Rest & Restoration
July 09, 2023
• Rev. Dr. Jevon Caldwell-Gross
We’ve come to week two of our Parched sermon series. I said this last week and I think it’s worth saying it again. This is an essential conversation because too often we show up to the most important places of our lives parched and depleted. Our goal is simply to look at different spiritual practices that will help become people that fill those empty places with things that are healthy and fulfilling.
For those who might need a recap or reminder , last week we looked at the spiritual disciple of paying paying attention. This was simply an invitation to watch for the signs and signals of what is depleting us. It invites us to beyond a limited frame of reference and see the totality of Gods activity. It’s not a spiritual discipline that we often talk about but here’s why paying attention is essential to our faith.
Because the greatest threat to our mental, physical and spiritual health is not the occasional crisis, but the small daily leaks that go unnoticed and unattended.
This week we are looking at one the oldest practices found in the entire biblical narrative. It’s something that people struggle with for their entire lives. Our society doesn’t do a great job of promoting it. In some ways this spiritual practice is counter cultural and goes against our natural inclination to do and do and do. We are defined by our level of production. Our value is often associated with activity. today we are taking about rest and restoration. (slide) I know it sounds so simple. But because we live in a fast paced cultural that is based on productivity, it’s one thing that people struggle with; especially people of faith.
The reason why this practice is so needed is because the majority of our culture is burned out! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021 47 million American quit their jobs. 47 million employees just walked away. That’s why they called it the THE BIG QUIT! You feel it every time you walk into a restaurant or some business and notice they are still short of staff. Seems like every place is hiring. It’s not as though people are lazy or don’t need income.
In fact, the WHO attributes burnout as a major cause of this. The World Health Organization defines burnout as “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job; feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one’s job, or reduced professional efficacy.” (Slide)
Let’s be honest, You can have mental distance from just about anything. Burnout describes more than just emotional depletion from a job. Because people aren’t just quitting jobs, people are quitting churches. People are quitting trusting in leaders and institutions. People are quitting certain affiliations. Certain beliefs. People are unashamedly walking away from things they have been committed to for years because they burned out. They are parched. Here’s the irony. Most people get
burned out from the very things they love and thought they could do without. You
can get burnout from parenting. Burn out from school. You can burned out from
doing the very thing that you have been called and created to do.
That’s why God created rest. Resting creates a sustainable rhythm of being
restored (slide). Rest is Gods gift to you. It’s not punishment. It’s not meant to
cause anxiety. But it was God design to counter act the daily pulls that lead to us
becoming parched or detached. God created it for us.
It’s what God was trying to get at when he was talking to the Pharisees. I’m
surprised we don’t find more instances of Jesus dealing with burn out because he
was constantly dealing with people questioning his authority and trying to find fault
in what they didn’t understand. So much so that the Pharisees would follow him
around so that they could find something that would discredit him!
In Mark 2, they thought they found something. Jesus and his disciples were picking
grain in the grain fields and the teachers of the law were furious that they were
doing any kind of work on the Sabbath/or the day of rest. Jesus responds to their
accusation with the reminder that Sabbath or rest was made for humanity not the
other way around. What’s often lost in Jesus’ response is the reality that God was
intentional about creating a period of rest for us. God designed it for us.
The Bible address that right from the opening creation account in Genesis 2. It says
“On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day
rested from all the work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it
holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.”
From the very start of creation God gives us a system or models for us a rhythm of
restoration. Jesus creates, creates, creates then rests. Works. Works. Works. Then
rests. One of the very things God models for us is a rhythm of rest. God didn’t model
a prayer life. God didn’t model a great worship service. God didn’t give them a King
James Bible and model daily reading practices.
Look at this way. A lot of leadership talk about systems. They talk about creating
systems or rhythms that support where you are trying to go. There a saying that
goes” Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”
It’s hard to get what we want without a commitment to developing systems that
support our what we envision. The same true with our spiritual lives. Our rhythms
have to support the kind of faith that we want. I’ve realized one of the hardest things
to do in life is creating the systems that allow us to be healthy and restored. If you
want to know how your faith is doing, how fulfilled you are, how close to God you
are, how healthy your relationships are just look at your systems. We are perfectly
designed to get the results we are getting. And right from the start God didn’t leave
it up to chance, God made it a law, God made it a sign of their covenant, God made it
a commandment. God made restoration a non negotiable aspect in your life’s
Now I get it because different people are restored by different things. One size
doesn’t fit all. Some people like to hike. Some people go to the gym. Some people
listen to podcasts. Some watch TV. They read. Walk. Knit. Sew. Golf. Vacation. As
much as you pour into other people don’t neglect the importance of filling your own
cup. So what fills your cup in this season of your life? What brings you feelings of
Resting not only creates a rhythm of restoration, Resting is a liberating practice of letting (slide).
At least the Pharisees had something right, it’s just their motives and approach
wasn’t completely accurate. They were more focused on the law and not the
implications of it. There was an expectation that no work was to be done on the
day. In Jesus culture, the entire household or even the stranger in your home was
supposed to cease from work. It gave them one day where the majority of their lives
were not categorized by work. Just imagine the implications of this. Their lively
hoods were based on their level of productivity. It’s why you find this principle
scattered through the history of Gods people. Everyday they are pulling something.
