Sunday’s Sermon: Living Sabbath

  • There’s a great camp song out there.  (reference children’s sermon) There are a lot of different names and variations for this song, but we always called it, “Hi, my name is Joe!”
    • Describe game
      • Right hand –> left hand –> right knee –> left foot –> hip –> head –> tongue
      • Final response – boss: “Are you busy?” and I said, “YES!”
    • Perfect camp song
      • Silly
      • Great ice breaker – gets everyone looking ridiculous all at the same time –> something unifying in looking ridiculous with a large group of people
      • But stop and think for a minute: How often does this silly song mirror our lives? How often do we find ourselves doing so many things that are expected of us that we end up flailing around and wishing we had more hands than an octopus? And in the midst of all this racket, how can we actually live the Sabbath rest we so desperately need?
        • Last week: talked about importance of Sabbath rest to the well-being of bodies, minds, and spirits –> learned Sabbath rest isn’t just about taking a break from all the chaos but also about devoting that break time to honoring God
        • This week, we’re going to think about how we can live into that Sabbath rest – how we can honor God with our timeouts.
  • Vital question this week: How do we live into the promised renewal of Sabbath rest in the midst of our busy daily lives? How do we find a way to reflect Christ instead of reflecting our friend Joe who works in the button factory? –> million dollar question
    • Typing “Sabbath rest” into Amazon produces 256 hits … and that’s the just a search with a limited phrase! If we were to spend more time poking around – searching with key words and phrases like “rest in God,” “peace and Sabbath,” etc. – I’m sure a lot more would pop up. And the vast majority of these results are books written to help us find that renewing, refreshing Sabbath rest in the midst of our chaotic lives.
      • That many results says to me that we truly are in desperate need of rest – stop for a minute and consider your calendar/schedule
        • How many commitments do you have in a week?
        • How many hours do you work in a week?
        • How many miles do you put on your car in a week?
        • How much sleep do you get at night?
        • We are crazy people! Even if we aren’t physically out and about, working or running errands or whatever, we’ve got plenty of other things going on – things that eat away at our time and our mental and spiritual energy.
          • Bills that never fail to arrive
          • Correspondence that we keep up (snail mail, email, phone calls, social media, whatever)
          • Worries that occupy our minds
    • God understands what it’s like to be busy – to have a lot on your plate
      • Whole 1st ch of Genesis = creation –> Paragraph after paragraph of the multitude of things that God spent days creating – light and dark, land and sea, plants and fish and birds and all other creatures … and people! “Hi, my name is God, and I work in an everything factory!” I mean, talk about having a million things to do! And yet God did it all and did it well. After each day of creation, God looked at everything that had been created that day, and God said, “That’s good.” No wonder God desired a rest on the seventh day!
        • Remember words from Washington Post article last week: Medical science has demonstrated that … Lack of rest and relaxation is associated with inattentiveness, inability to concentrate, impulsivity, moodiness, learning difficulties and health problems.[1]
        • Simple message in passage from Gen –> work is good, but rest is necessary
  • See this in NT passage, too –> first we work, then we rest
    • First part of the passage = work of the apostles – text: He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. … So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.[2] –> This is difficult work that Jesus was asking the disciples to do. It’s hard coming into a new place and getting to know people, never mind the fact that they had a new message – a radical, world-shattering message – to deliver in every town they encountered: “The Messiah has come. God loves you. Let me cast out your demons and cure you in the name of Jesus the Christ.”
      • Physically draining trekking from one town to the next on foot
      • Emotionally draining meeting whole town’s worth of new people and dealing with the possibility of rejection at every turn
      • Spiritually draining casting out demons and curing/healing those in need
      • See this in Gr –> text: [the disciples] had no leisure even to eat – “leisure” = opportunity
        • This implies a sense of immediacy to me. The work that they were doing was so pressing, so important, so vital that they didn’t even have the opportunity to stop and eat once they returned to Jesus’ side. It’s not just that they didn’t have a few hours to sit and have a leisurely dinner, reclining on pillows and filling their bellies with wine and bread and meats and olives and whatever else. The disciples couldn’t even squeeze in the opportunity to eat. That’s how chaotic their work life was! –> not so different from our lives in the church today
