What's Tony Thinking

Rest Is Resistance


I’m drafting on my daughter Laura’s newsletter to her congregation, Peace UCC in Clemson, South Carolina, where she writes about a new book by one of her seminary classmates.

Rest Is Resistance is written by Tricia Hersey, the Nap Bishop of the Nap Ministry. Here’s a bit from the preface to Rest Is Resistance.

“This book [is] a battle cry, a guidebook, a field guide, a pillow, and a map… a manifesto for the weary and hopeful. An imagination tool . . . Rest is radical because it disrupts the lie that we are not doing enough. It shouts: ‘No, that is a lie. I am enough. I am worthy now and always because I am here.'”

I like it. Way too many folks, and many kids these days, don’t get enough rest, or don’t sleep well, or feel guilty if they lay down for a nap. But the evidence in unequivocal, good sleep is basic to health. My guess is that the lack of good or sufficient sleep has something, maybe a lot, to do with the “mental health crisis” we have been hearing a lot about of late.

And this is a spiritual issue, as Hersey understands. It is resistance to a 24/7 culture that no longer has a place for Sabbath rest, for stopping, for letting God be God.

There is special wisdom nestled in the Jewish/ biblical understanding that a day begins at sunset and ends at the following sunset. This means that creation’s day begins as I go to bed. Which is to say, life rolls on in God’s care and with God’s sustaining mercy, while I am blissfully (at least hopefully) asleep. Contrary to what I might, in pride, imagine, the day does not begin when I clamber out of bed. The day has been going on long before I get up and get going.

I don’t start the day, I join a work in progress.

Here’s another dimension to rest. You know the expression, “resting in the Lord”? Instead of feeling that everything depends on us and we must be active and busy and bringing in God’s Kingdom on earth, we rest in what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

And what has God done? God has nailed our sins to the cross and born away our sin and shame. Those failures of which we shudder to think, let alone speak, those secrets we all hold, are known. The stone that entombs us has been rolled away in the death and resurrection of Christ. “This is,” as the Apostle Paul writes, “all God’s doing.”

So resting in the Lord means trusting that in Christ, God has done for us what we most need and cannot do for ourselves. This is the true source of our rest. Resting in what Jesus has done for us.

I recall a story about Pope John XXIII (Vatican II Pope), who would say to himself, “Angelo, who rules the church? You or the Holy Spirit? Very well then, go to sleep.”

So often in the church, the emphasis does not fall on what God has done for us, but on what we must do for God. If we do this, that and 1,000 other things and do them perfectly, then God will love us, then we can accept and love ourselves, then God’s Kingdom will come. No! A thousand times, no. We do not save ourselves by our anxious, fevered labors.

As I John puts it, “we love because God first loved us.” Our love in action is a response to a greater love. Our lives make sense, when they do, as a response to a love and mercy that preceded us and will endure beyond us. Trusting this, we can rest. Trusting this, we preachers can exhort less — “do this,” “don’t do that,” — (which doesn’t really work anyhow), and proclaim more, as in, “Nothing in all creation, neither life nor death, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8).

Now, take the rest of the day off!

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