Carrying something. Working somewhere. Pushing this. Pulling that. Holding this.
Plowing this. Planting that. Walking here. Riding there. Every day they had to work
for something. But the book of Jeremiah uses these words to describe value of rest
or restoration, “Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or brining it
through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your house or do any
work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy.”
Now there is at least an allotted time where they can let go of everything they’ve
been asked to carry. It’s not a day defined by productivity. Built into their rhythm of
life was a regular discipline of being free from pushing, pulling and holding. Each of
us has a certain amount that we can carry. We have a maximum weight capacity and
then we break.
I promise I won’t keep telling stories about my vacation soon, but this is one I had
to share. I mentioned last week that we had some problems on the ship but our
excursions made up for it. Let me give you some insight into what I meant. As we
were disembarking, those of us who had more than two pieces of luggage could not
use the escalator, so we had to use the elevator. By this time the line was getting
really long with people and their suitcases. But after about 30 min of standing in
one line to get on, the group in front of me packed themselves and their luggage into
the elevator. We they got on, there was a loud buzzing sound. They ignored it and
tried pressing the button to close the door. (You could see their frustration). But that
buzzing wouldn’t go off and that got them even more frustrated. The door finally
closed, then all you sudden you heard we’re people yelling from the elevator and
this ringing sound! I’ve seen this on the movies but never in really life! What
happened? They got struck! Can u guess why? They had too much weight!
Let me say this in the best possible way. You can only carry so much! I know
you are loving parent. I know you are kind soul. I know you love your family. I
know you just wan to be there for the people that love you! I don’t think the
necessity to cease from activity is just about the work we do with our hands but the
things we carry in our hearts, the things we carry on our minds.
Let me put it like this. God knows how much we have to carry every single day of
our lives. We carry the weight of our past. Weight of expectations. Some of you are
carrying the burdens of carrying for aging spouses or aging parents. Carrying the
weight of kids. Managing a company. Working a job. Pleasing everybody. Carry the
weight of being all things to all people. Getting it right. Being present. Having a
smile. Having it all together . People carry all kinds of burdens every single
day. And God knows that some of us will carry the weight, the burdens, the work
until we are stuck and screaming. So as an act of love and grace, God creates into
your life a rhythm where you can be free from all of the things that you might be
carrying. It’s a disciple and practice of releasing the weight. Letting go of the weight.
Giving our emotions and our souls an opportunity to put something down.
If you don’t believe me, in Matthew 28 Jesus said, “Come to me all who are wear and
carry heaven burdens. I will give you Rest.” What will Jesus give you? Jesus does not
say, I will give you purpose. I will give you patience. I will give you knowledge. I
will give you gifts. I will give you more time. I will give you the answers to make
your worries and burdens go away. Jesus does not say I will give you more work to
drown or distract you from the burden.. But the answer to releasing burdens is
But I get that this is easier said than done. Because resting means that we have to take ourselves out of
the production equation. Resting invites our absence so that God can be more present. (Slide). This
wasn’t something Jesus talked about but it was something he modeled. Several times throughout
scripture you find phrases like “Jesus withdrew”. Or Jesus left and prayed. Or Jesus went out beside the
lake. Jesus withdraw to the mountain to pray… whether it was to prepare for a difficult task ahead, to
recharge or restore, to work through his own grief, before he made an important decision or even just to
step away from the work to just connect with God, you often find Jesus choosing rest and withdrawing
even when there would be large crowds following him to get healed. In a few instances he chose rest
over the crowds. That’s why rest is so hard. There is never a time when people won’t need something
from you. And here’s why it’s so tough, because rest or activity feels like monetary failure. It feels like we
are letting someone down. But sometimes the most courageous thing you can do is… Because your
restoration is just as important as their needs (slide).
30 years ago something that rocked the sports world. At the hight is career, the greatest basketball
player walked away from the game of basketball and went and played baseball. (Picture). MJ was still in
his prime. They won three champions in row. And he just withdrew. Some say it was because of the
pressure. Some say it was because his Father had just been murdered. But with the entire world
watching he walked away from the game of basketball for two whole years. You see sometimes we
need more than a day to heal and get restored. Sometimes rest is a season. Sometimes rest takes
months and sometimes even years.
It takes corsage to walk away from places that need us. That define us. The give us value. Deep down
we don’t think things will go on with us. But let’s be honest it feels good being needed!
I thought that for years as a Pastor. It’s the reason why when I pastored in NJ I never took more than two
weeks off at a time outside of my honeymoon. I never went more than two weeks without preaching.
Even when I went away I still working on a sermon. I thought the church needed me. I afraid that if I
wasn’t there giving would go down. I was afraid that attendance would go down.
But as I’ve grown I realized that what people needed was Gods presence not mine. And God can be
present even when we are not. But I never learn that unless I am brave enough to step away and trust
that God is more than capable of stepping in to the places where God needs us to withdraw. So you
have to trust that when you withdraw, when you are absent, even you don’t answer email, when you
make time to fill your cup, trust that God can make up what you can’t. Maybe then we came back to
those very same place more energized and more fulfilled. Even for the best of us, even resting takes