          • Just some of the work that’s done
            • (Z: choir preparation, Country Store, bringing refreshments after worship)
            • (O: luncheons, Food Shelf, bringing refreshments after worship)
            • Also “designated/ordained positions” – trustees, deacons, council/session –> work that we do for the good of the church, for the furtherance of God’s message, yes, but work that requires energy … energy that needs to be replenished just like the disciples needed to be replenished. You see, it’s great to do God’s work – to do what we can to help the church reach out and grow and be God’s presence here in this community. But our passages for today acknowledge that even when the work that we’re doing is God’s work, we need to take a rest because through Sabbath rest, we are able to reconnect with God and renew our weary spirits.
              • See this in Mk passage: [Jesus] said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure eve to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.[3]
                • “Come away … and rest a while.” –> Gr. “rest” = relax, remain quiet, be refreshed
                • Jesus knew that the disciples were running on empty, so he invited them to take that Sabbath time – to step away from the work that they were doing for a little while to reconnect with God. “And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.
          • Importance highlighted by scholar: The setting aside of [time] when human beings attend, not to their own responsibilities and freedoms, but to God’s ordering of life honors the larger creative purposes of God and integrating oneself into them. It acknowledges that God is indeed the Creator and provider of all things.[4]
  • So how can we do that? How can we actually live into that Sabbath rest? How can we set aside our own responsibilities and freedoms to acknowledge and honor our Creator? How can we take that time to relax, remain quiet, and be refreshed in God’s presence?
    • Lots of ways that we can reconnect
      • Everyday ways
        • “Quiet times” – just you, God, and a Bible
          • Various ways to read and interact with the Word (drawing/sketching, journaling, taking notes in your Bible)
          • Variety of ways to pray
          • Variety of other resources (devotional books, daily emails, even apps for your phone/mobile device)
      • Special ways to reconnect with God
        • Oblates of St. Benedict: “Oblates of St. Benedict … seek God by striving to become holy in their chosen way of life. By integrating their prayer and work, they manifest Christ’s presence in society. … Oblates concern themselves with striving to be what they are, people of God and temples of the Holy Spirit.”[5]
          • Not required to live in religious community or take vows –> follow Benedict’s rule as best they can in everyday life
            • Honest labor, spiritual reading, prayer … sound familiar? “By integrating their prayer and work, they manifest Christ’s presence in society.” Sounds like the cycle of work and Sabbath rest to me.
            • Start this journey through the spiritual community at St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, MN
          • Spiritual direction
            • Help explore and deepen your relationship with God
            • Various places in Rochester (Holy Spirit Retreat Center, Hermitage Farm, etc.)
      • In community – retreats: idea that we’re exploring for this congregation(s) –> This is a chance for us all to get away and take that Sabbath time both as individuals and as a community. Sometimes, in order to really experience the Sabbath rest we need, we have to get away.
        • Leave behind distractions and obligations –> whole new setting allows us to focus on Sabbath rest in a whole new way
  • Basically, there’s no end to the ways that we can reconnect to God. Remember, we were made in God’s image, and God is a tenacious, creative God who pursues us to the very end. If we set time aside – time that is devoted solely to God and time that leaves us in some way renewed and refreshed – that is Sabbath time for us.
    • Could be …
      • Playing with children/grandchildren
      • Spending time in nature (walking, biking, running, etc.)
      • Sitting on the seat of a tractor in the early hours of the morning when the mist is still rising off the field
    • It’s kind of like the words to the familiar worship song (that the choir sang): “Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.”[6] When we are living into Sabbath rest, we can truly become that pure and holy vessel for God. Amen.


[1] Albert Scariato, “Sabbath Rest Good for Body and Soul,” Washington Post, March 5, 2009, http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/faithandhealing/2009/03/rest_a_pathway_to_physical_and.html.

[2] Mk 6:7, 12-13.

[3] Mk 6:31-32.

[4] Terence E. Fretheim. “The Book of Genesis: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary series, vol. 1. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1994), 347.

[6] John W. Thompson and Randy Scruggs. “Lord Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary.” © 1982.

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