Seeing Who You Really Are

reflection

When was the last time you looked at your own reflection in a pool of water?

You and I are signs that can open the windows of Heaven and point other people toward Jesus. We can point people toward Jesus by treating them with love and respect, and we can point people toward the “Bread of Life” by participating in the ministry of a Christian congregation. But, we don’t always see ourselves as “signs” that can point people to Jesus, do we? That’s something that I struggle with, too.

Jesus once had an interesting confrontation with people in Capernaum. He had just fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two little fish. He had just finished telling the people that they hadn’t come to see Him because of the “signs” that He had done. In fact, according to Jesus, the people had only come to see Him because they had just had their bellies filled with the bread and fish. And right after Jesus had told the people this truth, He told them that He’s the “Bread of Life” – the one, lasting thing that satisfies the deepest needs in our daily lives.

And people shouted, “Who does this guy think that he is?” “Didn’t we know this guy when he was just a little kid, and don’t we know this man’s father and mother..?” “How can this son of Joseph, an ordinary guy, do the “works of God” and be what we need the most?”

This is the all-too-real dilemma that we face in: “Seeing Who You Really Are”.

What makes me, the son of Robert and Lois, worthy to stand in a pulpit and to preach a sermon? What makes YOU, the son or daughter of your own ordinary parents, qualified to teach a Sunday School class, or serve on a Church Council, or express your opinions during a meeting at the church you attend? What is it that makes YOU, a son or daughter of your own ordinary parents, qualified to do God’s work?

Jesus has something to say about that.

Jesus says you’re qualified to do God’s work because, when you do God’s work, it’s God who is working within you. In John 6:35, 41-51, Jesus reminds us that we’re qualified to join hands with others in Christian ministry – not because of our lineage or background; but rather, because God touched us in the waters of Baptism and because God continues to reminds us of “who we are” every time we gaze into a pool of quiet water and reflect upon the day of our Baptism.

This week’s message, “Seeing Who You Really Are”, ends by drawing you into an ancient Indian myth that tells the story of mighty Symba, King Kimbalu and their little cub. It’s a message that challenges you to gaze into the still waters of Holy Baptism until you begin to more clearly see who you are, and until you begin to feel a great, primal ROOOOAAAR erupt within you. This is a life-changing message that you need to both hear and to share with others! It’s a message that might help you to discover the identity of the person that God has created you to be, and that might help you to more clearly see what God wants you to do as you live your daily life in a world where you have the chance to point other people to Jesus.

 

 

 

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Does God Still Give Us “Signs”?

looking for a sign

Several months ago, I saw a “sign.”

Now, before you get all excited, the sky didn’t open-up and I didn’t hear a big, booming voice from Heaven. The “sign” that I saw had nothing to do with watching someone feed more than 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two little fish. The “sign,” in fact, was just a large, tattered billboard that read: “If you’re looking for a sign, this is it!

In this week’s message, “Does God Still Give Us ‘Signs’?”, I want to challenge you to think about the things that first pointed you toward Jesus. We sometimes see Jesus’ power to strengthen and heal when we find ourselves praying for people that we love. Jesus can melt the harsh bitterness that fills our hearts after we’ve been hurt or disappointed. God can show us the next step forward when we don’t know what to do. Sometimes, WE can even be a “sign” of Jesus’ presence in the lives of other people.

The writer of John’s Gospel begins an interesting story in John 6:24-35.

Jesus has just finished feeding more than 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two little fish. Jesus has gone off to Capernaum, a fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and the home of about 1,500 people. And when the people hear that Jesus is in Capernaum, they gather because they want to see Him. And Jesus tells them: “You haven’t come here to see me because you saw ‘signs.’ You came here because you had your bellies filled with bread and fish.” And, even after Jesus tells the people that what He has just done is the “work of God,” the people who have gathered around Him start to demand another sign.

So, let me ask you a question: “How have YOU come to know Jesus?”

I first learned about Jesus in a Sunday School class where Mrs. Pfeifer showed-up every Sunday morning to teach me about Jesus. I also learned about Jesus as an ordinary man, named Kenneth Ruckert, pointed me to “signs” that proclaimed the fact that Jesus even loves confused teenagers. I’ve learned about Jesus while serving as a camp counselor at Camp Lutherlyn, and as I’ve journeyed through life with people who were suffering and even dying – people who pointed me toward the “signs” of God’s presence in the world when life isn’t perfect. I’ve come to know Jesus because people, throughout all of my life, have invested their time and energy in me. And, because of that, I’ve seen a lot of “signs.” Didn’t St. Paul once write that faith always comes from outside of us (Romans 10:17)?

And that’s why your investment in the ministry of the Church is so important.

I may have never heard about Jesus if Mrs. Pfeifer hadn’t volunteered to teach Sunday School every Sunday morning, and if other people hadn’t donated the money that she needed to buy the books that she used. I may have never become a pastor if the faithful members of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Beaver Falls, PA hadn’t financially supported the ministry of Pastor Joel Nafuma – the man who helped me to pull the pieces together when God first began to call me into ordained ministry. When we faithfully invest our time and energy and money in Christian ministry, we can be people who create “signs” that point people to Jesus. In fact, when we invest in the ministry of a local congregation (or in the ministry of the Church in a broader way), we can open windows to Heaven and point people toward Jesus – the “Bread of Life” – who comes into the world to nourish us, to sustain us, to forgive us, and to lift us up both strengthened and renewed.

“If you’re looking for a sign, this is it!”

Perhaps, God is using these words to challenge you to think about the ways that God can use YOU to do the types of ministry that open the windows of Heaven for other people? Perhaps, God is using these words to remind you that the time, energy and money that YOU invest in the ministry of a local congregation (and in the Church as a whole) has the power to help other people to discover the “Bread of Life.” Perhaps, God is using these words to remind you that, as YOU join hands with other Christians in ministry, God can use whatever you offer to change people’s lives and alter their destinies?

