Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest

Dear friends,

What a very long winter this has been! We are currently having a much-needed break and are very grateful to the government for allowing us to get away for a week. We can finally cross the Severn Bridge for a flying visit to Pauline’s mum, and the (hopeful) prospect of summer sunshine and further holidays to come suddenly make the coming weeks a more agreeable prospect than the ones which have passed. Not that we take these things for granted – the last year must have taught us all that plans can suddenly change, but perhaps that makes times of rest and refreshing even more precious now that we are less certain that they will ever arrive.

We take Jesus as our example in these things. He made it very clear that each day is special, either because it has enough troubles of its own so that there is not much point in worrying about the future; or because this very day is made by the Lord and so we should rejoice in it. He knew his scriptures because he would have been immersed in them like all Jewish boys, reciting them over and over until they were second nature and able to be recalled without hesitation in every circumstance. When he visited his home synagogue and was asked to give a reading, he knew exactly which scroll to take and read these words from Isaiah, which became his ‘manifesto’:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

Jesus is declaring here that in him there is freedom from all that binds us, so that the past no longer has a grip on us, and the present and future are secure. We are no longer captives to sin, darkness and oppression because the year of the Lord’s favour has arrived and it is very good news indeed. The Spirit of the Lord is on him and in us, granting us peace on earth and forgiveness of sins, so that we can be filled with his love and share it with others. It means that all of us have a purpose and a hope, a future guaranteed by the gift of Jesus’ death and the miracle of his resurrection, allowing his new life to be shared by all those who believe.

And yet… in the busyness of this mission, Jesus still knew that restful days were essential. Not for nothing did God give us the gift of Sabbath rest, a time when He works to restore and refresh us, and we must not deny it even though we recognise the imperative to be active in God’s service. Jesus took himself off from the crowds and spent time with his Father, resting and being restored, so we cannot ignore the need to do the same.  So let us thank God for the days when we can put aside our everyday concerns and instead intentionally enjoy his presence as he re-energises us for the mission to come.

With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline