It’s been a week: of working, studying, cooking, cleaning, laundering, parenting, medical appointments, and family business requiring an 8-hour return trip to Melbourne. My husband and I have passed like ships in the night as he, too, had to be in Melbourne but on different days. Now a kid has Covid; it’s their third week of sickness this term. The cat is overdue its annual vaccinations; I’m getting rude notes from the library; the garden’s knee high in weeds; and I’m conscious of all the things I haven’t done.
A week like this is ordinary: for me, and for many of us. Shaped as I am by this culture of busyness, as I read the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 6, it seems to be all about perfection, striving and anxiety about those who fall away; I feel exhausted. But then I remember that ‘perfection’ is a terrible translation for what is better termed ‘maturity’; and these words leap out: “Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.” (Hebrews 6:7).
I think about how long and slow a good soaking rain is. It takes time to water a field, or a garden, and for the earth to drink it up. I think about tired overworked ground that is no longer receptive to rain, but is instead dry, hard and cracked; the rain runs right over it and away, leaching out precious nutrients. And I know, deep within myself, just how imperative it is to lie fallow for some time of every day, every week, every year: to rest, to receive, to be watered by Word and prayer and silence; and to be fed also by pottering around, and playing, and producing and doing nothing.
I remember again that we grow into maturity not when we strive, but when we accept the gifts of faith: the free gift of grace, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the goodness of the Word and, of course, the joy of the Sabbath, and let them do their slow work. It’s a timely re-cognition, for tomorrow I go on leave. I’ll be spending a couple of weeks lying fallow: reading, dreaming, praying, playing; lolling around, ambling aimlessly, footling about; in other words, doing nothing much.
I’ll be back in time for our Games Night on Saturday 1 October, for a Sabbath time of joyfully unproductive play and connection; and for Sabbath worship, Word and prayer at our Zoom service on 2 October. While I’m away, you might like to reflect on the Hebrews passage yourself and see where it takes you.
1. PREPARE: Make yourself comfortable. Uncross your legs; relax your body; uncomplicate your heart. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or say to you today. Breathe slowly and deeply in, then out.
2. READ: Read the following passage aloud at least three times through, slowly. Listen carefully. Notice anything which captures your attention.
Therefore let us go on towards maturity, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith towards God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement. And we will do this, if God permits. For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over. Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation [healing, liberation]. (Hebrews 6:1-9)
3. REFLECT: Allow a word, phrase or image to speak to you. What do you notice? What emotions do you feel? What questions are bubbling up? Reflect in silence.
4. RELATE: Now wonder: What tone did you hear in this text? What might this suggest about your own state of mind, or the influences which shape your reading? Are you receptive to a good soaking rain, or is your soil overworked, compacted, exhausted? What needs to change to make you more receptive?
5. RESPOND: Do you have any sense of an invitation, comfort or challenge? Pray about this, and tell God about anything which is emerging. If you feel called to action, ask God to show you/us the next step.
6. REST: When you feel ‘done’, rest awhile. Savour the conversation you are having with God, and God’s loving presence. Close with a gesture of thanks: perhaps a simple bow. As you prepare to leave this space, if any word, phrase or image persists, let it guide you. Or if nothing in particular arises, remember this and notice how it makes you feel:
- Ground that drinks up the rain … receives a blessing
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