Pause for Thought: Return and Rest
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ (Isaiah 30:15).
There is a sense, this time of year, of being ‘in between times’. We have completed the academic year, and yet we prepare for a Summer School which will include welcoming new students. We celebrate the sending out of those who are now alumni, rejoice in many Ordinations, while our spirit also alertly awaits the arrival of those sent to us to train and study. We tentatively move forward from a year defined by Covid and having to move our life and teaching and fellowship online, and yet are cautiously aware that such provisions may be required for some time yet. Departures, anticipations, contingencies, hopeful imaginings: an in-between time. And in the midst of all this, our hearts and minds hear another call of the in-between, the call to sabbath, to pause, to return to God and to be refreshed. The months of ‘July’ and ‘August’ ring with a note of precious gift, asking us to pursue rest and focused time with God, so that the deep waters of our spirits may be replenished from that inexhaustible well.
At church last Sunday, I was struck by a point made by the preacher. Reflecting on St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 1: 3-14, the preacher noted how, while himself physically confined, Paul sang out over his fellow Christians the expansive work of God in Christ and its meaning for all creation: ‘God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places’, has ‘destined us for adoption’, and has ‘made known to us the mystery of his will’, a will that holds ‘a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth’. And our minister called us to see that though Paul’s body is so often chained, imprisoned, enclosed in small spaces, his mind and heart inhabit eternity. Paul knows where he is anchored. Infinite are the resources at hand. Because our life is in Christ, there is always life beyond the poverty of the moment.
Within my role at St Padarn, I love helping people to catch sight of what is possible: possible for each of us because our life is hidden with Christ in God, and possible for the Church because our Lord is faithful to his bride and gives her his Spirit. We, like Paul, can, whatever our circumstances, return again and again to the inexhaustible wealth of life sourced in God’s own life. This is the source of our creativity, and the energy for all renewal. And as we all know, accessing this well-spring requires seasons of resting and wondering, of ‘returning and rest’, of ‘quietness and trust’: Isaiah captures God’s ministering instruction. So, I wonder how each of us, this summer, in these in-between times, will ‘return and rest’, and so be saved? How do we need to be saved this summer? And where will we find ‘quietness’, and how foster that gentle abiding ‘trust’, which will be our ‘strength’ tomorrow?
Revd Chris Thomson