Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Echoes of a Conversation...into His rest

Disclaimer: These characters are fictitious and any resemblance to anyone is purely intentional.
Warning: The dialogue is in Malglish (Malaysian English) and may be hazardous to anybody speaking the Queen’s English.

[Three friends found an empty table in Coffee Bean during lunch break.]

John: Aiyo, finally, an empty table. My feet got pain. What are you having? I’m having a regular mocca latte.

Philip: Me, I am having a double expresso. Caffeine level is low and I need the extra boost. What about you, Matthews?

Matthews: I’ll have a hot chocolate.

John & Philip: What!!!

Matthews: I am very stressed, lah. Scared coffee will drive me off the edge.

John: Yeah, I know what you mean. My job as a pastor is keeping me busy too. You know, this week alone I have to lead two Bible studies, not to mention preparing for this Sunday’s sermon. Last night, I had to conduct a wake service for one of our members.

Philip: Talk about busy. My clinic has been overflowing. There is an intestinal flu epidemic going on. Everyone vomiting and having diarrhea. Then after work, I have to attend bible study, prayer meeting and this Sunday my turn to preach. Who got time to do all these things? Sometimes I fall asleep during prayer meeting.

Matthews: Oh, no wonder you prayed so long last week. I thought I heard you snore! Hey guys, I need your prayers. I am having a hard time with my PhD supervisor. She is really stressing me out. Sometimes I wonder why I want to get a PhD.

Philip: Get permanent head damage (PhD)?

Mathews: Ha, ha. You know why. Boy, am I tired. I need a long break. Research and writing is hard work, you know. No play play.

Philip: Same here. Very tired and very fed up with it all. Sometimes I wonder why I bother to serve in church. After work, I am so tired that all I can do is to lie down and watch tv.

John: At least you have a 42 inch plasma tv. I am tired too. I struggle to get up in the morning knowing there are so many things I need to do. Sometimes, I dread to meet my church members. Always giving me more things to do.

Philip: Who ask you to be a pastor? Taking a break does not work for me. My holidays are more tiring than my work. After a family holiday, I need a break to recover from my break. Do you know what is wrong with us? Why we are so tired?

John: I think I am overcommitted. Too many things to do.

Matthews: Me too.

Philip: Maybe we should rethink our lifestyles. Be less overcommitted.

John: Huh, see who’s talking. Your life is so busy that I wonder whether God give you an extra hour or two everyday.

Philip: Hey, I am serious, guys. Being tired all the time is no good. We will end up being burnt out. Remember that sermon by that preacher on ending well. I want to end well. I don’t want to burn out and fall away.

Matthews: Yeah, that was a good sermon. I like his jokes. I get his point too. I remember during the sermon I wondered whether I would last the course. I was drowsy and fighting to keep awake during the sermon. I want to end well too.

John: Well, doc. You have the diagnosis here, over commitment. What is the treatment?

Philip: You can’t afford my fees. Never mind, I shall charge you 50 dollars per hour. Friend, friend, never mind lah.

Matthews: Can also. Okay, doc. What to do?

Philip: Sabbath.

Matthews: Sabbath!

Philip: Yes, Sabbath. We do not have Sabbath in our lives. Our lives are doing, doing, doing all the time. No time set aside for rest.

John: I know what you mean, Philip. I just preached a sermon on Sabbath last Sunday. How we need to make time in our busy lifestyle for Sabbath rest. I call the sermon “Sabbath Rest” Never thought about my own life, though. I just cannot see how to apply it in my own life. My wife is complaining I am doing too much.

Philip: Maybe your wife is correct. Sometimes our wives see what we cannot see. Don’t tell my wife or I shall never hear the end of it.

Matthews: Sabbath. Hmm, have not thought about the Sabbath for a long time. Working on my studies on weekdays and in church all weekends, completely forgot about a day of rest. Sabbath is a day of rest, isn’t it?

John: Observing the Sabbath is the 4th Commandment. Remember the 10 commandments? Hey, your PhD is in theology, isn’t it?

Matthews: Oops. Guess that’s what you call a pilgrim’s regress. You study all about God that you forget to live with God. So what makes you think Sabbath is the answer to our tiredness?

Philip: I was reading Philip Yancey’s new book on prayer. In it, he mentioned something about Ajith Fernando. Remember Ajith, he spoke to us last year. During the relief effort for the tsunami victims, Ajith wrote something for the relief workers which Yancey quoted. I like it so much that I wrote it down. Now where is it? ……..ah, yes, here it is.

“In his email entitled ‘Disciplines for Emergency Workers’ Ajith wrote, ‘God has built into our systems a rhythm of life which we must not violate; output and input; work and rest; service and worship; community activity, family activity and solitude.’”

When I read that, it struck me that there is a rhythm of life, like our body rhythm. And God has built a rhythm or work and rest into our bodies. We are all so tired because we broke the rhythm. God worked 6 days and rested on the seventh.

Matthews: Wished God had worked a 5 days week! I get what you mean about the rhythm and Sabbath. But look at my life. I am so busy. So how?

Philip: We all busy lah. But that doesn’t mean we don’t look after our health. I have seen people changed after their first heart attack. They began to realize that not all things are important. We can do with less in our lives. What do you think, John? You are rather quiet.

John: I think that observing the Sabbath as a day of rest is not just good for our health. I think it is a matter of obedience. God gave the 10 Commandments as guidelines for the Israelites. That’s the Law. Does that mean we, under the New Covenant do not need to obey it? I think that we need to observe the Sabbath-rest too. It is just a matter of obedience to Jesus.

Philip: I have been thinking along the same line too. I think obeying Jesus is more important than serving Jesus. I have been reviewing my schedule. Some things I do not that important. I am thinking of rearranging my schedule so that I can have a day of rest each week. May not be a Sunday. This means I may have to cut down on some activities. Can or cannot?

John: Makes sense to me too. Sabbath-rest as obedience. I wonder how my elders will take it if I begin to say “no” to more responsibilities.

Matthews: Look for a new church? Joking only lah. Alamak! Time to go. I need to meet my supervisor in half an hour. Hope the next time we meet, we will not be so tired. Jom, guys.

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