Thursday, July 23, 2009

Simeon's Walk

On a rooftop in Cambridge overlooking the courtyard and college complex at King's College is a place known as Simeon's Walk. It is the place where Charles Simeon, a long-time and inspirational vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, would go for a time alone with God. "A busy and brilliant man, Simeon was in touch with students at the colleges in Cambridge, with a large congregation, and with church and missionary leaders around the world. He wrote (in longhand) literally thousands of letters, edited fifty books of his own sermons, and served as one of the founders of several major missionary organizations. But he never ceased to find time for the rest that his private world demanded."

In chapter 14 of his book, Ordering Your Private World, entitled "Rest Beyond Leisure," Gordon MacDonald writes of the importance of Sabbath. Sabbath can be my daily time alone with the Lord, my weekly sabbath observance, or what I am doing now by being on a sabbatical. He writes of three aspects of Sabbath: Looking backward (closing the loop), entering into God's Presence through worship, prayer, and the study of God's Word (returning the eternal truths), and looking forward to fulfilling God's purpose (defining the mission). Below are some quotes from the chapter on which I am reflecting.

"Wilberforce's check and balance to a busy life was Sabbath; he had come to understand genuine rest. Wilberforce had discovered that the person who establishes a block of time for Sabbath rest on a regular basis is most likely to keep all of life in proper perspective and remain free of burnout and breakdown."

"I get the feeling we are a tired generation.... What is strange about our general fatigue as a people is the fact that we are such a leisure-oriented society.... We probably have more time for leisure than ever before. The five-day workweek is, after all, a relatively new innovation in history; we have moved away from the farm, where there was always more work to do; we can leave work behind if we want and head for leisure. So why is there so much exhaustion today? Is it real? Is it imagined? Or is the contemporary form of exhaustion evidence that we no longer understand genuine rest, which is different from the pursuit of leisure??

"The Bible reveals God Himself to be the first 'rester.'... Does God indeed need to rest? Of course not! But did God choose to rest? Yes. Why? Because God submitted creation to a rhythm of rest and work that He revealed by observing the rhythm Himself, as a precedent for everyone else. In this way He showed us the key to order in our private worlds. This rest was not meant to be a luxury, but rather a necessity for those who want to have growth and maturity."

"A rest-less work style produces a restless person."

"One of the great joys of repeating the traditional creeds of the Christian church is that it gives us an opportunity to reaffirm the central truths of God's revelation. As we say, 'I believe...' we begin to hammer back the nails of our convictions and commitments. And we separate those beliefs out from what we choose not to believe."

From his wife's journal: "A glorious Lord's Day. Have been reading at length about the Sabbath. Feel more and more strongly that I've not fully utilized God's command to rest. It's not a rule that restricts but it is a rule that liberates. For He made me to need rest. And physically and mentally we are freed to better performance if we live within His 'design specifications.' And it is a day of reminding us who God is. Every seventh day I need to come back to the fixed center."

"There is no legalism here -- rather a freedom to accept a gift. Frankly, I think some have destroyed the joy of Sabbath, as did the Pharisees, by surrounding it with prescriptive laws and precedents. That is not our Sabbath. Our Sabbath was made for us, given to us by God. Its purpose is worship and restoration, and whatever it takes to make that happen, we will do."

"We do not rest because our work is done; we rest because God commanded it and created us to have a need for it."

"The world and the church need genuinely rested Christians: Christians who are regularly refreshed by true Sabbath rest, not just leisure time off. When a godly rest is achieved, you will see just how tough and resilient Christians can actually be."

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