Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
June 26, 2016
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer, Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about the sabbath.
Do you have a word or phrase that reminds you or brings you back to a happy place? That puts a smile on your face and in your heart? I have a few and they change over time. Right now one is “whatcha doin?” which comes from our inquisitive two year old niece who loves to ask, “whatcha doin Mommy?”, “whatcha doin Auntie?” Another is “sweet, sweet, chug, chug, chug” which is the sound I think a Warbler makes, maybe? That is bird song which I hear in my backyard. One of my close friends and I also say it back and forth to ground us. We first heard it when Rev. Rebecca Pugh used it in her sermon on a Easter Sunday. That bird call fills my soul and brings me back to God.
I call these type of words “God words” because they bringing us back to God, and that is what the Sabbath is all about.
We hear in the words from the prophets of the Hebrew Bible about the Decalogue which means “Ten Words” or better known as the 10 Commandments. The Ten Commandments must have carried a lot of weight for they are listed twice in the Old Testament, once in Exodus 20 and again in Deuteronomy 5.
Let me quickly break down the commandments for you, as done by my former Old Testament Professor Dr. Carol Fountain:
1. You shall have no other gods before me because our God is a jealous God. This commandment provides us with information that there were many other Gods which were worshiped during this time.
2. You shall not worship idols. This statement was given because worshiping graven images was connected to elite worship in city states and empires.
3. You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain. Back in the day calling upon your God was revered as magically. You asked your god to produce water for the crops, to save you from your enemies etc. There are stories in the Old Testament about battles between prophets and their Gods (1 Kings 18 between Elijah and Baal’s prophets). So you surely would not want to call upon your God when not necessary.
4. No work on the Sabbath, keep it as a day for rituals. We will discuss this more in a minute.
5. No cursing parents. This made a ton of sense because there was no welfare or social security system back then, so children had to be socialized to care for their elders.
6. You shall not murder. The word used in Hebrew we use as “murder” was not the same as the word for “kill”. There seems to be a deliberate differentiation between murdering which includes a malice aforethought, or executions without due process and killing.
7. You shall not commit adultery. This is all about property law, nothing really to do with ethical implications.
8. You shall not steal. This is the commandment that really means something different from how we take it today. The more accurate interpretation is “no slave trade.” It was a commandment to prevent people from making a living by stealing, especially by kidnapping people and selling them.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor, particularly in legal cases.
10. No envying or willful seizure of property, aka covet. Notice that women and slaves are in this list of property!
We could even dive further into the differences between the two accounts of the Ten Commandments comparing Exodus and Deuteronomy. But let’s just focus on one, the Sabbath. The motivation for the Sabbath commandment, in Exodus 20 is rest because the Lord rested on the seventh day of creation. But in Deuteronomy 5, you rest because you were a slave in Egypt and you know what it’s like not to have rest; so you ought to rest and ought to give others rest.
We further see adjustments being made to the Sabbath by Jesus who heals the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12) Jesus plucks up food from the farm on the Sabbath (Mark 2) and Jesus states that “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-37)
The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath. This statement is freeing. Jesus tells us that God gave us the Sabbath, God gave us time to rest.
Now some might say the Sabbath is gone, that no one observes the Sabbath anymore. I am still old enough to remember when stores were closed on Sunday, and when youth sports leagues were only held on Saturdays. It is easy to look back and say “those were the good old days.”
Might the people around Jesus have said the same thing? Imagine the Sabbath back in Jesus’ time, where it was unlawful to do any kind of work. Then here comes Jesus followers plucking up heads of grain. The Pharisees are upset and tell them, “hey you, what you are doing is unlawful.” The Pharisees stand watching the disciples shaking their heads saying to one another “remember the good old days where people observed the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28)
And what does Jesus say to them, he does not say to ignore the Sabbath but rather states that the “Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28).
The Sabbath is still present, just in new forms.
We are growing and changing people, in changing times. Maybe we are called not to just take one whole day at a time for the Sabbath but instead to find Sabbath moments.
Do we not nourish our bodies with food multiple times a day? If we do not eat then our bodies do not function, at the very least I become very hangery.
Running a race is a great metaphor for taking Sabbath. In a race there are water stations and in longer races gel stations. Gel stations supply the runners with little packets of gooey stuff, which is packed with electrolytes and energy. When running a long race you cannot push through the entire race without water, because your legs will become wobbly like jello, you become dehydrated your vision can go blurry, and you will definitely hit the wall (the point where you feel you can no longer drag your feet forward). Yet if a runner goes over to a water stop they lose some time and other runners pass you. So there is a dilemma, do I keep going and stay ahead of the pack or stop and replenish myself? The same question arises with taking Sabbath time.
The Sabbath is letting go…intentionally pausing, like stopping to take a drink of water while running a marathon. You have to replenish yourself to be stronger, yet at that moment when you do, others will continue running and pass you. But if you don’t you will become dehydrated and slowed down even more.
Think about the other runners in our lives and how we allow them to keep us from taking Sabbath. The other runners might be: work, chores, obligations, future planning, you name it.
Our body’s, our souls need Sabbath moments continually, to be replenish. To keep us connected to God, which will help our spirits and our divine selves grow.
What are we afraid of that we need to keep busy, why do we need to block out the noise of our minds and nature? Last weekend we were at Tracy’s sister’s house. As we sat outside on their deck, my brother-in-law had music playing. Now they live in a rather remote area with woods all around their house. I said to my brother-in-law, “you are truly a city boy, with the music playing, why don’t we turn it off and listen to nature?” He was not a fan, he kept the music playing instead of listening to the kids playing in the yard, the rustling of the leaves and the birds in the trees. With his music, he was blocking out one way God was in our surrounding. He was blocking out a possible Sabbath moment.
People take pride in never missing work, on never taking vacation…but how does that help you? How does that help your heart, your mind, your spiritual being? The answer is, it does not.
I believe we all have a piece of God within us. Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. We are no doubt fully human and we have a God spot within us. But the God spot has to be nurtured to grow, to bloom and become more like Christ. So how do we nurture this God spot?
By not being the energizer bunny…by slowing down in this race called life and by taking a water break.
Sabbath moments can be as simple as sitting outside on your deck and listening to the birds and wind in the trees, or going for a walk at Webb Park, turning off the television and reading a good book or sitting in silence.
God does not call us to do what is easy, it is easy to keep busy, it is hard to slow down.
Summer is a great time to practice taking Sabbath moments. The sun is up longer, the air is warm and the beach is calling your name. This summer, I invite you to slow down and to intentionally take Sabbath moments. Go rejuvenate yourself, to connect with your Creator and with one another, make it so someone becomes inquisitive and asks you “whatcha doin?”. Discover what is your God word which brings you back to a Sabbath moment, “sweat, sweat, chug, chug chug”…for God is in you and in me.