between labor and leisure, and keep it.

Prayers, Pastor Barb <><

Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matt. 11:28

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