If there is a blessing to be found in these difficult times, perhaps it is that at long last the rain which made this winter rather gloomy has been replaced by glorious sunshine. Spring has burst forth. Most years we find ourselves too busy to really notice it, this year we can actually pay attention to this gentle transformation of the world from bleak to heartbreakingly beautiful. There is nothing so wonderful as these first days of spring, and their invitation to find joy in the simple things of creation.
Jesus is remarkable in the fact that though his work was of the utmost importance he was never rushed, always had time for people, and regularly retreated into wild places to pray. And he says to his his disciples “Come away to a quiet place”, come out to the wild places and find rest for your souls.
And it is a delightful thing that at the heart of the gospel is and invitation to rest and re-creation. By contrast to the striving and ambition that defines much of our world with its stress and burnout, your value and dignity in Christ are not something that you need to prove or earn. Are you anxious and heavy laden? Jesus says come to me and I will give you rest.
Just like the spring time which arrives all by itself, real life is found in not our works, but in the generous gift of God – that thing which we call grace. And just as God himself rested on the seventh day, so we are called to rest in his goodness and boundless love.
There is a delightful story in the sayings of the Desert Fathers about some monks who go to the Abbot to complain about a brother who keeps falling asleep in sacred worship. The abbot replied “For my part, when I see a brother falling asleep, I put something comfortable under his head to let him rest more comfortably”. Or as the scriptures put is “”In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength”.
One of the great privileges of ministry is that there is an expectation that once a year we will take three or four days retreat, to have space to rest, to meet with God in a quiet place surrounded by nature. It is always a struggle to carve the time out, and to be disciplined enough to put aside other demands, but those retreats are always milestones in the years, and times to be restored and to recalibrate. And this year that invitation is there for all of us. To come and rest, with the warm sun on our face, and the gentle music of birdsong around us we are reminded that this life is a gift, to be received with joy.
[Pray] A prayer of St Benedict
O gracious and holy Father,
give us wisdom to perceive you,
diligence to seek you,
patience to wait for you,
eyes to behold you,
a heart to meditate upon you,
and a life to proclaim you,
through the power of the spirit
of Jesus Christ our Lord.
[Read] Wind in the Willows – One of my favourite reflections on the joys of spring. Available free here.