What is the Sabbath? There are a lot of misconceptions about the meaning but let’s begin with the word itself – what does “Sabbath” mean? It means “to cease” or “to rest.” When was the first mention of the Sabbath in the Bible and why?
In the book of Genesis, God rested on the seventh day after making the whole creation – and we call it the “creation” to honor God’s work.
2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.2 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. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
But listen to the version from another translation:
2 So now you see how the Creator swept into being the spangled heavens, the earth, and all their hosts in six days. 2 On the seventh day—with the canvas of the cosmos completed—God paused from His labor and rested. 3 Thus God blessed day seven and made it special—an open time for pause and restoration, a sacred zone of Sabbath-keeping, because God rested from all the work He had done in creation that day.
Remember that the narrative of the primeval history in Genesis is attributed to Moses and is the opening story of the Torah – or the Pentateuch – the five books of Moses. Thus we meet the Sabbath again in the book of Exodus where it becomes not only one of the 10 commandments, but also a lynch-pin in the distinctive cultural nature of the people, once slaves, who became the Hebrews – eventually the Israelites. These were the only people in that part of the world – indeed in most of what we know sociologically about ancient civilizations who took a “day off” from work.
The book of Leviticus dramatically unfolds this practice of Sabbath-keeping from sundown on the day we call Friday to sundown on the day we call Saturday. The Sabbath would be a day of rest for everyone --- all people including slaves--and animals, and it extended to the seasons and years. Every seventh year was a Sabbath for the land.
In Leviticus Chapter 25, it was decreed that every 7th week of seven years= 49 years, would culminate in a Jubilee year when debts were forgiven, land that had been sold for debts was redeemed, there was no pruning or sowing, just eating what the land produced naturally; and most notably, persons who had been sold for debts could be redeemed and returned to freedom. Thus the “year of Jubilee” had great meaning for those whose lives and livelihood had been stolen and sold. The slaves of the 19th century saw emancipation as a year of Jubilee in a fully spiritual context. The action of President Lincoln was a holy action not just a political one.
Sabbath keeping was put into poetry by the prophets, like Isaiah, which we heard this morning:
Listen again from another translation:
If because of the Sabbath you set aside your own pursuits and pleasure,
and you honor the Sabbath and sanctify that day by leaving it to and for the Eternal--
If you speak of Sabbath-delight but avoid speaking idle words,
and refuse to get caught up and busy with your interests and concerns--
14 Then you will discover joy such as only the Eternal can give.
And I will raise you high and make your reach as wide as the earth,
And you will live on all that I promised to Jacob,
your ancestor, the heart of Israel.
The Eternal One said these very things.
Keeping the Sabbath was one of the ways the Hebrews distinguished themselves from other nations; and it was “enforced” by the religious authorities in a variety of ways. The Sabbath laws had to be interpreted to cover a whole host of actions and practices as time continued. Even today, in Jewish hospitals, there are special elevators that only go one floor at a time – pausing to rest between floors – used only on the Sabbath to keep the law against traveling a certain distance without resting.
Sabbath keeping in its true form has a kind of majesty. There is great emphasis on gathering as a family,
prayers, keeping close to home, gentle actions, long meals, fellowship, a time to reflect, NOT catch up!
It is said that the crock pot was invented by a Jewish woman so that meals could be cooked ahead and then kept warm for consumption on the Sabbath – even women got to rest!!! The practice of Sabbath is still part of the natural rhythm of Israel/Palestine; even as it was in the first Century, in the days when Jesus walked the face of the earth.
Let’s not be too hasty on criticizing the leader of the synagogue in today’s Gospel!
The account is full of detail…things Luke, who was a physician, would be inclined to report from someone who was there – probably Peter. Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath. And a woman, bent over, crippled perhaps with arthritis? appears. Jesus calls her forward and sets her “free.” Notice – she did not ask to be cured, but she knew who to thank as she praised God. The leader of the synagogue was indignant—loosing of ties meant “work” which was forbidden on the Sabbath. Jesus takes the discussion to a deep level: It is God’s “work.”
