This week, my family and I have been vacationing in Provincetown, MA – the outermost place on Cape Cod. The weather has been beautiful, we have been whale watching, climbed to the top of the Pilgrim Monument and spent most afternoons at the beach. All of that sounds great, sounds like typical vacation stuff on the surface. Until you hear the details.
I left my 6 acre homestead on a country road, with my own pool, own bed, own television and drove one thousand miles to a town that in the dead of winter is maybe 3,000 residents strong, but in summer season, swells to nearly 75,000 people. I know. I know. I came here to find…rest?
We came to a place where Commercial Street is busy until the late hours of the night and where the barkers are out trying to get you into this store or that restaurant. A place where the bump-bump-bump of the music at the Boatslip for afternoon tea-dance is almost unavoidable. We came to a place that I know I do not fit in. A place that I can get easily anxious in, being the introvert that I am. Still, this is the place that I choose to come each and every year for rest and relaxation.
Our gospel reading this past Sunday, reminds us of our need to rest, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while”. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says “Come to me all whose burden is heavy, and I will give you rest.” So there must be something to this rest thing.
Truth be told, we all need to rest. We need to take time to get away from it all and rest. Here at the outermost point of the Cape, where the land and the sea meet, I encounter the Sacred and can rest. In the midst of all the vacationing families and townies and people who have homes here on the weekend, I can rest and be just another person on this fragile earth, our island home.
Sure my mind wanders like it always does….But I have a parish that I am trying to grow and I have a full-time job where it is almost budgeting season, and I have a family, an eight year old that starts fourth grade next week, then there is termite damage to some of the siding of my house, and I have a Waycross Board meeting next week, and……
But for one week, I can experience the majesty and wonder of a place in the dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore that few people get to experience. I get to walk the same shoreline that the Pilgrims walked as they set out to forge a new way of living (no, they did not land in Plymouth first). I get to sit by the ocean and its vast ecosystem and give thanks and most importantly I get to rest.
And I think, our churches should more of that. A place to come and rest and be fed physically and spiritually. To be the alternative to the denominations that tell you that you are less than and not worthy of the love of God. To hear that day after day, week after week has to be exhausting on the soul and on the mind and ultimately the body. It is hard work to constantly be working on keeping the façade going and not revealing too much about yourself, trying to say the right things. To constantly be worrying about keeping us with the Joneses, who are trying to keep up with the Smiths, who are never going to be able to keep with the Thomases. I know I have dealt with that. But then I walked into St. James, New Castle on 1 Advent 2003 and suddenly I felt that I could rest in that pew. I walked into a church and there above the altar was a carved wooden figure of Jesus with outstretched arms. It was if He was saying, “Come. Rest a while.” I have never left the Episcopal Church since that day.
I don’t know if we always get that right at the parish I serve. But I know we try. We try to welcome the neighbor to share a meal with us, to help care for the land that has been entrusted to us, to help reverse the decline of the honeybee through our instrumented apiary. Over my four years there, we have had many visitors come through our doors and some have rested with us weekly for a short time, some have stayed longer. But I am glad we are a place that people can rest with us. I also hope that we never become a place that is too busy to notice others, unable to talk to them, or to rest with them.