In most years, we add things for Lent. I know, I know, we’re supposed to give things up for Lent, things like chocolate and beer and anything else that might be a little celebratory. However, there is also a tradition of adding things for Lent: more choir practice to get ready for the cantata, a Wednesday night worship service or learning time, more opportunities to serve people in need. And we will add some of those things this year. The choir has already begun to work hard on the cantata, we will have an opportunity to learn more about spiritual
practices on Thursday evenings, and there are always opportunities to serve at Cornerstone and other agencies.
This year, though, I want to invite you to give up doing some things for Lent. You’re invited to give up some of your busy-ness, to slow down and enjoy the company of God and other people. Slowing down for Lent might be our gift to ourselves and to others when we do a little less, pray a little more, eat a bit more slowly, take time to share love, to encourage one another in our faith, and – to rest. Rest is one of the most God-honoring things we can “do.” Or perhaps it’s better to say that having a time of “not doing,” of just “being” with God is one of the best ways to get closer to God. That was and is the point of the Sabbath, the day of rest.
Our culture often tries to denigrate rest and label it as “laziness.” Being “busy” is held in high esteem and workaholics get kudos. But are we really benefiting anyone by stacking up 14 hour days and only sleeping for 5 hours a night? Theologically, we know the answer is “no.” We know that even though God invites us to work with him, he does not consider us to be slaves that must work ceaselessly for him. There is a sense in which we are God’s servants – God is in charge and God is in control. Yet, that metaphor only takes us so far. We need to avoid the temptation to start thinking that what we accomplish for God is what God loves about us. God loves us because God is love, not because we do things for God. And I’m grateful for that! We are called and invited to work with God to do all kinds of good in the world. The good that we do with God does bring God joy, but we are not defined by what we do. We are defined by the reality that we are God’s beloved. Remember, Jesus says to his disciples (and thus to those of us who continue to follow him today), “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
Even some people in the business world are starting to learn that working more and more isn’t the recipe for success much less for a good life. In Rework, the successful creators of the company 37 signals make
it clear that workaholics don’t do anybody any favors: “Workaholics wind up creating more problems than they solve. First off, working like that just isn’t sustainable over time. When the burnout crash comes— and it will—
it’ll hit that much harder…. In the end, workaholics don’t actually accomplish more than nonworkaholics. They may claim to be perfectionists, but that just means they’re wasting time fixating on inconsequential details instead of moving on to the next task. Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up.
The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done” (Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, pp. 25-6). Maybe there are some benefits to rest and slowing down.
In the end, though, the main benefit of slowing down for Lent – or slowing down in general – is a deeper life, a better relationship with God, and better relationships with others. Although we are made in such a way that we find a lot of meaning in our work and what we do, we often forget that rest and simply “being” or “being with” is probably even more important. Perhaps this is illustrated by the often over-looked fact that the first full day which humans enjoyed was the Sabbath. Re-read Genesis 1:26-2:4. Humanity is created at the end of the sixth day, and God rests on the seventh. Humans didn’t do any work that day, either.0 God had already done all the heavy lifting. God and humankind simply spent some time being together. We often think of the weekend as the time of rest after a full week of work. Maybe it is for God. But for us, for humans, we start with a day off. Do you think God might be telling us something?
I invite you to slow down a little for Lent – and maybe even beyond Lent. And if that means not adding on more congregational activities but instead means going to sleep half an hour earlier so you can get up half an hour earlier and greet the early morning saying, “Thank you, Jesus” as you enjoy the sunrise and a hot drink, that’s okay.