I have probably preached this sermon before. But since most of what I write and preach, and most of the passages from the Bible I find myself thinking about as I move through each week are first and foremost my efforts to piece life and world and faith together, I figure, because I am thinking about this again, there must be something here that I still need to learn. So, if you have heard all this before your patience and forbearance, please.
So, from the Bible, here is ancient wisdom meant for today. Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it. (Exodus 20: 8-11)
Before I get to what I have found myself thinking about this week in relation to this text, a bit about this passage that comes to us from the Hebrew Scripture.
A day of rest where no one, even lowest person on the social totem pole – slave or alien in your midst – was allowed to work was a revolutionary idea and a religious imperative at its best. You see, before this commandment became codified in the 10 Commandments and considered as sacred, those who were poor, which was most of the people, could be forced to work from sun up to sun down seven days a week. Quite literally be forced to work themselves to death.
And then came this:
Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but on the seventh day you shall not do any work.
The Child labor laws or 40 hour/week work laws of 3000 years ago.
But, the thing is, most of us don’t do well with commandments.
Particularly religious commandments which have, too often, been misused by religious elite.
You shall do this.
You shall not do that.
And in response we find ourselves saying, “Really. What right do you have to tell me what I can and cannot do?” And, at least with this commandment – Remember the Sabbath – we think it is easy to get away with not paying much attention to it because the only enforcer is that unseen, somewhat nebulas presence of God.
But, there is wisdom here for us.
Most of us, I think, need to rebuild some Sabbath time into our lives. And into the lives of our children. And into the schedule and rhythm of our families lives together. But that is a whole other conversation. Maybe for another day.
What I want to think with you about this morning is Sabbath and summer. First of all, I would remiss if I did not remind you that, despite trends and tradition to the contrary, a group of us do gather here each Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. during the summer. And you are always welcome to join us. The services are usually a bit more informal and more relaxed. A bit less hectic and a little quieter. And, a bit warmer…so feel free to wear your summer clothes. Coats and ties are not required. Neither are fancy dresses. Come pretty much as you are and then stay for a moment afterwards for ice tea or lemonade.
But, with that said, I have been here long enough that I know what happens during the summer.
Time at the ocean.
Time by the pool.
A walk in the woods.
And, what I want to say to you is all of that is GOOD.
But, here is how I think you can make it better.
In those moments that you have this summer…
Pay attention to the change of pace these days afford.
Pay attention to the space created in your life by a vacation or the ocean or working in the garden.
Pay attention to what it does in you and to you.
Pay attention to the effect it has on your children and the dynamic it adds to your family.
Pay attention and allow that time to be Sabbath time.
Name that time as Sabbath time.
Moments and days intentionally and thoughtfully set aside.
Time purposefully carved out from the busyness and hecticness of life as it often is for us.
Make the time holy…because it is. Or, at least, it can be.
The intent of the original commandment may have been to protect the physical well-being of the people.
To mandate time when you could not work.
To mandate time to rest.
And, we all still need time like that.
But, the other reality is it is often in that restful time and space…
That time when the pace of life slows down and the normal busyness of life is set aside that space is created for God to come close or for us to come close to God and when that happens we see life a bit more clearly. Or, we discover direction or dreams that for too long have been overlooked or overshadowed or sometimes not even fully known. And, we hear something of that which we know and name as God speak in the deepest and most genuine parts of who we are. I am not always sure which way it goes…
God coming close to us or our coming close to God,
But I do know that it is in those Sabbath moments that it happens.
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
It is almost summer.
Allow the time you carve out to be Sabbath time.
Name the time that you carve out as Sabbath time.
And, then see what happens.