Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sabbath Rest and Getting Over Ourselves

I'm doing some research for my second sermon in the "Family Ties" Sermon series for the church. I felt good about last week's sermon on food and faith, but unfortunately forgot to record the thing on my ipod, so you have no sermon to listen to over at the church site. Speaking of food and faith, our church farmer's market is going pretty well this year. I've had calls form people wondering when the cantaloupe's are going to be ready, and I've posted some pictures on the church website as well.

I'm preaching the second sermon in the series on "Work, Rest, and Purpose," and it's about how the cycle of work and rest should be observed by people of faith and how this cycle can instill healthy work habits in children. I've never been a workaholic, and I don't think workaholism was modeled for me as I was growing up either. I appreciate a Sabbath and would probably not find myself getting too angsty if I had to quit working and just stay at home all the time. I'd probably make a good "house-husband" if I were ever needed to be one.

Some of the resources I've found on Sabbath and work have been great. I listened to an Adam Hamilton sermon from July on faithfulness in the workplace. He pointed out that we'll spend around 96,000 hours in the workplace in our lifetime, compared with around 2600 hours in worship (even for the regular workers), so the way we are faithful people at work matters a lot more at least in terms of "exposure."

I've also enjoyed the Baylor U. Christian Reflection on Sabbath. Lot's of good stuff there. One thing I just read in the inspirational piece by Milton Brasher-Cunningham is that Sabbath reminds us that we are not indispensable. The world will carry on without us. The scriptures frequently remind the people of Israel that God will see to it that they are provided for on the Sabbath. Milton Brasher-Cunningham contrasts the sense of indispensability instilled in us by our consumer culture that "bombard[s us] with the distorted “truth” that enough is not adequate, overachieving is average, acquisitive is better than imaginative, networking
is building actual relationships, and padding our resumes makes us more
important." He says, "Hearing and heeding the Still, Small Voice is no easy task."

In another piece in that Christian Reflection study,Richard Lowry says that the "Biblical sabbath offers a way to think and act theologically as we confront
the spiritual, ecological, and economic challenges before us. By celebrating
a hoped-for world of abundance, self-restraint, and mutual care,
sabbath traditions critiqued ancient royal-imperial systems that created
scarcity, overwork, and gross economic inequality. These traditions can
serve a similar critical function today, offering words of proportion, limits,
social solidarity, and the need for rest, quiet reflection, and recreation in
the face of never-ending work and consumption. In our world, sabbath
consciousness may be the key to human survival, prosperity, and sanity."

Today our family life committee decided to postpone indefinitely a retreat that we at first had to move from a popular riverside camping resort about an hour away to right here in town on account of a fundraiser for a principal of one of the schools who is battling cancer. The committee didn't know about the date of the dinner that a lot of our churchmembers would be involved in when they first started planning the retreat (which they were planning to center around the "ReThink church campaign." After the committee decided to still hold the retreat but relocate it to town so that the folks involved in the benefit could still be around to help prepare, etc, I was reminded of the Luke passage where Jesus heals on the Sabbath and is confronted by the Pharisees. What better way to spend time focusing our time and energy on rest and relaxation than to be present to a person's healing? Today I heard from one of the leaders of the committee that our list of participants was dwindling because of various other things that have sprung up, and the committee was okay with indefinitely postponing the retreat. Here again I was reminded of the scriptural witness of Sabbath reminding us to remember that "there is a God and we are not It." The world doesn't rely on us or our programs. Things will go on. I was proud of the committee for putting so much work and effort into the task of creating an uplifting and challenging program for the retreat, but if we had actualized it, the work would have been tangled up with the results. Now that the work has been done and the retreat postponed, the committee can either think of the work as a "waste of time" or as a "gift to God." I think that Sabbath rest helps us reorient our work toward God. At the end of a life without Sabbath rest, I think there are often folks on their death bed saying to themselves "What did I do with my life?" "I wasted so much time!" Sabbath grounds us in the notion that our work is dispensable. We can lay aside time to be at rest and we will survive. Not only will we survive, we will flourish!

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