Jesus calls his disciples to many and various good works. In the story today they’re all exhausted. So he calls them to something very different: let’s go for a boat ride and get away from all this. So they go for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. It doesn’t say whether it’s a row boat or a sail boat or some kind of motor boat, but out they go. It’s time for rest. Resting, getting away from it all, retreating is a spiritual practice. It’s also a religious duty: it’s right there in the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath Rest. The Sabbath Rest in the most literal sense is about taking it easy on the seventh day of the week. But Sabbath pertains to other time frames as well. We might have annual retreats or a monthly retreat day.
We need a little Sabbath Rest every day, actually. What would be your preferred version of the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee? Stopping by a church for a while? Going for a walk in the park or along the river? Sitting quietly by a window with a cup of tea? These can all be good boat rides. A little bit of daily Sabbath rest from all the good things we’re up to.
Whatever our preferred boat ride is, there’s the possibility of something quite wonderful. If we’ve been rowing, pull in the oars. If we’ve been sailing, lower the sails. If we’re motor boating, stop the motor. Whatever our boat ride is, whatever our mode of Sabbath Rest is, we can let the boat simply drift on the lake for a while, and take in the silence, the stillness, the solitude, the natural beauty around us, the gentle rocking of the boat, the sunshine, the breath of the Spirit hovering over the face of the deep.
Then, having stopped the boat and drifted for a while (speaking metaphorically) we can go one step further in prayer. We can slide out of the boat and into the water, into the infinite sea, into the vast ocean of God, into the vast ocean of Sabbath Rest. Which is to say, into the vast ocean of Christ himself. “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” [Mat. 11:28] In giving us rest, he gives us himself.
You’ve all been working hard, he says; let’s go for a boat ride.
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