The Fifth Sunday in Lent — The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh

We Christians love our Protestant work ethic and we New Yorkers love to fall over ourselves competing for whose life is the busiest! Whose to-do list is the longest?

In our technologically savvy world, we no longer value space and time for transitions. We live in the immediate now and the what’s next. As beginnings and endings blur together…rest is needed more than ever in our society! We need practices that help us transition from one thing to the next – ways to contemplate and celebrate the movements of our days and lives so that we can be fully present to the joys and challenges God has in store for us.

One rich experience of rest was worshipping with the Romemu community at their weekly Jewish Shabbat service. Gathering on a Friday night, I was struck by how this beautiful ritual of prayer and fellowship freed me from the burdens of a long stressful work week. It gave me space to let things be — whatever was done or left undone — and to recognize it’s not all up to me. It’s not all about me!

What a wonderful way of resetting our expectations and remembering who we are and who God is.

Rest is not just a religious ritual or getting enough sleep. Rest can take many forms such as watching the sunset, taking a long nap on a rainy day, curling up with a good book, taking long hot shower, sipping a cup of tea with a friend, walking your dog through the park in springtime glory…

Rest is all these things and more. Whatever makes us stop and savor the graces and gifts of life. A practice of receiving the gift of God’s grace, peace and restoration.

Judas was resourceful, efficient, hard-working – he was a man-of-action. He had to be if he was Jesus’ treasurer! Can you imagine what it must’ve been like to be treasurer on Jesus’ vestry? Jesus trusted Judas with an incredible amount of responsibility and leadership — perhaps more than any other disciple. It must have been both exhilarating and exhausting to be in Judas’ shoes. Trying to balance budgets, pay bills and be a good steward of resources all for the glory of God on earth.

Why then does Judas, a faithful disciple turn thief?

Maybe he couldn’t resist the temptation. Or maybe he couldn’t deal with the pressures of discipleship and life on the road. Maybe he was drowning in debt or had a gambling addiction. Or maybe he wanted a raise. After all, he was the one counting the coins and paying the bills while the other disciples kicked back and had fun.

Whatever the reason, Judas stealing from the community is a clear sign that he trusted in his own resourcefulness rather than rely on God and his friends.

How often do we live out this same mentality — trusting in our own resourcefulness rather than God and community. How easy it is to think this way when we do not take the time to rest, reflect, renew.

I wonder if Judas had stopped and savored the meaning and joy of his life and work, would he have made different decisions?

Mary – the one who does not balance the budget; the one who doesn’t notice Martha needs help with the cooking and house chores; the one who pours a year’s worth of wages onto Jesus’ feet — this disciple understands the value of rest. While Judas is busy criticizing Mary for her excessive waste of valuable resources that could be spent on better causes, Mary offers Jesus an opportunity for rest.

Pouring a jar of pure nard upon his feet, Jesus is lost in the fragrance of flowers from the Himalayas — for a brief moment, Jesus forgets the trials ahead. He is able to stop and savor the fullness of life’s graces with friends and family.

Jesus who offers so much to others, Jesus who receives so little in his lifetime. Mary’s gift is all the more priceless.

Where in your life do you need to make time to stop and savor the graces? Where do you need rest, reflection and renewal so that you can be present to the joys and challenges ahead? How might you offer a gift of Sabbath rest to someone you know?