The loosing of animals was permitted on the Sabbath so they could eat and drink. And was not a person just as important as the livestock?
But the bigger question is underneath: What makes time holy? We know about places that are holy, people that are holy – saints; even actions that we call holy – like Baptism and Eucharist and the sacraments.
But what makes TIME holy? Sabbath is considered holy – God’s time. When Jesus healed the woman, he was observing holy time – fFor back pain is unrelenting – no time to rest for 18 years! And she was healed on the day of resting – the Sabbath is the day of peace.
But to bring this into today – how did we get Sunday? Why don’t we join our Jewish brothers and sisters and those from the Seventh Day Adventist Church in keeping Saturday as our Sabbath? It has to do with Easter – Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week! The beginning of the new creation in Jesus. The Holy Spirit also came on the first day of the week; and as recorded in the book of Acts, the Christ followers began celebrating the Eucharist on the first day of the week – which in the Julian calendar became known as “Sunday.” (BTW the word Sunday comes from ancient Greek tradition of assigning each day to one of the celestial orbs – thus “Sun – Day.” There is no Christian meaning to this – but in Russian, the word for Sunday means resurrection.) In the early times of American’s settlement, our Puritan forbears brought and broadened the concept of Sabbath keeping into our civic customs – which is why we have a weekend – and why we had “blue laws” designed to prevent commercial enterprise on Sundays. Even now, some businesses still are closed by local ordinance on all or part of Sundays.
But we cannot return to those times. Thus, for us, the ancient concept of Sabbath-keeping that Jesus demonstrated may be even more helpful. Think about TIME: How in today’s world it is governed by clocks, hours, minutes, and seconds – even hundredths of a second like the place between first and second in a race at the Olympics. But time “gets away from us.” Time management tools are popular to help control time. But Time also crawls when we a bored, upset or afraid. Time can race when we are having fun or engrossed in a pastime we enjoy. But time stagnates for patients in the hospital, for elders in Nursing Homes, for those who are lonely, unemployed, in prison.
Holy time—Sabbath- is not just about where we are --- like being in church; but it is about WHO we are –
It is time when we are attentive, we really listen, when we stop and invite God’s loving presence into our hearts and souls and lives and actions. I keep MY Sabbath on Monday – and during the week when I pray and meditate. Today may be YOUR Sabbath – are you resting in God’s love? Are you attentive to those around you? Are you opening up to what God may be doing in your life? Sabbath may come later in life when our bodies slow down and rest becomes essential.
Sabbath keeping is about healing – body, mind, soul. Luke the Gospel writer knew this. Jesus taught this and showed us the true nature of Sabbath; and today we keep Sabbath by celebrating the resurrection, when Jesus rose from the dead and the great power of God’s love was unleashed.
So….now that you know…. How are you going to keep Sabbath?
The Gospel for Sunday, July 24 is Jesus' teaching his disciples to pray I found this wonderful dialogue sermon many years ago, and although I didn't use it for my sermon, it is well worth re-reading! -- Please enjoy the humor and the depth. --- AOW+
A conversation with the Lord - By Andy Lund
Petitioner: "Our Father which art in heaven........"
Petitioner: Don't interrupt me. I'm praying.
God: But you called me.
Petitioner: Called you? I didn't call you. I'm praying. "Our Father which art in heaven.......
God: There, you did it again.
Petitioner: Did what?
God: Called me. You said, "Our Father which are in heaven." Here I am....what's on your mind?
Petitioner: But I didn't mean anything by it. I was, you know, just saying my prayers for the day. I always say the Lord's Prayer. It makes me feel good, kind of like getting a duty done.
God: All right. Go on.
Petitioner: "Hallowed be thy name......"
God: Hold it. What do you mean by that?
Petitioner: By what?
God: By "hallowed be thy name?"
