Whoever coined the phrase “lazy days of summer” obviously didn’t have a summer like mine. I could make my own version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Between five kids home from school, four summer reading programs, three weddings, two sets of houseguests, and a cross-country vacation just before school starts again, there’s nothing lazy about this summer. This past week was a real doozy. I played for a wedding last weekend, and the rest of the weekend was devoted to an out-of-town baseball All-Stars tournament. Monday ushered in VBS week, for which I led music. Friday was the final day of VBS, plus the closing program, as well as my daughter’s birthday. To say it was a crazy week is sort of an understatement. On Saturday, when we all finally had nothing going on for once, my three-year-old, who never naps, was so exhausted he just fell asleep on the couch. Clearly the busy pace had caught up to him at last. He needed rest.
Rest. It sounds like such a quaint idea in today’s society, doesn’t it? We seem to pride ourselves on how much we have going on, as though busy-ness is a measure of success. I confess that I fall into that mindset too often myself. When I do get a rare opportunity to be alone, I feel like I have to make the most of that time—folding laundry, vacuuming, steam mopping, etc. I might long for a nap, but seriously, who has time for that?
In days of old, Sundays really were days of rest. In biblical times, there were rules governing how many steps you could walk on the Sabbath without breaking God’s command to rest. It was pretty hard core. But even a hundred years ago, people didn’t work on Sundays. Farmers didn’t plow or harvest, women didn’t spend the day in the kitchen, and kids didn’t even play outside. Families stayed inside and took naps or read quietly. It sounds so old-fashioned to our always-on-the-move society, but it also sounds very…refreshing.
It just so happens that we could all benefit from periodic rest times, and not just the six hours of sleep we cram in each night. Our bodies weren’t made to be working or busy all the time. God designed them for a healthy balance of work and rest, modeling that balance for us when He created the world, working for six days and resting for one. Nor is this purely an earthly model. Yes, we need physical rest. But in the Bible, “rest” is often used to refer to the peace we have from knowing our sins are forgiven, and even to heaven itself. ”Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus promises in Matthew 11:28-29. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” He promises that those who are burdened by the weight of their sins will find forgiveness and peace in Him—rest for their souls.
Hebrews 4 gets even more in depth about the “Sabbath rest” for God’s people. “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his,” verses 9-10 tell us. The footnote for verse 10 in The Lutheran Study Bible tells us that “The benefits of Christ’s completed works, received by faith, are distributed in the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments.” Hmm. Sounds an awful lot like… church! In the Divine Service, the pastor speaks God’s saving Word and we receive the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. Gathering together with fellow believers is God’s gift to us—a brief time to rest from our earthly work while being reminded of the eternal rest that awaits us in heaven.
Unfortunately, that gift can sometimes seem more of a chore than a blessing. If I skip church today, I can catch up on my sleep… I can finally clean out the garage if I don’t go to church this morning… I get that challenge. Trust me, sitting in church with five kids while my pastor husband is up front is no picnic. I don’t walk away from church every Sunday feeling refreshed or rested. But every Sunday I hear the beautiful news of the forgiveness of sins Christ won for me on the cross. Every week I am assured that my eternal rest in heaven is won. I don’t want to skip out on that just to get a few more chores done around the house.
Okay, so my summer is anything but lazy. On top of that, I’m constantly fighting the battle of wanting to accomplish more in the time I have, even when my body really could use the rest instead. But I know every Sunday is another chance to enjoy God’s rest, pointing me to His eternal rest. And in the meantime, maybe I will take that nap today after all.