Rest and Recreation

Here’s an article I wrote for another local church’s community magazine. The issue in question was cancelled, so I’m posting it here instead.

Rest and Recreation

I have been writing articles for Pipeline for some years now. So far, the editor has had to remind me of the impending deadline for publication every single time, sometimes more than once.

This article has been more troublesome for him than usual, as the usual reminder came to me right at the very start of my holiday – and was promptly forgotten as I got into the serious business of holidaying. As a result, these words are being written very late in the day, but by an unusually rested and refreshed me.

For many of us, holidays have become a central part of our lives. Those who can, spend a lot of money to take themselves somewhere fun, or interesting, or just restful, as often as they can. And whether it’s a cottage in Wales, a villa in Italy, Disneyworld, or a beach resort on the Mediterranean, we are willing to devote a lot of effort, time and money to having a break from the daily routines of life. And even if we don’t, our weekly life is punctuated by the weekend and the opportunities for relaxation every Saturday and Sunday.

What isn’t so well-known these days is that both the weekend and the holiday are ideas that come from the Bible. According to the story of creation in Genesis 1 and 2, God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, making the seventh day (in the Old Testament, Saturday) a day of rest when every person got a rest, together even with farm animals – the invention of the weekend. Moreover, the year was punctuated by various festivals, when people stopped working for the day, the weekend or even a whole week – the first holidays.

This wasn’t rest only for the sake of rest, or for mere fun. Rather, both the day of rest and the festivals were for the purpose of recreation – in the original sense of the word, of being created anew. In other words, they were times for worship, holy days: of resting by allowing God to refresh us through the forgiveness of all our faults, through his word, through prayer and through participation in the life of the community.

From the very beginning, the Christian church, too, has celebrated holy days (or holidays, as the word came to be known). To the weekly remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection on Sundays were added festivals commemorating events in the life of Jesus as well as other important people from the Bible and the history of the church. Like the people of the Old Testament, Christians, too, were given time off work for recreation.

This recreation, moreover, is something better than just a press of the ‘reset’ button before the return to the relentless world of labour. Rather, it is an anticipation of something that this world cannot offer but which God has promised to all who have faith in Jesus: life in a new creation to be revealed at the end of the world – a life of continual rest in God’s care, where we will be continually refreshed by His gifts. In the words of the fifth-century bishop, St. Augustine, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.

As the summer holiday season draws to its close and people return to school or to work, many of us can be grateful for the opportunity to rest and to relax – or to be stimulated by new experiences. It is also a great opportunity to remember that the rhythm of toil and rest is not all that there is. By his anguished toil on the cross, his three-day rest in the tomb and his resurrection, Jesus has opened up the possibility of eternal rest and eternal well-being in God’s kingdom, available freely through faith in him.

I hope that many of you will take the opportunity to participate in the foretaste of the rest promised by God in one of the local churches at the weekend and on the holy days of the year.

A churchly copyright notice

The Augsburg Confession, first presented on 25 June1530, is the common property of the Lutheran Church throughout the world, and as an expression of the Christian faith belongs to all Christians.

From ‘The Augsburg Confession’, the edition produced and distributed (free of charge) by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England.