But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:
This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.
Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying: I have given heed to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt. I declare that I will bring you up out of the misery of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ They will listen to your voice; and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; let us now go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, so that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ I know, however, that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders that I will perform in it; after that he will let you go.
Psalm 105:1, 5, 8-9, 24-27
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Remember the wonderful works he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,
He is mindful of his covenant forever,
of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
And the Lord made his people very fruitful,
and made them stronger than their foes,
whose hearts he then turned to hate his people,
to deal craftily with his servants.
He sent his servant Moses,
and Aaron whom he had chosen.
They performed his signs among them,
and miracles in the land of Ham.
“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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Our modern culture does not idealize rest. Rather, it promotes a constant state of being busy, perpetual motion and activity, implying that incessant work yields excessive productivity. Our smart phones and social media make it so that we are capable of reporting our actions at all times of the day, proving that we have either worked hard or played harder. But our appearance of hustling and bustling is a lie. Being busy does not make us more productive. The only thing we accomplish by rushing from activity to activity is exhausting ourselves. Our addiction to catching up with each others’ posts and figuring out our status on the activity index keep us so occupied that we hardly ever take the time to stare out into space, to think about our days, to imagine our tomorrows, much less to think about God and to pray.
It is important that we do not fall into a modern-day slavery to the culture. If our culture dictates our work, our activity, how much (or little) we rest, and requires that we report on our actions at all times, it is hard to call it anything less than oppression. And like the Israelites in the Exodus reading, God desires to free us from those burdens. Notice how God’s directive to Moses is to ask Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to take time out to pray to God. In this initial request, there is no mention of inheriting their own land or throwing off the yoke of slavery. But everyone knows that by this request, the Israelites are asking for total freedom.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus calls us to do the same thing. He knows we are burdened, he knows we labor long, and he knows we are weary. He calls us to take time out to come to him. He asks us to throw off the yoke of the every day and take on his yoke. He asks for us to be concerned about our life with him, and he will concern himself with our lives and the every day.
Our culture may not idealize rest, but God knows how much we need it. Our culture may idealize activity, but God knows what is most important to work on. Our culture may define people by what they do, but God defines himself by the fact that he simply is. Our goal today should be to take time with him to simply be. Our goal should be to stop trying to act all the time, but to just exist with God and learn who he is. We will find that by doing so, we will learn more about who we are called to be. Then our actions will follow, and we will know how we are called to act.