Sabbath
 — Rev. Phil Hobson

July 19, 2015


Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.

From our earliest days in the faith, and even before we knew of our faith, we have been told that there are right things to do and wrong things to do.

  • Do your homework and your chores.
  • Do not punch your sister.
  • Finish your vegetables.
  • Do not lower your plate for the dog to lick it clean.

As we grow up, the list gets much more complicated. We start to need friends and mentors, teachers and prayers, education and discernment, to figure out what is the right thing and what is the wrong thing to do.

In our faith, we learn that some things are called sins. Definitely on the “do not do” list. Do not lie about your neighbor. Do not covet or steal. But then some things were sins a long time ago, and are not sins now. Thanks to Peter’s dream in the book of Acts, those barbecue baby back ribs are no longer off the menu. And while some churches frown on tattoos from a social standpoint, few exclude people because of them, even if they are mentioned in Leviticus as a “thou shalt not.” The official stance of our church is not only are tattoos welcome, we even accept those that are misspelled.

But it gets more complicated. Some things like killing or committing adultery, we all know those are bad and we do not do them. But then Jesus goes and says that calling someone a fool is like unto killing them, and looking at someone with lust in our heart is like unto committing adultery. And what is coveting, but thinking something is almost good enough to steal it.

According to this, if calling someone a fool is like unto murder, then I am guilty just about every time I get on the Interstate. And some of you are old enough to remember President Jimmy Carter in his interview with Playboy magazine saying that he too had lusted in his heart.

If the “thou shalts” and the “thou shalt nots” are hard for us to parse and discern, Jesus throws another one at us this morning. It is not a new one. It is a very old one. The apostles have been out doing Jesus work. They have been preaching and teaching the Good News, they have been casting out demons, and anointing the sick who are then cured. And they are bristling with news of all that they have done. And Jesus says,

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”
For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

This new, old thing is Sabbath. And of all the “thou shalts” and the “thou shat nots” it may be one of the most difficult in our day. It is not about doing what is right and not doing what is wrong. It is about not doing. And we are consumed by a culture of “thou shalt always be doing something.”

A dear aunt of mine, who has worshiped with us a time or two here in Charlotte, after her husband passed away occasionally found herself staring out the window for 45 minutes at a time and wondered what was wrong with her. Her spiritual director kindly explained that she was experiencing grief and that nothing was wrong with it. The problem was that she flunked sloth.

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”

  • How many excuses do we have to not do this?
  • There is more laundry to do.
  • There are more meetings to go to.
  • There are dishes left to be done.
  • I haven’t finished X or Y, and have not even thought about Z.
  • The kids have three more practices, two more games, and a banquet.
  • Work needs this report in the morning.
  • Fill in your calendar and task list here.

Here’s a little secret. There will always be more laundry to do. There will always be more meetings, more stuff that the kids need, more work, more things vying for our time, our energy, our attention.

But!

When the Sabbath made the top ten list, it was not there because they were having an easy time. It was in the middle of the wilderness, when they had to gather their manna for food each day. It was not a weekend at the lake commandment; it was a people on the move through hostile territory commandment.

Sabbath is about getting the rest we need, allowing our body and our mind and our spirit to reset and to recharge and to refocus. But Sabbath is not simply about us. Sabbath is trusting in God that we will have all that we need to live, and be able to do all that we need to do, even when we take a day to stop doing.

Poor Howie. Howie was a member of the church in Westchester. He and his wife had five kids, one of whom had a severe hearing impairment. Howie was a pipefitter, and worked two to four other jobs to try and get his family all that they needed. But Howie had a perpetually bruised rib. See, Sunday morning was just about the only time Howie actually got to sit down and rest. And the sanctuary there was moderately comfortable. And inevitably, partway through worship, Howie would nod off. And his wife, Mary, would lift her arm and plant an elbow right in Howie’s floating ribs. And he would wake up and hold his side and try to figure out where we were in the bulletin.

I offer you Howie’s story not to fault him. I offer it because how many of our lives look similar?

Yes, the kids will always need something. But one of the things psychologists are telling us is that kids need boredom.

Yes, work will always need something. But if we are always wiped out, how good is what we are offering?

Yes, family will always need something. But if we are not caring for our body and mind and spirit, how present are we really being with our family?

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.

Thanks be to God. Amen.