Written by: Rachael Keefe

Rest and Renewal: An Issue of Justice

Just because Jesus and the disciples seldom achieved time alone for rest and renewal, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t heed Jesus’ direction. My intention is to take better care of my whole self and not wait until my body protests with extreme fatigue before finding rest. Imagine how the church and the world might change if we made rest and renewal priorities for ourselves and all those around us. If we paid a living wage for all jobs so people could take paid time off… If we had universal healthcare so everyone could have their physical and mental health needs met… If we made social security and disability payments above poverty…

Rest and Renewal: An Issue of Justice

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never really gets away to a quiet place in the gospels. In Mark 6, the disciples have just returned from their excursion in pairs, and John the Baptist had just been murdered. The disciples tell Jesus all they had done while apart from him and he recognizes that they need a break. So he directs them to “come away to a deserted place” by themselves and rest for a bit. They got into boats with that intention. Yet, it didn’t happen. Crowds met them on the other side wanting teaching, healing, and to be in the presence of Jesus. There truly was no rest for the weary.

I wonder if this is true for many of us. When and where do we find rest, let alone a deserted place? For many of us vacation consists of different activities, not so much quiet rest. We stay home and work on yards or homes. Or we go on trips and have itineraries from waking to sleeping. When did rest and renewal become something we seem to actively avoid? Jesus and his disciples had the excuse of being sought after. Most of us don’t have that excuse and we over schedule ourselves, even on time off.

This strikes close to home this week because I hit a wall. Last week I did all the things – pastoring, teaching, writing, working on our bus conversion, and the other usual day to day tasks. Early this week I felt exhausted and had to take naps and pull back on my activity level to recuperate.

I have POTS/dysautonomia and fatigue is a symptom. I get tired easily and don’t have the amount of energy a person might otherwise have. Yet, I feel the need to do all the things other people do. I feel guilty resting when my wife is working. I feel guilty sitting out on activities because I am tired. So I push myself until I simply cannot push anymore. This is not healthy. I know I am not alone. There is a reason Jesus wanted his disciples to go away to a deserted place and rest, even if they didn’t get there.

Resting body, mind, and spirit is not laziness. In fact, it is good for a person. It is healthy and healing. And, quite honestly, necessary. For many of us, pandemic slowed things down for a bit. And then it allowed us to over schedule ourselves even more. There have been days when I’ve had more Zoom meetings than I could possibly have meetings in person. The 20 minute commuting time that I saved was consumed by back-to-back-to-back meetings all day. Yes, I can often sleep a bit later in the morning and I can Zoom from my hammock, but what about rest? How many of us think nothing of eating breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner during Zoom meetings? As much as I am grateful for technology, too much Zoom is not healthy either, even if it is easy and convenient.

In full disclosure, I know I am in need of rest and renewal. My sabbatical, like many others’, was postponed from summer of 2020 to summer of 2022. I’ve tried to make my vacations at home restful, yet it proved almost impossible. With any luck my next vacation will be in our bus conversion and truly away to a deserted place. In the meantime, I try to find quiet places of rest in my every day, and don’t often succeed. How about you? Where are you finding rest these days?

Just because Jesus and the disciples seldom achieved time alone for rest and renewal, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t heed Jesus’ direction. My intention is to take better care of my whole self and not wait until my body protests with extreme fatigue before finding rest. Imagine how the church and the world might change if we made rest and renewal priorities for ourselves and all those around us. If we paid a living wage for all jobs so people could take paid time off… If we had universal healthcare so everyone could have their physical and mental health needs met… If we made social security and disability payments above poverty…

If rest and renewal were a priority, then maybe justice would enter in some places where it is now absent. Imagine…

Online home of the Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe.
CCO Image via pixabay by free-photos

RCL – Year B – Eighth Sunday after Pentecost – July 18, 2021

2 Samuel 7:1-14a and Psalm 89:20-37  • Jeremiah 23:1-6 and Psalm 23  • Ephesians 2:11-22  • Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

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