Monday, July 22, 2019

Keeping the Sabbath: Rest!

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. --Genesis 2:1-3 (NRSV)
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. --John 15:9-15 (NRSV)

Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Last week, we began our three-part series on the Sabbath. We heard last week that once a week, we are to STOP. To let go of how the world defines us - by what we produce. To stop and to live into our humanity. To stop doing and practice just being. One day out of seven.

We can’t just stop, though, can we? Standing or sitting in one place for 24 hours? No. We are to stop. And, then, to rest.

What does rest look like to you?

Rest in scripture is more than simply lounging around all day. Napping. Reading a book. Doing nothing. Rest means much more than simply “having a rest.” Rest is really focused on what happens after one completes one’s work. Rest, in scripture, means completion.

So, it’s no wonder then, that, after God had crafted the world and the inhabitants of that world in six days - at the completion of that phase of God’s work - God rested. It’s as though God finished God’s work. (And, by the way, the Hebrew word used for God’s work is the same word used for ordinary work - the work that you and I do each week). God finishes this phase, stops, and takes a look back at what God has created. God stops to rest and to enjoy what God has made. Because this is integral to who God our creator is. God enjoys the beauty and the harmony of each creature and each feature that, in its very uniqueness, contributes to the whole.

It kind of reminds me of the symphony!

My son grew up on classical music. He grew on a wide variety of music, but, in particular, because I played a lot of classical music on the piano and the organ, he heard a lot of it. And learned to love it.

In elementary school, he took lessons to play guitar. Then, later on, piano. (How many of you learned an instrument in elementary school?) But, what he most loved was listening to the symphony. So, it wasn’t long before I purchased season tickets to the philharmonic for the two of us. First, let me tell you that seeing classical music performed by an orchestra is way better than listening to a recording of it. As its performed, you’re able to watch each instrument being played. To watch the percussionist move back and forth between the tympani and bass drum. To see the trombonists work the slides of their instruments. To see the violists bow their instruments or pluck the strings - each technique very different from the other. But, then, secondly, to hear an orchestra in person is also way better than listening to a recording. To hear, much more distinctively, as the bassoons play a phrase. Or to hear the trumpets enter as the music swells and grows bolder and louder. To see and hear the uniqueness of each instrument. Each very different in look and sound. Yet, each that contributes to the whole.

Yes, I think that on the seventh day, when God rested and viewed all that God had made, God saw and heard the uniqueness of each creature and each feature, and God saw the symphony of his work. And God experienced joy.

Because, this is who God our creator is. Just as a parent, who simply sits back to watch their child play, and learn, and grow. To watch one’s child simply be a child. God enjoys the beauty and harmony of each unique aspect of God’s creation. God creates to enjoy. God creates to relate and to connect to all of creation. And God, in setting apart this day at the end of our week of work - God, who created us in God’s very image - desires for us to find joy and relationship and connection in our rest.

There’s another aspect of the Sabbath, this shabbat, that we read in our Genesis text. In addition to God resting on this seventh day, God blessed the day. And sanctified it. God made it holy. In all of the creative work that God had done before this day, it is only this day of rest, this seventh day, this Sabbath, that God sanctified.

Throughout scripture, when God sanctifies something, God makes it God’s own. Just as God has sanctified us and made us God’s own, God sanctifies and makes this day God’s own. It is a day that belongs only to God. It is a sacred day. It is also the clearest hint for us of how we, created in the divine image, should end our week. How we should find our rest.

It’s how Christ found his. “As the Father has loved me,” Jesus tells his disciples, “so I have loved you; abide in my love.” It is in a rest that abides in God’s love where we find renewal. Where we understand that our life is not self-generated, that our life doesn’t come from us, but that our life is a gift. From God.

In the words just before our reading from John today, Jesus uses the vine and branches metaphor. (After having toured a winery on vacation, I particularly like this metaphor.) “I am the vine, you are the branches,” he tells the disciples. This metaphor and the life envisioned in it stands in striking contrast to the life that our world teaches. The world’s life is a life of individualism, of privatism, and of success that is based on individual accomplishment. A life well lived in the eyes of the world is based on the “survival of the fittest” ideal - where it’s all about me. And about what I do. About what is good for me. It’s a life where we are always in competition with each other. Seeking to be better and more productive than everyone so that we can be viewed in the world’s eyes as “successful.” The best. The biggest. The richest. The most powerful.

How easily we can be trapped into this view of life!

But, the life envisioned in this metaphor used by Jesus stands radically in opposition to that of the world’s vision. This life assumes social interrelationship and accountability. Where we are only as fruitful as we are abiding with others in Jesus’ love. Where we are responsible, not only for ourselves, but for each member of our community of faith. And for our neighbor. And our enemy. For every citizen and for every immigrant, whether documented or not. “This is my commandment,” Jesus says to his disciples and to us. “Love one another as I have loved you.”

This is why Sabbath rest is so important. Because our rest, our renewal, is found in God. As we abide in God each week, we remember who God is. As we hear God’s word and receive the sacrament, we remember who God is. And we remember who we are. A people created by God, invited to abide in Jesus. To cling to the faith of Christ in God. And to find a renewed life. A life that belongs to God and is a gift of God. Life that trusts in God absolutely. And a life that is absolute mutual care and connection to others.

This is what the gift of the Sabbath is to look like. That we Stop! And Rest! And find life and joy in God’s presence and love.

We are made for this love. We are made to live in this love. We are made to share this love. Amen.

Preached July 21, 2019, at Grace & Glory Lutheran Church, Goshen, KY.
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Readings: Genesis 2:1-3, John 15:9-15

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