Go ahead, take a nap in church

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Growing up, I learned about rest from my mother. When I got home from school, I found her taking an afternoon nap. When I asked why she napped, she said that sometimes she just needed a break.I saw my mom take nap breaks often. Every Thanksgiving when our family got together and ate a giant meal, my mom would disappear for a little bit to one of the back rooms for a quick nap.

It was a safe environment. There were other adults, whom she trusted, to keep track of the kids. There was freedom to enter or exit a conversation. It was sort of a family understanding. You need some rest? Well, now is your chance.

The church should be a place of rest for the weary. We need communities of rest. People need to relax in a safe place. To be fed when all you have been doing is feeding others. Having a time to pray, worship or even take a nap can help people recharge so that they can take on their week.

The church runs on a lot of volunteer hours. Committees. Sunday school teaching. Worship planning. All are important, but don’t forget: There may be people in your congregation who need a rest.

Jesus was an advocate for rest. In Mark 4:35-40 we see Jesus taking a nap at what seems to be the most inopportune time. Jesus and the disciples get on a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. A storm rises, and everyone panics.

Where is Jesus? That’s right: He is taking a nap. When the disciples wake him, he rebukes their lack of faith — and takes care of the storm.

When I think about the church as a community of rest, I remember this passage. How can the church create places of rest? Many people are in the midst of storms in their daily lives. Church may be the only place where they can get some rest.

People like these:

Parents whose children need a nurturing community and the freedom to run through the sanctuary.
The social worker with a tough caseload who comes to church to recharge for the week.
The undocumented person who constantly has to look over his or her shoulder in fear of deportation — except in church.

The wise and faithful elder who only makes it through three minutes of the sermon before falling asleep.

All could benefit from the church being a community of rest.

Now, this is not the only thing they should be looking for in church. But it is important to understand the value of rest for those who need it.

At times, our lives can feel like constant storms. The waves batter us, and we deal with the trauma. The church as a community of rest can become the place where we get a break from these harsh realities, safe within a loving community.

With the mass murders by shooters in Boulder, Colo., and Atlanta, the church is called into action. We need boldness and courage to speak out against racism, sexism and gun violence.
The church also needs to be a place of rest for those who are healing from the trauma of such events. This is what I needed last summer after the murders of Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

With so many storms happening around us, maybe there are people now who need some rest.

Yes, it is time to act.

Yes, it is time for rest.

The church has to find a healthy balance.

Rest is preparation. It is a time to recharge and be refreshed to weather the storms of life.
Let’s remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

May your community of faith be both a place of action and a place where it is OK to take a nap.

Jerrell Williams

Jerrell Williams is pastor of Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton, Kan. A 2015 graduate of Bethel College, he has a Read More

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