Sermon - Restorative Play

My Worst Boss

Let me tell you about the worst boss I've had.

Whenever I went on vacation, they would insist I check my email at all hours of day or night.

They had me set goals. Whenever I achieved a goal, they would immediate ask, "Why didn't you surpass the goal?"

Whenever I went on vacation, they would ask, "Are you sure that's a good idea? There's a hundred more things that need to be done."

When I showed up early, they would be there already saying things like, "Oh nice of you to show up."

If I stayed late, they'd be there saying things like, "Why aren't you home with your family?"

If I wanted to start a new project that would interject with, "Why do you think that's a good idea? Or that you're the one to do it. There's probably someone more capable than you to do it."

If I tried to move a responsibility off my plate on to someone else capable, they'd say, "Oh, you think you're too good to do this? No job is beneath you, you need to be willing to do any job."

I could not win with this boss. And in fact, still can't. Because that boss is me.

Restorative Play

  • We've talked about Sabbath as a church. In one group, people expressed palpable anxiety about rest and sabbath.
  • Too much to do. Balls to drop. Sitting around doing nothing sounds terrible.
  • I think sometimes words like Sabbath and Rest can sound too passive to our modern ears, baptized in industrialization and capitalism.
  • And Sabbath and Rest are not (entirely) passive. It is about engaging our souls and bodies in ways detached from productivity.
  • Therefore our final value as a church is Restorative Play.

Kids get this. "Hey, can Tristan come and over play." We set playdates and go to playgrounds.

Grownups are far too serious for this. We have work sessions and stand up meetings. Work trips and business accounts. If I asked one of my friends if they wanted to come over and play, they'd wonder if I was trying and failing to seduce them.

Industrialization and the increase in technology in our lives was meant to bring about a golden age of leisure. The chief way you could tell apart a struggling community with a thriving one was by calculating the number of free hours people had. As more people moved to the city, fewer people farmed, and as industry grew more efficient, the modern world was promised to be an age of relaxation. As technology increased, we were promised an age of play and leisure.

Instead, the number of total hours any given person has for leisure has dropped by 30%. Americans have around 15 leisure hours per week. Meanwhile, the number of hours each person works in a week has only gone up since the 70's, hovering around 55 hours. Also, the younger you are, the more hours per week you generally put in.

Part of it is that we have terrible bosses. Maybe literally. Maybe bosses in your brain.

But play is incredibly powerful and necessary.

Play How It Shapes the Brain

  • Play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person
  • Play is a catalyst. The beneficial effects of getting just a little true play can spread through our lives, actually making us more productive and happier in everything we do
  • Play speeds up learning, enhances productivity, increases job satisifcation, enhances bonding and communication. Playfulness reduces stress, increases coping skills, and attracts romantic partners. (University of Illinois, National Institute for Play)

But Play is not just a tool to become a more useful cog in the machine of society.

Play is part of what it means to be a human being.

Gillian Lynne

There's a story of a young woman growing up in 1930s London. She was always doing terribly in school, fidgeting, never paying attention. People today would probably say she had ADHD, although that diagnosis wasn't available at the time.

Instead, school officials told the young woman's parents that she was mentally disabled. The mother took her daughter to see a specialist, who talked to the girl about school while the girl sat on her hands, trying not to fidget. After twenty minutes, the doctor asked to speak to her mother alone in the hallway. As they were leaving the office, the doctor flipped on the radio. When they were in the hallway, the doctor pointed through the window back into the office. “Look,” he said, and directed the mother’s attention to the girl, who had gotten up and started moving to the music as soon as they left. "Your daughter’s not sick, she’s a dancer.”

The young girl was Gillian Lynne, who went on to be the principal dancer in the Royal Ballet and eventually became a West End choreographer, working with Andrew Lloyd Webber on Phantom of the Opera.


Now, what on earth does this have to do with Scripture.

  1. Well, first, in the very first story of Scripture, we get the story of God resting. GOD. RESTING.
  2. Mark 6. The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (Mark 6:30-31).
    1. So much of Jesus' ministry is scenes of him walking by a lake. Eating a good meal. Sitting on a boat.
  3. So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? “Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!” Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important" (Colossians 1:20-23 The Message)
    1. There's that terrible boss again.
    2. Important time to bring up the restorative part of restorative play. Like, how many of you been scrolling on TikTok and you see the most hilarious thing you've seen and your response is this, "Nostril sound. That's hilarious."
    3. It's restorative when you feel better afterwards. It's disassociation if you don't.
  4. "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11:28-30
    1. Life with Jesus should feel like freedom.
    2. Freedom should lead to mutual thriving.

Final Point

We need all these values to work together.

Radical Friendship needs Curiosity; can accomplish justice; friends can play together.

To accomplish justice, we'll need friends. We'll need margin and rest and play; we need to be curious and ask if things can change.

To continually be adaptable and Improvise, we'll need friends to help us; we need to be able to Play and Laught at ourselves

You get the idea.

Invitation and Challenge

Invitation & Challenge: Quit something. Say no. Best yes.

Anthony Parrott

Anthony Parrott

Washington, DC