The Takeaway - Rest

December 28, 2021

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I’m not sleeping that well these days. How about you? At bedtime I feel both weary and wound-up. And at 3 am I wake up with thoughts, feelings, and items for my “to do” list. I usually get back to sleep after a while. And then when I wake up I feel worn out again. Troubling times can do this to you.

How I rest is related to how I work. And work in our community just got redistributed. Some of us are working more than ever to cope with this pandemic. On the other hand, some of us are working less. And some of us have lost our jobs.

Why is resting so hard? Whether sleeping, napping, daydreaming, or just taking a break, resting requires letting go of our sense of control, letting go of our belief that our worth is related to our work, and letting go of the steady stream of thoughts engulfing us. Resting involves stepping off the hamster wheel of busyness and surrendering to something greater.

God knows that resting is hard, yet essential for life. That’s why rest made it into the Ten Commandments. God commands us to remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. In other words, God asks us to set aside a day each week to stop working—to rest, worship, and enjoy what God has made. This day is a physical sign that we belong to God, that we are not in control of the world, that our worth is independent of our work, and that our minds are meant for more than the marketplace.

Note that the 10 commandments don’t refer to any holy places, only to holy time—the sabbath day. In the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel: “The seventh day is like a palace in time with a kingdom for all. It is not a date but an atmosphere.”

I need a palace in time, a day a week set aside to be holy. I need moments in each day to remember that I am not in charge, that my worth is independent of my work, that my ideas will not save me.

In troubling times we tend to double-down on our strengths. In these quarantine days,

  • The doers are frantically doing
  • The thinkers are busy thinking
  • And the feelers are receiving all the feelings
  • Those who take charge are taking charge
  • Those who reach out are reaching out
  • And those who retreat in are retreating in

Resting means letting all of those default behaviors and compensations go; rest is surrender. God invites us to dwell in the eternal palace in time. Resting means entrusting ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, and our community, to God. Resting is really an act of trust—and it can feel vulnerable and scary to surrender. And yet it’s what we desperately need to feel loved, safe, and protected. Through rest we can know that God loves us, cares for us, and protects us, as described in Deuteronomy 33.27: “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

If you’re listening when this episode drops, it’s Holy Week, the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. It’s a week where Jesus courageously stops and surrenders—he prays “thy will be done,” offers himself for arrest, doesn’t defend himself to the Sanhedrin or to Pilate, he doesn’t try and save himself: he simply rests and surrenders into who he is. This posture of rest lands him on a cross, and resting on the sabbath day in a tomb. Like the creation story in Genesis, “On the seventh day, God rested.” As we journey with Jesus, we will walk together into the darkest valley, as described in today’s Scripture, Psalm 23.

Scripture: Psalm 23

  • This psalm about the rest, restoration, and protection that God provides
  • In this psalm, we can visit the palace in time that is a kingdom for all
  • Listen for God’s word for you today

1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

2He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

3he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.

5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen.


  • From compline, prayer at the close of the day, from Daily Prayer/Daily Office
  • It’s prayed at a time when our efforts come to an end, and we lean into God
  • And the prayer opens with this verse from Psalm 4.8

I will lie down in peace and take my rest,

For in God alone I dwell unafraid.

Let us pray.

Keep watch, dear Lord,

with those who work, or watch, or weep this night,

and give your angels charge over those who sleep.

Tend the sick, Lord Christ;

give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering,

pity the afflicted, shield the joyous;

and all for your love's sake. Amen.

Until next time, receive this blessing from Moses to the tribes of Israel, and to all of us:

“The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33.27)

May you rest in God and feel God’s everlasting arms holding you up.

Today, this week, and always. Amen.

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