Petitioner: It means...it means...Good grief, I don't know what it means. How should I know? It's just a part of the prayer. By the way, what does it mean?
God: It means honoured, holy, wonderful.
Petitioner: Hey, that makes sense. I never thought about what "hallowed" meant before... "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
God: Do you really mean that?
Petitioner: Sure, why not?
God: What are you doing about it?
Petitioner: Doing? Nothing, I guess. I just think it would be kind of neat if you got control of everything down here like you have up there.
God: Have I got control of you?
Petitioner: Well, I go to church.
God: That isn't what I asked you. What about your bad temper? You've really got a problem there, you know. And then there's the way you spend your money, all on yourself. And what about the kind of books you read?
Petitioner: Stop picking on me! I'm just as good as some of the rest of those people at church.
God: Excuse me. I thought you were praying for my will to be done. If that is to happen, it will have to start with the ones who are praying for it. Like you, for example.
Petitioner: Oh, all right. I guess I do have some hang-ups. Now that you mention it, I probably could name some others.
God: So could I.
Petitioner: I haven't thought about it very much until now, but I really would like to cut out some of those things. I would like to, you know, be really free.
God: Good. Now we're getting somewhere. We'll work together, you and I. Some victories can be truly won. I'm proud of you.
Petitioner: Look, Lord, I need to finish up here. This is taking a lot longer than it usually does..."Give us this day our daily bread."
God: You need to cut out the bread. You're overweight as it is.
Petitioner: Hey, wait a minute! What is this, "Criticise me day?" Here I was doing my religious duty, and all of a sudden you break in and remind me of all my hang-ups.
God: Praying is a dangerous thing. You could wind up changed by it, you know. That's what I'm trying to get across to you. You called me, and here I am. It's too late to stop now. Keep praying, I'm interested in the next part of your prayer.....(pause). Well, go on.
Petitioner: I'm scared to.
God: Scared? Of what?
Petitioner: I know what you'll say.
God: Try me and see.
Petitioner: "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."
God: What about Alice?
Petitioner: See? I knew it! I knew you would bring her up! Why, Lord, she's told lies about me, spread stories about my family. She never paid back the debt she owes me. I've sworn to get even with her.
God: What about your prayer?
Petitioner: I didn't mean it.
God: Well at least you are honest. But it's not much fun carrying that load of bitterness around inside, is it?
Petitioner: No. But, I'll feel better as soon as I get even. Boy, have I got some plans for that neighbour. She'll wish she had never moved into this neighbourhood.
God: You won't feel any better. You'll feel worse. Revenge isn't sweet. Think of how unhappy you already are. But I can change all that.
Petitioner: You can? How?
God: Forgive Alice . Then I'll forgive you. Then the hate and sin will be Alice's problem and not yours. You will have settled your heart.
Petitioner: Oh, you're right. You always are. And more than I want to revenge Alice, I want to be right with You....(pause)...(sigh)...All right. I forgive her. Help her to find the right road in life, Lord. She's bound to be awfully miserable, now that I think about it. Anybody who goes around doing the things she does to others has to be out of it. Some way, somehow, show her the right way. There now!
God: Wonderful! How do you feel?
Petitioner: Hmmmmm. Well, not bad. Not bad at all. In fact, I feel pretty great! You know, I don't think I'll have to go to bed tonight uptight for the first time since I can remember. Maybe I won't be so tired from now on because I'm not getting enough rest.
God: You're not through with your prayer. Go on.
Petitioner: Oh, all right. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
God: Good! Good! I'll do that. Just don't put yourself in a place where you will be tempted, that's your part.
Petitioner: What do you mean by that?
God: Don't turn on the TV when you know the laundry needs to be done and the house needs to be picked up. Also, about the time you spend coffeeing with your friends, if you can't influence the conversation to positive things, perhaps you should re-think the value of those friendships. Another thing, your neighbours and friends shouldn't be your standard for "keeping up". And please don't use me for an escape hatch.
