Sermon 8-31-2014; ‘Work and Rest’

Mark 6:30-34, The 40-hour work week—dead or alive? Lee Ann Sandweiss

Pastor Ruthie Tippin; First Friends Meeting - Indianapolis




From the Department of Labor website:  ‘The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.  In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.’

Does your labor bring you pleasure?  Does it leave you feeling rested?  Do you work when you rest, or do you intentionally rest?  Rest and Labor.  Work and Rest.  These are things that we too often take for granted.  Do we find ourselves in our labor?  Do we discover ourselves best at work, or at rest?  Is God in either place?  How do we know ourselves best?  Where do we find God most easily?


By the time we see the disciples in our reading today, they have been with Jesus for quite some time.  The Teacher has kept them with him, has taught them many things of God, has healed many, has preached to thousands, has fed many more.  He has told them the secrets of the Kingdom of God in parables.  He has chosen these twelve, telling them that they will be sent out to preach, and will be given authority to drive out demons.  They will do incredible things.  They have an amazing job description.  They have just returned, and interrupt one another over and again as they tell Jesus all the stories of their adventures, traveling two by two throughout the region, teaching and healing.  So many people surrounded them, interrupted them, they had no time to eat.  So Jesus said, “Let’s go.”  Rather than stay with the people, Jesus took his men away, to a place where they could be alone and rest. 


Indiana University:  “When the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed in 1938, it was heralded as a giant step in protecting the rights of American workers—guaranteeing financial compensation for time worked in excess of 40 hours a week. The “40-hour work week” was born, and the term “9-to-5” became synonymous with working “full time.” Fast forward six decades. Although the 40-hour week is still considered the benchmark in American work culture, most researchers would argue that it is nearly as obsolete as most of the factory jobs to which it was originally applied.”


Many of us don’t have set hours of employment.  Not all of us work from 9:00 to 5:00 anymore.  Those who are still working do so from home, online, in an office, on the road, under a car, over a counter.  We work with people, with books, with machines, with databases, with children, with music, with medicine.  We work.  But how many of us rest?


A holiday weekend comes, and we often fill it up with work.   Cleaning the garage, painting the bedroom, building a deck… We, like the disciples, are so busy, we have no time for relaxation, for play, for rest.  We have so many stories to tell of all we’ve been doing.  We have very few stories to share about the blessed rest we’ve taken.  The question, “What did you do today?” is filled with times, places and events.  Very few times do we recount a story of a quiet walk or a good conversation.


Jesus sensed this.  He was a very busy person himself, and he recognized it in those he loved… in those he worked with.  “We’ve got to get you out of here.  Come away.  Come away, by yourselves with me, and rest.”  And that’s what they did.  They found a boat, climbed in and launched it.  Out into the lake, and off to an isolated place.


Did it last long?  Did they arrive in this secluded, quiet place alone?  No.  Crowds were waiting for them.  They had figured out where they were headed, and got their first.  The disciples and their Teacher found a greeting party there. 


Isn’t that the way it works?  Isn’t work always waiting to greet you?  A stack of documents, a classroom of kids, a patient, a client, a job site, a letter?  Isn’t there always something waiting? Yes. And that’s the point.  They are waiting for you.  They are waiting.  They are giving you a space – no matter how fleeting it is – a waiting space for you to rest, to refresh, to renew.  To join Jesus in the boat.  To join Christ’s call to come away.  To stop the chatter, the list-making, the emailing, texting, tweeting, phoning, face-book … and come away.


Get in the boat with God.  Hang your feet over the edge.  Cross the lake.  Get over the water.  Get in the boat.  There may be a crowd waiting, but at least you’ll have had the boat ride.  And rewrite your job description… start with the ‘rest’, and work backwards to the job. 


Labor Day – a day for recreation – for re-creation.  For rest and refreshment.  Rest – ‘the sweet sauce of labor’, as Plutarch called it.  The sweet sauce.  A day to taste the richness of rest before getting back to the job.  Oh… the job.  Here’s a job description for you:

If you’re working 50 hours a week, and sleeping eight hours a night (56 hours per week) that leaves 62 hours each week for other things – nurturing experiences that bring fulfillment, refreshment, accomplishment, and sustenance to yourself and those whose lives you touch. 

To get in the boat with God. 

To notice God with you. 

To remember that God is always with you. 


Your work is your job, but your job is not your work… your work is to find yourself in the rest of your life.  Your work is to discover yourself in the rest of your life.  Your surprise will be to find God there, too!