October 8, 2021

October 8, 2021

October 8, 2021

Rev. Dr. Carole R. Martin
Retired Clergy
First Broad Street UMC
Appalachian District

Promised Rest
Hebrews 4:1-11 (Common English Bible)

Therefore, since the promise that we can enter into rest is still open, let’s be careful so that none of you will appear to miss it. We also had the good news preached to us, just as the Israelites did. However, the message they heard didn’t help them because they weren’t united in faith with the ones who listened to it. We who have faith are entering the rest. As God said,
And because of my anger I swore:
        “They will never enter into my rest!
And yet God’s works were completed at the foundation of the world. Then somewhere he said this about the seventh day of creation: God rested on the seventh day from all his works. But again, in the passage above, God said, They will never enter my rest! Therefore, it’s left open for some to enter it, and the ones who had the good news preached to them before didn’t enter because of disobedience. Just as it says in the passage above, God designates a certain day as “today,” when he says through David much later,
Today, if you hear his voice,
        don’t have stubborn hearts.
If Joshua gave the Israelites rest, God wouldn’t have spoken about another day later on. So you see that a sabbath rest is left open for God’s people. 10 The one who entered God’s rest also rested from his works, just as God rested from his own.
11 Therefore, let’s make every effort to enter that rest so that no one will fall by following the same example of disobedience,

Devotion

We live in a ‘hurry’ world.  We feel like somehow staying busy is a measure of our self-worth and our value to society.  We need to get just a few more things done.  And then we’ll rest, but only if some new crisis doesn’t intrude.  We fear that if we let go and relax, we’ll miss something.
The author of this passage, whom I’ll refer to as ‘the Preacher’ questions whether or not this is God’s best for us.  He reminds us that God’s works were finished at the foundation of the world!  God made everything, and the last act of creation was a day of rest.  Sabbath rest.  The passage points back to when the good work of creation was completed and points forward to the completed work of redemption: that time when, as we read in Phil. 2:10-11, “every knee shall bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
We live between the foundation of the world and the end of days.  What does it mean to experience God’s promise of rest now?  According to one author, we have the calm assurance that we are participating in the will of God as we do the work of mission and ministry and as we go about our everyday lives, seeking to honor God in what we do.  Moreover, even as we struggle to be faithful in the midst of chaos and turmoil, we are reminded that what we do matters and is part of God’s eternal purposes.  We know that the love of God will overcome evil, hate, disease, and even death.  The story is written.  Our rest in faith is the joy that comes from God’s grace as we work and it is a gift of peace.  It is that same peace that Jesus gave his disciples - not on a bright sunny day, but on that dark night of betrayal: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
But a word of caution is in order here.  The Preacher warns his audience against using the Israelites as a bad example.  Instead, the Preacher points out that the people of God, beginning with Adam and Eve and continuing through Abraham and Sarah, flows forward to the end of time – in an unbroken chain of faith.  We are connected as part of the divine drama with each person in their time doing their part to carry their faith to the next generation.  Israel’s failure was their discouragement. They couldn’t see past their own place in history.  They rebelled against God, and lost God’s promised rest because they failed to see their connection to the sweep of God’s redeeming love.
As we live in the present moment, in faith, we know that our role in this divine drama can be difficult and demanding.  Our faith does not make us immune to suffering, but faith does show us the joy that comes from knowing how the story ends: the Sabbath rest of eternity.  In the meantime, we can practice Sabbath rest now in the confidence that if God rested from work, we can too.
Remember to take a nap!

Prayer

God of grace and mercy, your Word tells us that Sabbath rest is the completion of creation.  Help us to follow your example - your commandment to rest, and trust in your will to bring things together for good in your time.  Amen.