Petitioner: I don't understand the last part.
God: Sure you do. You've done it a lot of times. You get caught in a bad situation. You get into trouble and then you come running to me. "Lord, help me out of this mess and I promise you I'll never do it again." You remember some of those bargains you tried to make with me?
Petitioner: Yes, and I am ashamed, Lord. Really I am.
God: Which bargains are you remembering?
Petitioner: Well, there was the night that Cliff was gone and the children and I were home alone. The wind was blowing so hard I thought the roof would go any minute and the tornado warnings were out. I remember praying, "Oh, God, if you would spare us, I'll never skip my devotions again."
God: The tornado was ten seconds away from landing on your roof when you called me. I protected you, but you didn't keep your promise, did you?
Petitioner: I'm sorry Lord, really I am. Up until now I thought that if I just prayed the Lord's Prayer every day, then I could do what I liked. I didn't expect anything to happen like it did.
God: Go ahead and finish your prayer.
Petitioner: "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever"....Amen.
God: Do you know what would bring me glory? You know what would really make me happy?
Petitioner: No, but I'd like to know. I want to know how to please you. I can see what a mess I've made of my life. And I can see how great it would be to really be one of your followers.
God: You just answered the question.
Petitioner: I did?
God: Yes. The thing that would bring me glory is to have people like you truly love me. And I see that happening between us. Now that some of these old sins are exposed and out of the way, there is no limit to what we can do together.
Petitioner: Lord, let's see what we can make of me, OK?
God: Yes, let's see.
© Andy Lund 1999 All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.
In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed.
He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A place once considered safe
Where those who had felt rejected
By society, by family and friends, by faith communities
And drop their pretense
And crack jokes
And just be
Became a killing field
For one whose sight was so blinded
By the certainty that doing away
With the lives of others
Was the only way;
Who came armed and dangerous
And shooting bullets of pride
and self-inflicted righteous bigotry
Ended the lives of others
That he did not even know.
Blood flowed on the dance floor
Injured prayed they would survive
Others were trapped and hunted down
And when the smoke cleared
And the strong arm of the law had done its job
It was time to assess the carnage
And tell a grieving America
That once again
Families were faced with the heartbreak
And the shock of senseless loss and grief.
Guns don’t kill people by themselves
But hatred kills more than the body
And LBGTQ was splashed in blood
Across the target
Of a gun.
I cringe at the scene my imagination creates
And if I cringe, how much more awful
Is the reality
Faced by first responders
By the traumatized
By the doctors and nurses
By the clergy and chaplains
By the families
By the spouses
By the partners
And in a magic kingdom where children play
There are snakes slashing at the innocent;
And a place once considered safe
Is now a shrine
Cast by tears
Built by memories of a terrible night
When evil cut the lives of our brothers and sisters.
“He saved others, he cannot save himself”
Was the taunt of those who wanted to
Shut down the astounding message
That God had arrived in person
To forgive the sins of all.
And indeed, Jesus did not save himself from the agony
And shame of betrayal and death on a cross.
His blood flowed freely
And His mother grieved the death of her only Son
So that in our own day
And in all the days of tragedy yet to come
Those who had been rejected
Those whose lives had been discounted
Those who felt unwelcome, unwanted, unworthy
Might claim solidarity and solace
In a heart broken by the sin of the whole world
In a heart mended by the love for the whole world.
A reflection on the tragedy in Orlando, FL, June 12, 2016 where many were killed in an attack on a nightclub frequented by members of the LBGTQ community.
How you do describe God?
A sermon for Trinity Sunday by the Rev. Anne O. Weatherholt
How do you describe a plant?
If you are a biologist, you might describe a plant by its cellular structure, how through osmosis it uses sunlight and water to grow; and how at some point, it reproduces and then dies.
If you are a gardener, you might describe a plant by where it grows, how tall, what kind of soil it prefers, what the bloom looks like and how best It can be nurtured.
