This Sunday, in worship and in the abundant picnic immediately following to which you are all invited, we will celebrate a year of ministry with the children of Flemington UMC. We may also look forward to what the next year might have in store. Before we get there, however, we will take a holy pause and rest. The discipline of rest is embedded within the story of Creation itself as God rests and institutes the Sabbath; this discipline of rest is embedded within the creation itself as the seasons bring forth new life and then, through the winter’s cold, hibernate within the earth.
The heat of Summer is one of our last remaining bulwarks against the desire to grind ourselves into dust through relentless overwork. Yet many people (myself included) become profoundly uncomfortable when the calendar thins out and the days grow longer and emptier. Sometimes it’s easier to keep going, even when exhausted, than to stop and check back in with yourself. Elijah worked himself to the bone for the Lord only to find himself exhausted, praying for his final rest under the broom tree. It was there in pausing and resting that he was restored to health and continued his faithful work.
I’ve been enjoying The Supper of the Lamb, a book from all the way back in 1967 by a chef and Episcopal priest named Robert Farrar Capon. It is, on a core level, a recipe for a simple lamb stew stretched across 300 pages of cultural, culinary, and theological reflection. It’s also a delight. I am struck by the insight he brought to his own time which resonates here in our time in passages like this in the 7th chapter:
You no doubt feel that it is high time for a speedy return to the pot of lamb stew that was left simmering at the end of Chapter Three. If I assess your mood correctly, you judge that the intervening chapters, with their excursions into meat, metaphysics, and metalware, respectively, should have been more than enough to allay the author’s apparently morbid dread of proceeding too hastily through a recipe. After all, you say, what we have in hand here is a very minor stew indeed. Why will he not simply thicken the gravy as he pleases, and get on with it?
Let me say, first, that I understand your impatience. I am as much a product of the age of hurry, of the era of instant results, as you are. I, too, have been saddled with a conscience that winces at delay and feels obliged to apologize for anything longer than a laundry list. I understand – but I do not agree. The feet-on-the-stove stance of this book is a deliberate attempt to cure myself, and anyone else who will listen, of the nasty habit of worrying the world to pieces like a terrier with a rag. What we are up to here is not the hasty shaking loose of a culinary result, but a patient rumination on cooking itself. There are more important things to do than hurry. (emphasis mine)
Capon, The Supper of the Lamb, pg. 67
My prayer for all of us is that we are attentive to the condition of our own souls in the season to come. I pray we believe “there are more important things to do than hurry” and take the rest the Lord ordains for us all, to be shaped by the rhythms of grace more than the frenzied rhythms of the 21st century.
Grace and Peace,
For your consideration:
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.
1 Kings 19:3-9 (NIV)