After so many months of lockdown, I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated a holiday quite as much as the 10 days we’ve just enjoyed as a family. It was a precious gift to visit elderly parents in Pembrokeshire for the first time this year – and to swim in the beautifully warm Cleddau estuary! And I realised how much I needed the rest. Just before going away, I failed to show up for a meeting that I’d organised, sent a blank card to a colleague (having put the wrong card into the envelope), and made a regrettable mistake with an email.
Such mistakes helped me extend compassion towards the restaurant where we enjoyed some family time last week. After a long wait to be served, the staff got the orders completely mixed up and we ended up, after a very staggered meal, with starters being served after the main course. The poor manager explained that, whilst they appreciated the government’s help through the ‘eat out to help out’ scheme, they weren’t prepared for the volume of custom and that they were under-staffed, over-tired and struggling to cope with such a very different regime.
So many people I’ve chatted to in the last few months have spoken about tiredness. It’s made me reflect upon Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28: ‘Come unto me, all you that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest’. This verse surmounted the east window in the church where I was last vicar and faced me every time I entered the building. I remember thinking that God must have divinely ordered it to be there just for my benefit – 130 years after the church was built – for I know in that season of leadership, I needed to hear it on a daily basis.
Later this week, we celebrate the feast of St Augustine of Hippo – one of the greatest theologians of the early church. This verse was a particularly important one for Augustine. He wrote ‘I have read in Plato and Cicero things that are wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them: Come to me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. It inspired one of his best known and loved prayers which has echoed down through the centuries: ‘Almighty God, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you’.
I wonder whether this verse is a particularly appropriate one for this season? I’m grateful that the staff of Church House Guildford currently begin every week by hearing these words. They’re a helpful reminder that, whilst breaks and holidays are essential for all of us, the ultimate rest is not a place or a period of time off, but a person - Jesus. I do hope that you’ve managed to have some time off over the summer months. But I also pray that as we look forward to a busy September and Autumn, we will constantly seek rest in the one whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.