If you are a florist, you might describe a plant by its color, size and composition, how, when combined with other plants and flowers, a total composition emerges.
But none of these completely describes a plant.
How do you describe a rock?
If you are a geologist, you might describe a rock by how it was formed, where it was found, and how it relates to other formations.
If you are a landscaper, you might describe a rock by how it interacts with what is around it how it might be used as a path, a border or an accent.
If you are a farmer, especially in this area of Maryland, you might describe a rock as an impediment, something that breaks machinery, something to be rooted out, moved and perhaps incorporated into a fence line.
But none of these completely describes a rock.
How do you describe a symphony?
If you are a musician in the orchestra, you might describe a symphony by its length, its pace and organization and how your particular instrument plays a particular role in the entire composition.
If you are the conductor, you might describe a symphony by the genius of the composer, by the special sound—loud and soft—that you want to use to interpret the work at a various point, or by the over-all picture express by the work.
If you are a concert goer, you might describe a symphony as too long, too short, overwhelming, melodic, or you might compare it to other performances by the same orchestra, or you might tell others that you left refreshed and uplifted.
But none of these completely describes the symphony.
How do you describe a relationship?
If you are in love, you might tell others that you are over the moon, deeply touched, feel the absence of the other when you are not together, or look forward to many more years in the others company and embrace.
If you are in a troubled relationship, you might tell others that you are depressed, worried, feel harassed, not sure what to do, or that you are trying to press forward and tough things out.
If you are in a new relationship, you might tell others that you are unsure, or long to know the other better, or hope that the relationship endures.
But none of these completely describe the relationship.
How do you describe GOD?
How DO you describe God?
How do YOU describe God?
The first Christians described God as love.
The first Christians described Jesus as God.
The first Christians described God as Spirit and Truth
Just as the case of a plant, a rock a symphony or a relationship; describing God is a human endeavor, not made up of simplistic assertions, or random opinions;
Describing God depends on where you are standing- a kind of perspective; and personal experience.
Describing God can change your life in wonderful and profound ways;
Or can come a frustrating, mind bending exercise in futility.
In Barnes and Noble last Friday, I saw titles of new books that blamed religion and the belief in God for all the ills of mankind;
And I saw titles that explored the mystery of what happens after death.
But last Thursday, 16 church members gathered for dinner and a chance to share their faith by sharing stories; followed by minutes of profound silence as they listened, appreciated and digested what they had heard – and how intently they had listened.
And God was there, as I prayed for them all as I loaded the dishwasher and cleaned up the kitchen.
Jesus’ love for the Church was what brought us together;
And the Spirit moved in the moments held holy between friends.
How do you describe God?
In the Trinity we describe God as three in one, and one in three – strange math!
In the Trinity we describe God as relationship and family – more than “one is the loneliest number” but less than “lost in a crowd.”
In the Trinity we describe God as mystery and magnificence;
As complex and profoundly simple.
As known and unknowable.
As before creation and reaching into a yet to be created future.
Trinity Sunday is the time the Church leaves the Easter Season of new life and new possibilities;
And embarks on the long journey of the Sundays after Pentecost;
Ready to take up the stories about Jesus;
The accounts of the people of God from the time of Abraham and Ruth, Noah and Eve;
Ready to walk and rest and walk again and explore and learn and rest and meet a new horizon and see a sunset; and rest and walk and talk with those we meet on the road until we finish on Christ the King Sunday and turn the page toward Advent and new Liturgical Year.
This past week, I heard a poem on the radio that blew me away.
Maybe it is a kind of description of God….
In any case, I exclaimed out loud in the car;
And rushed to my computer to find a copy once I got to the office.
So today I offer it as food for the community of believers; each of us learning each day to describe God in a new way:
by Ronald Wallace
Some days I find myself
putting my foot in
the same stream twice;
leading a horse to water
and making him drink.
I have a clue.
I can see the forest
for the trees.
