“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls…”
Each fall, the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ holds an annual clergy retreat at the peaceful Redemptorist Renewal Center in Tucson. This is the first year that I have been able to attend, and I can tell you that it was a life-giving and restorative experience for me. I will never miss another one! Its theme was, “And I Will Give You Rest.” Together we worshipped and prayed, had group discussions, hiked in the beautiful desert surroundings, and got to know conference clergy, who are spread all across Arizona and New Mexico. During our first worship service there, we were reminded that on the seventh day, even God rested—and Jesus would retreat into the desert as well. Rest in its various forms is essential for all of us.
Of course we all need adequate sleep, but I also learned that rest is more than just sleep. Rest is also about grasping that we are yoked with Jesus, and that we are never alone in our burdens and struggles. For many of us, we get a glimpse of Jesus in one another when we extend love and compassion, and in that sense we are yoked to one another too. Have you ever felt relief when you were going through a particularly difficult time, and someone else, whom you trusted, entered into your pain and put his or her arm around you, listened deeply, or prayed with you? That is yoking. I’ve seen you all offer such love to one another in the midst of grief or difficulties. When you do that, you are offering rest by sharing the burden. In conversations with fellow clergy earlier this week, we were able to share our own struggles, hopes, and dreams for ministries and our congregations, and in that sharing I felt a sense of relief, realizing just how yoked we truly are.
At the retreat I was also reminded what incredible rest and blessing are offered in worship. Worship recalls for us how deeply yoked with God we are, even if the busy-ness of our daily lives causes us to forget this. This month in CCOV’s worship, I continue my preaching series on Women of the Bible. Next up is Esther, and then we will soon move into New Testament women. On Sunday, we will celebrate communion and All Saints, and you will be invited to come forward and light a candle or two in the memory of loved ones who have gone home to join all the saints in glory. My prayer is that there will be rest in both the partaking of communion and in the remembering of loved ones, knowing that these acts recall the blessing of our yoke with God in both the present and for all eternity.