I’m writing this from sunny Florida (please don’t hate me, my flights home are tomorrow — this afternoon as you are reading this E-Blast). And it has actually been a few degrees cooler here than in Harrisburg, with a nice sea breeze and evening deluges (uh-oh, now you may hate me).
But to keep up the tradition of these E-Blasts, I was thinking of the need for both work and rest. God Himself established that rhythm with the Sabbath, which became in the Old Testament an essential sign of loyalty to the Covenant. Jesus changed the legalistic understanding to point out that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” And Christians do not observe the Sabbath (which is sundown Friday through sundown Saturday), but celebrate Easter each week on Sunday.
There is a necessity for work in order for our lives to have meaning, and there is a necessity for rest in order to be able to enjoy and appreciate God’s good gifts. The challenge is to find the proper balance.
This past week a conservative professor who was hounded from his position because of his views apparently and tragically took his own life (although I keep wondering about all these prominent suicides). We know that there have been many drug overdoses and suicides during the quarantines and lock downs, although it is difficult to establish cause-and-effect. When people are not permitted to work, and when they see the things, they have worked for destroyed, it is easy to slip into despair.
Certainly, all of us need to do what we can to keep positive contacts with all those in vulnerable situations. There are people in long-term care facilities who have gone four months without being able to interact in person with family and friends. And after a while everybody will have binge-watched all they can on television.
I am grateful for those who have helped us keep this congregation open while working to keep everybody as safe as possible. We need to keep alert during this time of forced rest for so many, to prevent despair and its outcomes.
And if you find yourself unable to continue the work you had done; I would urge you to find things that will be meaningful for you. We need that balance between work and rest to live up to the potential God has placed within all of us to bear His image in His world.
If you need to talk to somebody, I would be happy to speak on the phone with you. And if you are feeling serious despair, there are many avenues for the sort of professional help which is far beyond my skill level. Please take advantage of them. Depression is not a moral or ethical weakness but an illness just like, well, COVID-19. And there are many resources to help.
Meanwhile, keep your life in balance. Even when we feel useless or rejected, the God we meet in Jesus loves us infinitely. Rest in His love, and know that God has good things in store for you.
While I have not licked doorknobs and have tried to be responsible down here by avoiding crowds, using my mask, etc., and I am several hundred miles from the hotbed of COVID in Miami, I will be happy to make arrangements for anybody concerned about receiving Communion from me this Sunday to receive from one of our lay assistants. Just let an usher or me know ahead of time.
Steve Shipman, STS