Sermon – April 3rd 2016
On Sabbath (Easter 2)
By Roland Legge
Today’s readings are all about the work of discernment. The early followers of Jesus had to learn to discern with the help of the Spirit to know how to best keep spreading the Good News of Jesus. In the story of Doubting Thomas, we learn how Thomas was challenged to discern what was the truth of this man claiming to be the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth? In order for all of us, both past and present, to discern this and other questions with the help of the Spirit we need to practice Sabbath in our daily lives.
Our world is in such need of Sabbath. If you ask someone how they are doing; their usual response is they are busy. We are busy! I think we are often too busy. We don’t seem to find the time to slow down so we can be open to the Spirit.
Over the centuries Sabbath has become an important way for people to restore their relationship with the holy and sacred. You see it in all great religions of the world. In today’s passage from John, Jesus greets us with the word “peace” and one way to find that peace is through Sabbath. Also, if we are to live out our faith, as we are called to do in today’s reading from Acts, we need Sabbath to enable us to do this work without burning out.
Sabbath has and continues to be lived out in many different ways. In the Jewish tradition Shabbat was a weekly day of rest observed from sundown on Friday until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night. As Christianity emerged out of Judaism Sunday became the day of Sabbath rest. Forms of Sabbath have been observed in all the great religions of the world which we don’t have time to deal with today. Sabbath is an inherent human need that people of all beliefs and backgrounds need. Sabbath is a way to help us to stay refreshed and vibrant.
Over the centuries, until recently, Sabbath has been expected. In fact, there were many social conventions, tradition and ritual that ensured that people would actually do it. Even in my parents’ life they grew up with very clear expectations about one could on the Sabbath. When I was growing up Sunday was a day to slow down and be with family. But we live in a very different time now.
I like the new understanding of Sabbath which is to see it as a way of life. So Sabbath is no longer, necessarily, a particular time but a way of living. Hence, Sabbath now becomes a verb instead of a noun.
To Sabbath today goes against the expectations of the capitalistic world we live in. Our world says all our time needs to go into the production and consumption of goods. Our worth is based upon how much we can produce and consume in our lives. For many of us it is hard to do something that has no monetary or material value.
Whether to Sabbath or not comes down to a big question. It is the same question that Jesus disciples were facing over and over again. Do we trust that the Creator will provide us with all then necessities of life? Do we trust that the Creator will ensure what we value will continue even in our absence? Can we accept that the world will still move on even if we take time to Sabbath?
We can no longer rely on the way our society organizes our lives to provide time for Sabbath. We need to make that time ourselves. In order to help us to create time and space for Sabbath I want to suggest a more contemporary way of understanding Sabbath.
We can to choose one day a week to be our Sabbath day or we can choose to make certain parts of our day as Sabbath time. There are so many ways to Sabbath. They can be quiet and meditative. They can be full of celebration. They can be playful and/or they can be full of fulfilling hard work. So what determines whether we are in Sabbath? It is our intent, which makes an experience, Sabbath time or not.
Here are some suggestions to help all of us to begin or continue to name what Sabbath time is for us. First Sabbath is break from routine, a change of pace. One thing I loved to do in the summer when Jen and I were in Saskatchewan was to go for hikes up at Prince Albert National Park. I have always felt very connected to Spirit when I walk in the woods and especially along lakes, rivers, streams and ocean. What do you like to do to break your weekly routine?
Sabbath is to be a break from expectations and productivity. Sometimes I love to sleep in and not worry about what time I get up. It is so refreshing to start a day with no expectations other than to do what I feel like at the time. It is a treat to have time to read a book simply for the pleasure of reading. It is wonderful just simply to hang out with a family or friend over a coffee or a meal simply to enjoy each other’s company. What do you love to do on a day off? Do you allow yourselves a day just to be?
Sabbath is a break from competition. We live in a society where we put so much pressure on each other. To Sabbath is to lay aside the need to win and to be content to participate in life. It is too intentionally to choose activities that do not require competition. Now when I am home in Yortkon I do not have the role of “minister” which lightens my load. What roles do you need to shed to have Sabbath?
Sabbath is a break from consumerism. I need time every week to get away from all the pressures of trying to meet all the financial needs in my family. I need to take time to simply enjoy what I have. I have so much and yet don’t often take time to enjoy all the blessings of friendship, companionship, books, movies, good food that I have been so blessed with. It is time to say THANK YOU for what I have and to free myself from thinking I need to get all the new electronic gadgets with their false promises of joy and happiness. How thankful are you for what you have? Do you take time to enjoy what you have? Do you really need anything more?
Sabbath is break from being in control. I have control issues like many people. So to Sabbath is for me to let go of all I am trying to control so I can put my full attention on my sacred relationships with people and with all of Creation. I can do this more easily when I take time to care for my body. It might mean going for a long walk in the middle of the day. It might mean going out for a candle lit dinner with your spouse or friend. Allow God to restore your soul on the Sabbath as you find physical renewal.
Sabbath for me is about choosing to focus our lives around God. It about making it the highlight of our week when we feel most secure filled with love and filled with hope. You could look at it being like filling our tanks of love to keep moving through all the ups and downs of life.
Sabbath is only going to be part of our lives if we make sure it happens. So I invite you to reflect on how you are going to Sabbath through life. What are going to do or not do to allow your-self to bathe in the light of the Loving One?