Welcome to the summer flow. The rhythm of many of our own individual and family lives has shifted, is shifting. Slowing down in some ways, speeding up in others. Both more relaxed and more stressful.
For some of us, there is this seasonal change—travel, vacation, summer breaks, summer jobs. For others, not so much.
At Zion, many activities pause during summer—Alleluia! and choirs and Wednesday bible study. K-Time will mostly be coffee and conversation.
On the other hand, other Zion activities are summer only. For example, “God’s Treasures” Zion’s 2023 Vacation Bible School for all ages will be August 14-18. And also this summer, Zion has brought Anna Winn onto staff for a Summer Music Internship. Anna will help Zion take advantage of the summer pause from school to bring Zion’s young people together to sing in worship.
Rest and recreation is what summer is for. In truth for some, and in aspiration for others. Many employers do not invest in paid time off. And many who have the means and freedom simply don’t seek rest or recreation.
Rest seems so natural and yet is often so elusive. During sleep is the only time the body heals. And yet the main place we go for healing—a hospital—is the last place you’ll get a good night’s sleep. This is an invitation to let go of self-blame for our sleeplessness at home. It’s a clue that the problem is much bigger.
New retirees often face deep identity questions: Who am I if I’m not working? If I’m not productive? Sometimes the more quote-unquote “successful,” we are, the more apt we are to completely identify with our career, our income, our achievements, the praise we receive, the authority we’re granted.
“Be still and know that I am God,” we hear in Psalm 46. But when we’ve misidentified ourselves, stillness feels like a threat, rather than the God-given blessing and human necessity that it is.
That this is such a common experience is another clue, another invitation. The problem is collective, not individual. It’s at the level of the systems and structures of our society. The world is sick. It wants us to be sick too. It pressures us to forget who we are and why we are, so we will work ourselves to the bone.
That’s why summer is no small thing. Patricia Hersey, founder of The Nap Ministry, wrote a book called Rest Is Resistance—rest as ”a way to push back on America’s obsession with productivity at all costs.”
Recreation is deep. Just consider the word: Recreation. Re-creation. Creation again or anew.
The creation stories we know in Genesis 1 and 2 were first written down from oral traditions when God’s people were captives in Babylon. In Babylon’s creation story, the gods made all that is through violence, and people were made to work—to work for the gods and their earthly representative, the king. The biblical creation story is defiant in its opposition to this bloody and relentless answer to these core human questions—Who are we? Why are we?
First, there is this “original blessing.” Before human creatures or any part of creation does or produces anything God sees, affirms, and blesses us and all of it as good. Very good.
And of course, God rested. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.
The creation story passes judgment on a world addicted to status, busyness, entertainment, and shallowness. A world where rest is big business and too often a luxury for the rich alone. Jesus on the cross said, “Father, forgive them, because they know not what they do.” But here it is more, “They know not who they are and Whose they are.”
Remember, you are a child of God, a human creature formed out of God’s good earth, and a member of the body of Christ. You are called out of this restless, bloody, and relentless world and into a new life of freedom in Jesus Christ. Your God-given purpose, rest, abundance, and depth are riches that many know nothing about. Riches you get to share, materially and spiritually, with others.
In April, Zion’s Congregational Council adopted new personnel policies which govern Zion’s staff. Compared to the old, the new policies are much more generous and clear about paid time off. And in May, Colleen, Zion’s office administrator, took her first full week of vacation in her five years of employment at Zion. This is one very concrete and consequential way we as Zion are remembering who and Whose we are.
This summer is a chance to do just that. Lean into new life. Re-create. Let God re-create you…and the policies you can influence and change…and the whole world. It is God’s work and God’s rest that does it. Our modest creaturely participation in God’s cosmic re-creation and new life starts with this…
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Thanks be to God.
Pastor Clark Olson-Smith