Don’t Play in the Rest
My first year at college, I had to opportunity to play French horn in Stravinski’s Rite of Spring. The Rite of Spring is a seminal 20th century orchestral work, and it is a challenging piece. It changes meter every few bars, throwing rhythmic motifs around the orchestra as if it were a tennis ball at Wimbleton. One rehearsal we were laboring over a particularly difficult section. It has the entire orchestra playing same rhythm, peppered with 8th rests: (sing) Inevitably, a hapless string player would accidentally play in the rest, when everything was supposed to be silent. Each time someone would make mistake, the conductor would shout, “No!” So it sounded like: (sing) This happened so many times that finally the conductor stopped the orchestra and yelled, “DON’T PLAY IN THE REST!!”
“Don’t play in the rest.” It is a good musical maxim, and also a good maxim for life. For just as the silence of a rest provides the necessary space to create rhythm, the periodic cessation of activity in our busy lives gives us space as well. Space to remember that we are not the sum of what we do. Space to enjoy the simple gifts of life. Space to reconnect with the Divine, ourselves and one another. In the 4th Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” God established a life-giving rhythm of activity and rest, and gave it to humankind as a gift.
Jesus kept this rhythm. Marks tells how Jesus would often get up early to pray by himself and have some alone time. The Gospels of Luke and John record Jesus taking time with his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. In our gospel lesson for today, Jesus extends an invitation to his disciples to take time to rest. “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” Jesus wanted to share the rhythm of activity and rest with his disciples, so that they could enjoy life as a gift and be ready to give of themselves to others.
It was sorely needed. Prior to this story, Jesus had sent out his disciples two by two to preach the Good News, heal the sick, and cast out demons— in other words, to do the same work Jesus himself was doing. Right after this, the disciples are faced with a hungry crowd of 5000 people, and Jesus says to them, “YOU give them something to eat.” All that ministry takes a toll. Mark says, [so] “many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Have you had a day like that? Where you’re shoveling food down your throat walking out the door or in the car? It seems remarkably contemporary. The disciples are overworked, and Jesus knows that if they don’t stop and rest If they don’t stop and reconnect with the Source, with God who provides the power to cast out demons and heal people They will forget they are a conduit, a vessel for God’s power. They will fool themselves into thinking that they are the ones who invent answers and healing; And under the weight of all that responsibility, they will BURN THEMSELVES OUT.
You all know what I am talking about. This is summer, when things are ostensibly at a more relaxed pace Yet there are still way too many orders at work and you can’t possibly keep up Sometimes you have to use all your vacation time caring for a loved one or repairing a home Some of us have very little time off because we work part time jobs and others are in management or law or medicine and work 80 hour weeks.
And on top of all of this, you all are generous people who volunteer your time to serve on committees and in worship to bring donations to the food bank or staff the 5k or donate blood or work the blood drive. You all generated 30 organizations for our May Madness giveaway where we voted to decide which four charities would receive a financial gift from our church— That’s 30 organizations from the Fire Dept to FoodShare, from ministries around the globe to neighbors right next door through Focus on Canton and Meals on Wheels Farmington Valley. They are a sampling of the places where you all serve and support financially and pray for and lead. It’s a quite a testimony to the motivation of this congregation to make a difference in the world— Or, to put it as Mark does, to share the Good News.
And so it is important to hear Jesus’ invitation as addressed to us, too. “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” After all, we are Jesus’ modern day disciples— We too need the rhythm of activity and rest. We need to reconnect with our Source, with God who gives us our abilities Sustains our efforts and makes a way forward for us through challenging times. We need to remember that we don’t need to manufacture answers or invent healing. God does that. And when we rest, we place our responsibilities back into God’s hands, trusting that God will take care of it. “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” It is an Invitation to us Like the scene in the musical Hamilton where Eliza sings to the overworked Alexander “Take a break/run away with us for the summer, let’s go upstate…” God is calling us to take some time for quiet, for beauty, to be in the presence of the One who loves us. God is calling us to slow down to notice blessings big and small. In these moments, even if for 5 minutes in the day, when we set the intention to connect, God shows up. God restores us. God fills us.
There’s one little detail in this story that’s important, but easy to overlook. In this story, Mark doesn’t call the Twelve ‘disciples’. Mark calls them “apostles.” ‘Apostles’ literally means “the sent-out ones.” Disciples are students, But Apostles are the ones who are sent out to do Jesus’ work of healing and reconciliation. Disciples by definition connected with their source— they are getting filled all the time with learning and care. Apostles need to make a regular habit out of stopping the work and accomplishment To simply rest in the care of the One who supplies every need. So hear Jesus’ invitation to you: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” Or, perhaps more emphatically, in the words of my conductor, Don’t play in the rest! Establish a rhythm of activity and rest, trusting that God is at work when you are not. Connect to God, your Source, and let the notes and the silence make music of your life.