Our theme for June and July is “Created to Be,” inspired by the theme for the ELCA Youth Gathering this summer. Our youth and adults from Bethany, along with 20,000 others, will gather under the theme “Created To Be…” Each day in New Orleans will focus on a different aspect of how God created us to be. We’ve added a few more words to cover the weeks leading up to the Gathering. Today's theme was “Created to Be…Restored” and next Sunday's theme will be "Created to Be....Redeemed."

The world tells us that productivity, accomplishment, and constant activity are what matter most, and that rest is for the weak. Yet, the Bible teaches us something very different: we are created to be restored.

In the reading assigned this week from Deuteronomy 5:12-15, God commands the Israelites to observe the Sabbath—a day of rest. God rested on the seventh day after creating the world, setting an example for us. It's not just about physical rest but also about spiritual and emotional rejuvenation. In today’s context, this could mean unplugging from our devices, spending quality time with loved ones, or simply taking a moment to breathe and reflect.

And in the Gospel of Mark, we see Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath. The religious leaders criticized Jesus for "working" on a day of rest. But Jesus responded that the Sabbath was made for humans, not humans the Sabbath. Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath shows that restoring health and well-being is a fundamental part of observing rest.

Restoration isn’t just a spiritual concept—it has practical applications in our daily lives. According to a recent article by Psychology Today, taking regular breaks can significantly reduce stress and increase productivity. Here are some ways to incorporate rest and restoration into your routine:

Schedule Downtime: Block out time in your calendar for rest. Treat it as an important appointment you cannot miss.

Unplug: Disconnect from your devices for a certain period each day. Use this time to engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

Practice Gratitude: Keep a gratitude journal to remind yourself of the ways God has been present in your life. This can restore your sense of peace and purpose.

Connect with Nature: Spend time outdoors. Nature has a remarkable way of restoring our minds and bodies.

Seek Spiritual Renewal: Engage in prayer, meditation, or reading scripture. These practices can help restore your soul.

With that said, I wanted to let you know that I will be taking some restoration time this summer, from Sunday, June 16 – Sunday, July 7. Pastor Marilyn Hanson, retired and former Assistant to the Bishop, will be stepping in to support our church and preach. Thank you for giving me the time to step away for a moment. I know that I will be a better leader for you after taking this restoration time for myself.

We live in a world that values constant activity and productivity, but God’s design includes regular times of rest and restoration. By following the teachings of the Bible to rest and be restored, we can experience the fullness of life that God intends for us. Remember, you were created to be restored. Rest is a gift; allow God to renew your strength for the journey ahead. Amen.