Take A Rest!
By Tracy Balzer
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tracy Balzer encourages setting time aside for Vespers.
The ones who set aside time for Vespers are re-learning, I think, that God is bigger than their responsibilities, that he will keep their worlds in orbit even though they’ve stepped away from it all for an hour.
We’re offering a new chapel service on campus, twice a month on Tuesday evenings. It’s called “Vespers,” and it’s a simple, quiet worship service that consists primarily of scripture reading, silence and prayer, and songs.
When students arrive at Vespers, they are encouraged to enter the Jones Recital Hall in silence, and to prayerfully prepare for the service. I usually lead an informal orientation time for them, in case there are first-timers. I don’t want anyone to feel anxious about doing anything “wrong,” so instructions are given to orient them to the service. They always catch on just fine.
We move on to a hymn, led by one of our worship team members. Then a student comes to read a selection from the Old Testament, such as the story about Joseph reconciling with his brothers. The reading is followed by silence, a time to digest the words of the scripture and respond in prayer. A responsive reading of a Psalm comes next, followed by a student to read a selection from the Gospels. Again, silence is observed – almost five minutes of absolute silence – so that we can truly listen to the words of Jesus.
I then lead the group in a guided time of intercessory prayer for the world, for our country and its leaders, for the Church, for our university and its leaders and students, for our families. We sing another hymn together, and close in prayer. Like I said, it is a simple service.
It’s interesting to note students’ responses to this simple, quiet service. “I feel so peaceful,” they’ve been heard to whisper as they slowly make their way to the doors to leave. I am convinced that what has just happened is what the writer of Hebrews was so desperately trying to recommend to his readers: “enter His rest.”
We’ve been working our way through Hebrews in chapel this fall. And one of the themes we’ve uncovered is the promise of rest that God has for his people. This is particularly seen in chapters 4 – 6. “There remains,” Hebrews 4:9 states, “a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.” But the writer makes it clear that believers are not taking advantage of this rest. The recipients of this epistle had heard the truth, but were not believing it in faith and responding in obedience. Under such conditions, rest simply will not happen.
Like the folk to which this epistle was addressed, we have heard the Good News, and have perhaps even said we believe it. But do we take the final step toward rest? According to Hebrews 4, we also need to “enter” — which means we need to follow God’s Sabbath principle, not only turning away from our work, but also from our misguided notion that everything depends upon us. When we’re really honest, can we let it all go and let God manage the world for a while?
If our honest answer is “no,” then perhaps we should ask ourselves if we really believe the truth we have heard about who God is. Busy students (and busy adults) can easily give into the temptation to believe that everything depends on them. The ones who set aside time for Vespers are re-learning, I think, that God is bigger than their responsibilities, that he will keep their worlds in orbit even though they’ve stepped away from it all for an hour. In fact, the activity in our lives takes on new meaning when it is undergirded with the rest that God has promised his people. The rest God gives empowers us to fulfill his calling on our lives.
Tracy Balzer is director of Christian