the things we wear: rest

Last week we started our fall series we’re calling ‘The Things We Wear.’

You can catch up with with our podcast but the idea behind this thing is based around oneof the truths we believe about Jesus:

that not only does he show us what God is like, but he also shows us what being human is like.

Jesus is important because in a world full of different ideas about how we’re supposed to live, he shows a very particular way to be human and alive in this world: a way connected to God, each other, and ourselves, a way, to use the imagery of this series, clothed in the reverent and life-giving postures, dispositions, and rhythms of things like grace and hope, a way that takes us deeper and deeper into a life that’s just humming with beauty, meaning, and reverence.

And we’d thought we’d start off the year talking about this because, and maybe Im going out on a limb here, well, isn’t that why we’re all here? Aren’t we all looking for that life? Aren’t we all looking for help in making that happen? Anyone with me on that? I know its why Im here. Thats what first hooked me about Jesus. There was something about the life he showed that clicked, that felt right, that just hummed.

And so trusting that Jesus does that and trusting that this is why we’re all here, off and on throughout the fall we’re going to explore that life he opens up for us by asking what it calls us to wear. Each week we’ll explore one of the dispositions, attitudes, practices, and postures Jesus calls us to have and ask what it looks like and why it matters.

So this morning we jump into the first one and today we talk about: that story in the Bible, #4 , a Hebrew word, and 4 reasons why it matters.

Are ya with me?

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So, there’s a story in the Bible.

You heard a little piece of it already. It’s one of the most important stories in our scriptures, especially for our Jewish brothers and sisters, and one of the reasons its so important is that it tells us something huge about who God is and what God is doing in our world: that God is a God who hears the cries of the oppressed, that rescues and liberates, that moves us from the narrow to the wide, from captive to free, from death to life, this God that is actively moving the entire universe back into freedom and wholeness.

The story is what we call “The Exodus,” that story about how God rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and guided them into the Promised Land.

Now at some point during their 40 year journey to their new home we’re told they stopped to camp out at the bottom of this mountain. One of their leaders, a guy named Moses, went up the mountain where God gave him what we call the 10 Commandments: this list of 10 things, not so much rules as ideals, not so much laws as guiding principles, this list of postures, rhythms, and dispositions that God wanted the people to wear, these things that would help them truly leave behind the life and world they knew and enter into a new kind of life and create a new kind of world.

Take, for example, the 10th commandment, the one about not coveting your neighbour’s wife. Yes, it’s meant literally, but going deeper than that, it teaches us how to see one another - to see women not as property and objects, but as human beings, worthy of respect and dignity. That’s not just a rule. That’s life and world changing. That’s a new thing being done. That’s what these commandments were meant to do.

Now we could have lots of fun unpacking the other nine, but we’ll focus on just one today, and this is the thing we’re offering for what we’re supposed to wear, and that’s commandment number 4 - the commandment to honour the sabbath and keep it holy, and how on the 7th day of the week, just like God did, everyone and everything else, shall rest.

And our question as people who are being told this is something we need to wear is why? What is it about rest that helps us be more human and alive in the world? Whats this got to do with that life we’re after?

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Well to get to some of those questions, let’s go back to the story of the Exodus.

Where are the Israelites coming from?

Egypt.

What were they doing here?

They were slaves.

Which meant what?

Their entire existence was based upon one single thing: work.

Their worth was based on how hard they worked. Their value was based on how many bricks they made. Their very purpose was to do.

A different kind of life wasn’t only not an option, it wasn’t even in their imaginations. This was their reality. This was how the world worked.

Get up, make bricks, repeat. Get up, make bricks, repeat. Get up, make bricks, repeat.

It was all do do do, and go go go.

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Anyone going ‘I know that feeling.’ Yah, Im sure we all do. On one level, their story is our story. We know that kind of existence. We know that kind of life and that kind of world. Just look at the stats:

Every year in Canada there are about 400 million unused vacation days and 40% of people dont even plan to use all their vacation days. North Americans take less vacation days and work later into life than the rest of the world. 40% of us check our work emails on vacation. 50% of us check it in bed. 40% of us check it at dinner.

Get up, make bricks, repeat. Get up, make bricks, repeat. Get up, make bricks, repeat.

And lets not forget about the retired folks. 80% of retired people say the are busier now than when they were working. 25% of retired people go back to work because they can’t find meaning and purpose outside of it.

Get up, make bricks, repeat. Get up, make bricks, repeat. Get up, make bricks, repeat.

We know that rhythm, don’t we?

We know what its like to have our worth based on how hard we work. We know what its like to have our value is based on how much we produce. That motif of captivity and slavery seems to fit even today, doesn’t it?

So if God is all about saving us from that which takes us captive, if God’s all about leading us into a new kind of life and world, it makes sense there’s this divine commandment to rest. It make sense God would address this cycle of do do do and go go go our world suffers from.

But here’s the thing:

That’s God’s answer?!

Rest?!

Rest is the answer to go go go and do do do?!

That’ll save me?!

That’ll transform this world?! Rest?!

Cause I dont know about you, but I think rest is a little overrated.