All around me people
are making silk purses
out of sows’ ears,
getting blood from turnips,
building Rome in a day.
There’s a business
like show business.
There’s something new
under the sun.
Some days misery
no longer loves company;
it puts itself out of its.
There’s rest for the weary.
There’s turning back.
There are guarantees.
I can be serious.
I can mean that.
You can quite
put your finger on it.
Some days I know
I am long for this world.
I can go home again.
And when I go
take it with me.
May you always be surprised by love; surrounded by the mystery of life and may you always search for the truth;
Knowing that to know love is to know God;
To find Jesus Christ is to find your true self;
And to ride on the wings of the Spirit is the greatest joy of the Christian life.
There is a burning that takes place in every Christian life. Each of us, the people of baptism, was burned with the brand of the Holy Spirit and "marked as Christ's own forever." Each of us, people of bread and wine, takes into our bodies elements that have been baked and brewed with heat and fire. Each of us, faithful seekers of the truth of Christ's Gospel, has know the moments of burning when, like Isaiah, we know we are "people of unclean lips," and yet the live coal of the Holy Scripture is placed on our lips as we proclaim Jesus Christ. In each of these encounters with the holiness of God, we are burned, and there is ash left.
Do you know how ashes for Ash Wednesday are made? Every few years, when Barbara Forsythe was our Altar Guild directness, she would set about making ashes. Bringing a bucket, lighter fluid, long-stemmed matches and more than a bit of courage, we would set out for the gravel parking lot to burn the last year's dried palms. This year, on Shrove Tuesday, we burned palms together as a community, offering slips of paper with prayer intentions mixed in with the long palm fronds and the crosses. It made quite a quick blaze. But once the ashes are gathered, they must be ground by hand in an old fashioned mortar and pestle, then spooned through a sieve again and again until they are reduced to black dust.
Dust and ashes are usually negative things in our world. Think of the dust that we constantly clean
(or not!) from the tops of our furniture. Dust collects dramatically on the many screens of our computers, TV's and other electronic equipment. There is a tremendous business in fans and filters that collect dust. Ashes are the blackened evidence of the loss of someone's home or business, of natural habitat gone up in flames, the residue of candles and fireplaces. New devices are invented every year to help us clean the dust and ashes from our homes and habitat.
But it always comes back, doesn't it? We are in a constant cycle of sweeping up the decay that is all around us. And then today, we willingly place a mark of ashes on our faces for the world to see. We ask to take on the dust and ashes, to collect the evidence of death and destruction. "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return." Today we embrace the dust of the earth and recall that these mortal bodies will not last forever. All the cosmetics, creams, and potions; all the diets, exercise classes and spa treatments will not keep the dust away.
Still this is not a message of despair, but in the best sense of the upside-down Kingdom of God, a message of hope. The ashes give us perspective and hope, for we are here, and the burning of the Holy Spirit has been given to us to dust away and consume what passes and refine what endures. The fast of Lent is not a fast to serve our own interests, but a refining fire that helps us embrace our own basic needs so that we might embrace the needs of others. There is plenty of dust in the world that we are called to address. There are ashes in the lives of others that we are called to take upon ourselves. The prophet Isaiah tells us the truth: " Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?....You shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer to streets to live in."
Lent is not kept by the individual alone; it is not for us, but for the work of the Kingdom. We are invited to be strengthened to participate in the work of the Gospel; to open ourselves to a continual burning by the Holy Spirit. This is not easy or always pleasant. It can be painful and uncomfortable. We are God's ashes--burned, pounded and sieved into a fine powder, ready to be exposed in the shape of the cross for the whole world to see.
This cross is from the entryway of the Church located on the Mount of the Transfiguration. The road leading up to this church in the Holy Land is narrow and winding. For many of us, narrow, winding roads are part of our spiritual journey. Here are five steps to help you as you travel on your life's pilgrimage:
Anne+ is the Rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Lappans. She says,