The summer holiday period will very soon be upon us. No doubt many local businesses which rely on visitors to the Peak District for their livelihoods are hoping for a good summer. Lesley and I will be taking our annual fortnight holiday, once again staying on the west coast of Scotland and, no doubt, visiting one or two of the Hebridean islands. And, who knows, this year we might even see some dolphins! For most of us, going away on holiday at least once a year has become an accepted part of our way of life: a time to ‘recharge our batteries’, to step aside and see things from a another perspective, to experience somewhere different. Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay’.
In his Gospel St Mark tells us that, after his disciples had returned from their ‘mission’ to the villages, “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while’. For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.” (Mark 6.31-32). Jesus had become so well known for his teaching and his miracles that he and his disciples were followed by crowds wherever they went, to the extent that they had no time to themselves. If we had been the disciples – exhilarated from the ‘mission’ to the villages but also tired, hungry and thirsty – we might imagine their reactions to the situation in which they now found themselves. But Jesus is the ‘good shepherd’ who knows his ‘sheep’; he acknowledges the disciples’ need for rest. That need is not a sign of weakness. Humankind’s need for rest after work reflects the character of God who, after six days of work, rests on the seventh day and who ordains that humankind should rest on the seventh day.
But what is ‘work’? Is it a necessary evil? Or is it a source of human dignity and self-worth? Is it only ‘paid employment’? Or is it our response to God’s invitation to participate in God’s creative, sustaining and reconciling activity in the world? And what is ‘rest’? Is it ‘doing nothing’? Does it encompass every leisure activity? Or was Augustine of Hippo onto something: God has formed us for Godself and we are restless until we find our rest in God? And in a society where some are overworked and others are underemployed, how might ‘work’ and ‘rest’ be ordered for the mutual flourishing of all?
Wherever you are – at home or away – and whatever you do – working and resting – may you know the blessing of God.Revd Dr David MundyAssistant Curate