I mean, I know how to rest, I know how to take a vacation, I know how to unplug. The problem is everything else doesn’t. As soon as the rest is done, everything is still waiting for me. I still have sermons to write, I still have bills to pay, I still have chores to do, I still have obligations to meet, I still have a podcast to record. I may feel rested but I dont feel freed from that cycle. I dont feel anymore more alive by honouring honouring this sabbath. I dont feel like Ive entered into anything new by wearing rest.

Anyone know what Im talking about? Am I alone in this?

Oh, and just to drive this point home: this whole commandment is based on how, on that 7th day, God rested. God rested?! What kind of God gets tired? Is God resting when our prayers aren’t answered? That Transcendent Mystery needs to rest?!

Yah, this whole ‘rest’ thing just doesn’t seem to work.

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I was complaining about this to a friend of mine, going on about just how rest doesnt work, and being kind of half serious when I said the commandment should just be tossed out, when my friend stopped me and said: “Oh no, Nick …” (Dont you love it when people start of their sentences that way?) "… the commandment isn’t to rest. The commandment is to menuha.”

Menuha.

It’s a Hebrew word.

It’s the word we translate as rest, but its so much bigger than that.

Menuha doesnt mean rest as in from being tired; it means rest as in something else all together. Menuha means 'relaxing enjoyment.’ Or, as the great Abraham Heschel would phrase it, “joyful repose.” It means to ‘delight in’ and to ‘relish fully.'

Translated this way, we don’t hear that God rested from being tired, we hear that God menuha’d - that God rested by celebrating and delighting in Her creation. We hear that God rested by basking in presence of the things She enjoyed.

Translated this way, we don’t hear the commandment to rest by not doing any work, we hear the command to menuha, to rest by celebrating and delighting, by basking in that which brings us joy.

That changes things, doesn’t it? The 4th commandment isn’t to simply rest, it’s to Menuha. It’s to stop and enjoy that which brings us life. It’s to take time to relish and delight.

So if this is the commandment, if menuha is the thing we’re supposed to wear, again we ask: Why? What is it about menuha that frees and liberates? What is it about menuha that leads us into that life we’re looking for?

Well, to answer that: here are 4 reasons why menuha is something we need to wear to find that life we’re looking for.

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1

We’re need to wear menuha because its when step out of that cycle of doing and going and and into the cycle of relaxing enjoyment that we experience the grace of this liberating truth of

you are not what you produce.

You are not how much you work.

Your worth and value are not tied up in what you do.

Let that sink in: You. are. not. what. you. produce. You are a human being, not a human doing. Your worth and value doesnt come from what you do, it comes from who you are, and who you are is a beloved creation of God.

When we practice menuha we’re taking to rest and delight in the fact that our worth and value isnt something we have to earn, but is something that comes from God and is something that nothing can take away.

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2

There’s another truth we experience when we practice menuha and it’s one of those truths we don’t want to hear but all need to hear. And that truth is this:

The world will continue to function without you.

Yes, you are important. Yes, you have a role to play. Yes, the world needs your fire. But what God is doing in this world, even the part that you find purpose within, it does not hinge on you. You dont need to shoulder that responsibility. The world will also survive just fine without you. It’ll still be here tomorrow. Go and take the break you deserve.

When we put on Menuha we realize that we’re allowed to take a break because the world is going to be ok without us.

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3

The third truth we discover when we practice this kind of rest is one I was taught a couple years ago and has made such a huge difference in my life:

joy is where it begins and ends.

or, to put it another way,

it should always begin and end with what brings us life.

When we take time to truly relish and delight in things, we give ourselves the chance to step back, unencumbered by the daily routine and distractions, to take stock and reevaluate where we’re at by asking: "what is it that brings us life and what is it that takes life away?” “how can I be a better steward of my energy and fire?”

You don’t need to life a life hating what you’re doing. You don’t need to life a life that drains you and kills your soul. You dont need to live like that.

Menuha gives us the perspective to see what adjustments and changes we need to ensure that it always begins and ends with joy.

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4

And finally, we need to practice menuha because it leads to resistance.

Taking time out to truly be and enjoy leads to resistance against the things that pull our world in the wrong direction.

It leads to resistance against the idea that get up, make bricks, repeat is the only way to live.

It leads to the resistance against the belief that people’s worth and value - and therefore their access to services and aid - comes from how much they contribute to society.

It leads to the resistance against the idea that success is measured in profit, goods, and popularity.

And because it leads to resistance, it leads to the hope that a new kind of life and world, a life and world where our default setting isn’t doing, but being, where our value and worth isnt debated, and one where we are bold enough to think we deserve to delight in the things that bring us joy, is possible.

We need Menuha because that’s the kind of world Jesus started to create and it's on us to finish the job.

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So if Menuha leads to all of that, if thats what can happen when we take time out to put on relaxing enjoyment, maybe that answers our question of why we need to wear it.

We need menuha, we need it each and every week, because while it doesn’t make the grind go away, it does send us back into our lives and world recalibrated to our default settings, realigned with what the Spirit of God is doing in this world and renewed with truths that draw us deeper and deeper into the kind of life and world we’re meant to have.

So, as people trying to become more and more human, as people who are thin, tired, and exhausted, as people who are looking for a deep, soulful rest, how can you wear menuha? how can you put on rest?

May you go from here, put on menhua, and find there what you are looking for.