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May 26th: The Gift of Rest, with Rev. Tyler McQuilkin.

Posted: Sun, May 26, 2024
The Gift of Rest with Rev. Tyler McQuilkin. Series: What Makes A Good Life? A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Genesis 1:26-2:4. This Sunday, join Tyler as he discusses finding balance between work and rest, arguing that society and even the church overly emphasize work while neglecting rest. It encourages reflecting on priorities and taking time for rest, as Genesis shows this was part of God’s original creation and important for avoiding unhappiness and burnout.

A Part of the Series:

Rev. Tyler McQuilkin


The Gift of Rest with Rev. Tyler McQuilkin. Series: What Makes A Good Life? A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Genesis 1:26-2:4.

This Sunday, join Tyler as he discusses finding balance between work and rest, arguing that society and even the church overly emphasize work while neglecting rest. It encourages reflecting on priorities and taking time for rest, as Genesis shows this was part of God’s original creation and important for avoiding unhappiness and burnout.


Scripture today comes from the book of Genesis chapter one, verses 26 through chapter two, verse four. And it says, Then God said, Let us make humans in Our image, according to our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created humans in God’s image, in the image of God, God created them, male and female, God created them. God bless them. And God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. God said, See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit, you shall have them for food, and to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth. Everything that has the breath of life, I have given every plant for food. And it was so God saw everything that God had made. And indeed, it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth the day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multiple multitude. On the sixth day, God finished the work that God had done, and rested on the seventh day from all the work. So God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it. Because on it, God rested from all the work that God had done in creation. Since the creation of the world and the start of humanity, trying to understand their place in the world, and their relationship to God. The question of rest and work has been a question humans have continued to struggle with. We struggle with this because we find value in work. When you meet someone new for the first time, one of the first questions we ask them is, what do you do? We asked this question because the work a person does define so much of who they are as a person. And in our society today, we place so much value in the work that we do. It is easy to play so much of our identity, and sense of worth and what we accomplish with our lives. So when we read a text, like the story from Genesis one, we should feel challenged by what the text says about who we are, and about what we are called to do. Genesis one tells the story of God’s creative work. I’m sure many of us are familiar with the events of this creation story. Each day, God creates part of our world, God creates light sky, lands and sees vegetation, the sun and the moon, and animals of the air and the sea. After each day of creating, God calls the creation good. And on the sixth day of creation, God creates humans and calls them very good. God creates humans and gives them the command to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and to have dominion over the plants and the animals. God has given them the command to work the land. But then after all of God’s creating, on the seventh day, God rested. So God did all this work to create the world. And then once God saw it, and said that it was good, God simply rested for the Seventh, Seventh Day. Now, I don’t know about you. But when I think about the gift of Sabbath rest, I always think of this as the reward after a week of hard work. And I think this is just a reflection of our society’s view, that Work comes first. Work is the priority of the priority shaper of our lives. After a hard week of work, society says that we earn the right to take some time off from work and to simply rest. But our world is obsessed with work. It’s obsessed with performance and status. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to us that we have completely flipped the Order Of Creation, to make work the primary focus of our lives, and rest comes more as an afterthought. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the church has fallen into the same idolatry, making work our primary focus and rests just this afterthought or reward, rather than essential to our existence. This trend isn’t new to our current context by any means. Whether it was the Pharisees during Jesus’s time, who focused so much on their work that made them holy, that the gift of Sabbath rest just became another type of work or thing to stress about for them. Or during the Reformation in the 16th century, when some church leaders protested the church’s strong emphasis on works being the means of salvation, rather than the grace of God. The focus at this time was on what we do with our lives that gives us value and worth. And in the same way, the church then had to deal with this balance of leisure and recreation on the Sabbath. in seminary, I took a class called church sports and leisure in modern Europe. And in this class, we focused on how the church from the 1600s, all the way through the 1900s dealt with issues of what kind of activity was allowed on the Sabbath. It was an interesting class for sure. With the rise of industrialism, society, it was more productive. So workers had more time for recreation activities. So this led to debates on how the church should view and force and balance work and rest for its people. The place of rest in Genesis is clear. Rest is part of creation. And yet, today, and in church history, rest is an incredibly difficult concept for us to willingly commit to it is something we worry about, because we feel like we haven’t earned it. And this same mindset continues to impact so many people today. So let’s go back to our Scripture text from Genesis one. Remember, all the creating God does over the course of six days. Everything God creates is called Good. And the culmination of creation on the sixth day comes with the creation of humans, who God calls very good. The end of the creation narrative is when God rests. But this end of God’s creation is actually the start of humanity’s existence. So the first act of humans is actually to rest with God. So when we think about rest, rest isn’t a reward that we get at the end of a difficult week. Resting in God’s presence, is what we were first created to do. It isn’t until after the day of resting in God’s presence, that humans actually begin to work. All of the church is called to think of work and