Wednesday, July 25, 2.30 – 5 pm AVF Vence, French Conversation. At Holy Trinity, Eucharist at 10.30 am.
Friday, July 27, Apéritif on the Beach at 6 pm, Nice – Plage du Centenaire, Handiplage. Bring drinks, snacks, and something to sit on.
Saturday 29 July, Pink Club lunch, 11.30 – 2.30 pm. Bring and share.
The value of rest
I wonder how many of you have invigilated an exam. When I was a school chaplain I, like other teachers, used to have to do a fair amount of it. Many hot summer’s afternoons were whiled away watching young people scribbling. One pub quiz fact that I was able to verify – repeatedly – is that 10% of the population are left handed (as I am). You could count 70 exam candidates and almost invariably there were seven left handers.
This was not my first experience of invigilating, though. My debut was when I was back in Oxford as a post-graduate. Once you had your MA, you were entitled to offer your services – and earn some pocket money – to invigilate university exams.
One year, there was a need to invigilate Jewish students whose finals’ schedule was interrupted by religious holidays. I invigilated their finals at a Jewish independent school, Carmel College, not far from Oxford, in a small house on its campus.
The finalists and I ate with pupils of the school and attended its synagogue. What was most interesting – and most relevant to next Sunday’s gospel reading, where Jesus orders his disciples to take time for a rest – was when the Shabbat (the Sabbath) began.
None of the orthodox Jews whose exam. I was invigilating could do any ‘work’, which included turning lights on and off. I, as the only Gentile, was responsible for this ‘work’. Otherwise, they relied on timers and other bits of 70s technology to get around the prohibition on work on the Sabbath.
This attitude to the Sabbath relies upon reading scripture in a literal way (and also accepting the authority of someone who tells you that this is the right way to read it).
Not all Jews take this line. As within Christianity, there is a spectrum of belief and observance amongst Jewish people. Only strictly Orthodox Jews respond to Scripture and tradition precisely in this way.
The character of one’s response to Scripture and tradition lies at the heart of the way you live as a Jew but the same applies to Christians.
Put in the simplest terms, as a Christian you can choose to read Scripture as a rule book or you can regard it as a collection of witnesses – honoured by tradition – to which we in our own generation and context have to relate.
If we do this, we shouldn’t so much read scripture looking for rules to guide us by as seek to find some connection between it and our present context.
Take Sunday’s gospel reading, which completes the reading we had the Sunday before last (the story of the feeding of the 5,000 comes between the two parts of the story). The first part of the story involved Jesus sending his disciples out on a mission, as his ambassadors. He ordained them to go out and preach and heal.
In Sunday’s reading, the disciples have returned very tired. They hadn’t even had time to eat. They tell Jesus about what they have done. His response, though, rather than to analyse their successes and failures and plan what to do next is to tell them to come away for a rest.
After their time of zealous activity, Jesus makes rest his disciples’ first priority.
Now we could read this just as an account of what Jesus did with his disciples or we could – more imaginatively – take this as a cue for the way Christian ministers should behave, or, more generally, as a guide for the Christian life.
We live in a society where those in work often have long hours and work. The statistics about the life/work balance in France, the UK and the US are complicated, but we have all heard people complain about overlong work hours.
For instance, to give an extreme example, I read recently about the pressures on those who have begun work in banking in the US – some have even committed suicide because of the pressure to work and succeed. Many complain of how busy their lives are, while others parade their busyness. It’s almost chic for people to say that they are rushed off their feet.
But Jesus calls his disciples to a rest. Even though we lack a tradition of strict Shabbat observance, perhaps we should also consider the value of regular rest as a time to be still, to be with family and friends, and as a time to give thanks to God.