rest differently than our culture. We continue to fall into the same patterns that our society pushes. I know so many pastors and ministry leaders, who often talk about not having taken a day off in weeks, because ministry never stops. Or they say something about working 12 hour days without ever taking a break for themselves. This constant work and busyness is often seen as a badge of pride. So I hear this, and it makes me sad that the obsession with work and performance has become part of the pastor’s calling. For whatever reason, this obsession with work has seeped into the very place we are called to take Sabbath rest. And this is the place where we can resist the fast paced culture of work and performance. I think of times when I have been guilty of this same mistake. When I graduated from college, I had two part time jobs both in ministry. One was for a nonprofit ministry, and the other was at a church as a part time youth intern. Between the two jobs, my schedule was packed. We had youth retreats and events on Fridays and Saturdays and church on Sunday. So programming during the week, and the nonprofit which we hosted events with churches on so many different evenings and often events on Saturdays. Life for those years was constantly on the move. I would often go for weeks without having a day off. And I never felt like it was okay for me to ask either job for a day off. Since both my jobs were in ministry. And I put this pressure on myself that I’m supposed to make sacrifices, since my work is important. And taking a day off would be selfish. And even though I longed for a day of rest, I also had a strong sense of pride in this extended period of work without resting. I imagine many of you have had a similar feeling or experience where you feel like you just keep going, and work is taking over your life. Soren Kierkegaard writes, The unhappy person is one who has their ideal, the content of their life, the fullness of their consciousness, the essence of their being, in some manner outside of themself. The unhappy person is always absent from themself and never present to themself. Kierkegaard is right. The mistakes so many of us make, and it is largely due to the values of our society is that we work so hard to find fullness and value in life, in things outside of ourselves. And this inevitably leads to unhappiness, because we continue searching, thinking the next promotion, or next raise, or maybe next week, we will finally have contentment. The Genesis story, however, says the exact opposite. Rather than finding contentment in our work, Genesis tells us that we are very good. And the place we find our essence and fullness is by simply resting with God, not by continually searching outside of ourselves. As we have said, the church shares in the same culture of work and performance. Rather than emphasize and prioritize rest, the Church says we can only rest when we have done enough to earn that rest. And this comes in so many cases, whether it is a ministry in the church that has been done for decades, or some other important work, or ministry within the church. Maybe this work the church is obsessed with is caring for those in need within the community. Or maybe it is a need to take on an important role of advocacy, or to be a voice for the voiceless. Now, I want to be clear, these are not bad things. They may be things the church does that no one else is willing to do. So please don’t hear me say that these works. And these missions and programs are things the church should drop in place of rest. The work of ministry is not bad. But as the church we have to be careful when it comes to our understanding of our work. We have to be careful to make sure that our work does not become what we rely on to feel good about ourselves, or to become so prideful, that we no longer feel the need for God. As one theologian writes, God’s grace is not opposed to working, but to earning and self reliance. Ministry is a good thing that we are called to do as the church. But when our identity becomes so focused on the program, that we forget that our first act was to find rest with God, we can fall into habits that do more harm than good. And this is why we have to be careful using the language of imitating Christ. I’ve used this phrase before. But the obsession with work and ministry can become a problem when we think in terms of imitating Christ, because the only way we know how to imitate Christ is to become messianic ourselves. And the only way we know how to be messianic, is to be so assured of what we are doing that we don’t let anyone get in the way of our plans. As one theologian says, we are taking a job description that’s already been filled. And in our attempts to become messianic ourselves, we inevitably become mean, meaning messiahs so in our attempts to take over for Christ, we so easily become mean when we do I encounter people we disagree with, or people who want to do things in a different way. Pastor and theologian Craig Barnes says, the world has enough meanness already. And it certainly doesn’t need more meanness at all. And it doesn’t need more meanness coming from the church. So rather than trying to imitate Christ, which leads to becoming mean messiahs, instead, let us work to participate in the work that Christ is already doing in the world. We don’t need to find new ways to imitate Christ. All we need to do is to look around to see the work Christ is already doing in the world. When we participate in Christ, we also remember that Christ rested, he will leave the town and the work he was doing. And he often withdrew from the crowds to simply rest. Jesus’s teaching and ministry could have gone on to help everyone who came to him, but it didn’t. Instead, Jesus rested, knowing his work and ministry would continue. Jesus rested to be with God the Father. And so I think if Jesus was able to take a break and rest, I am certain that this is something all of us can and should do. Rest is a gift given to us by God. Rest is not a way to simply re energize ourselves for another week of work. But it is a way to simply be resting in God’s presence helps us remember who we are and whose we are. So let us remember this gift of rest is meant for us to find wholeness, inset and satisfaction in being God’s beloved creation. Yes, we are called to work. But work is not a means to our fullness and our self worth. If we continue that down that path, it will lead to the unhappiness and striving that Kierkegaard talks about. Instead, let us rest so we can readily participate in the work of Christ in the world. As Jesus says in His Sermon on the Mount, come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Our world is full of weariness, and a good life is a life that takes time from our constant striving, and weariness to simply rest in God’s presence. Amen.

Related Ministries:

Online and Television Services, A Spacious Christianity
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