 

Healing Can Take Time

healing blind

Let’s think about one of the craziest stories in the Bible….

Jesus was traveling through Bethsaida (“The House of the Fisherman”) one day when a group of people approached him and asked him to heal a man who was blind. Jesus, of course, was filled with compassion and wanted to help. And so, Jesus worked-up a bit of spit in his mouth, spit into the man’s eyes, and rubbed the saliva around a bit. And then, Jesus asked the man, “Do you see anything?” And the man responded, “Oh, yes! I can see the people who are standing all around me, but they look like walking trees.” And with that, Jesus decided to touch him again; and, after Jesus did that, the man was able to see clearly.

This has always been a little hidden gem in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 8:22-25) and I often just read through this crazy story without even thinking about it. And then, in the midst of my training to be a Discipleship Coach, I was introduced to a small book: “Dwelling in the Word”, that encouraged me to spend time with stories like this one and to unpack them over a long period of time (I’ve been reading and reflecting upon this unusual story in the Bible for almost four months!). And the process of unpacking this unusual story about the ministry of Jesus led to this week’s message: “Healing Can Take Time”.

Have you ever wanted to see God at work in your life in a deeper way? Have you ever wanted a relationship to be healed and to move in a better direction after you’ve been hurt by something that you’ve loved? Do you, sometimes, have trouble sensing God’s presence in the midst of the busyness of your daily life? Have you ever asked God to give you strength and courage to face a world that’s filled with constant and scary change?

When people brought the blind man to Jesus, Jesus spit into the man’s eyes, rubbed the saliva around a bit, and asked him if he could see. Jesus doesn’t always turn on a light switch and give us a deeper awareness of God’s presence in our lives in an instant. We, sometimes, need to travel through a rather confusing time when people who have hurt us still “look like trees” – even when Jesus is healing us. It’s not easy make changes in our lives that Jesus can use to bring renewal and spiritual growth. It’s not easy – even with the help of Jesus – to move from fear to faith when we’re scared by the things that are happening all around us and when we just want things to stop changing. And yet, Jesus continues to heal us. Jesus continues to touch us and to work in our lives. Jesus continues to help us to move from “wherever we are right now” to “where God wants us to move as we journey into the future” – both alone, and with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

And so, let me ask you a couple of questions:

  1. What do you need to be able to “see” more clearly, right now?
  2. How do you need to be touched and healed by Jesus at this point in your life?

Jesus has the power to bring incredible healing into our lives and our relationships. And Jesus wants to send us back into the world with a set of eyes that can “see” life – and even other people – in different ways again. But, that type of healing takes time. Spend time “Dwelling in the Word”, praying about things you learn as you immerse yourself in God’s Word, and be open to the ways that Jesus wants to heal you and to send you back into the world with eyes that can “see” the things all around you in different ways.

 

Remember the Beauty of Your Dreams

big things

Have you ever tried to water-ski?

Many years ago, I found myself bobbing up and down in the Ohio River. I had already tried to pull myself out of the water and stand on my feet many times. My stomach was churning because I had swallowed what must have been a gallon of water while being dragged behind a boat. And, as everybody watched, I reached for the rope that floated beside me, heard the rev of the engine, saw the slack in the rope disappear, and then…. I disappeared beneath the water again, was dragged several hundred feet, and finally let go of the rope. That was it. I climbed into the boat – and never tried to water ski again.

Picture the disciples sitting beside Jesus. They were already exhausted. They had crossed over the sea to escape from the busyness of their daily routines. But, the people saw what they were doing and were waiting for them on the other side of the sea. And Jesus cared about the people, and He taught – and taught – and taught – and taught. And, before Jesus’ disciples realized what what happening, stomachs began to growl and people needed to eat. But the disciples could only find find loaves of bread and two little fish – and what’s that when you’re sitting in a crowd of more than 5,000 hungry people?

I’m sure that we all get tired and that we all have times when we don’t think that we have anything left to give. We, sometimes, find it hard to say “No” when we’re asked to do things – even though our calendars are already full. Many churches are struggling with an ever-shrinking pool of volunteers and with rising deficits. We have hopes and dreams that have been placed in our hearts by God. We want to do great and marvelous things. But, we’ve all faced times when we think (or even know) that there’s not enough to go around, right? We want to do great things, but find nothing more than five loaves of bread and two little fish to get the job done.

And so, we need to make a decision. We can chisel our dreams into something less, or we can lift the situation before God and ask for God’s help. We can cut things back a bit, stop reaching toward God-inspired dreams, and simply quit – or we can remember that God’s placed those hopes and dreams in our hearts, and that God will supply what we need to do what God wants us to do. And that’s important for us to understand.

In this week’s message, “Remember the Beauty of Your Dreams”, we’re reminded that faith challenges us to look past obstacles and challenges, and to work together to fulfill God’s plans for our lives and ministries. We are, often, the very people who ultimately decide what we can and cannot do because we are people who decide what we “will” or “will not” do in response to God’s call. We’ve all needed to face the little voice deep inside that says, “You can’t do that!” But, even as that voice continues to echo in our ears, Jesus continues to call us to feed the multitude – even when we’re not sure that we can do it.

But just think about how our lives and ministries could be transformed if we just go so excited and fired-up about what God wants us to do that we simply did it? How would our lives and ministries be changed if we simply trusted that God would provide us with the resources and volunteers that we need to do the things that God’s calling us to do?

Randy Pausch, the author of a book entitled Last Lecture, challenges us to live our lives with passion and commitment. He reminds us that we only have one chance to live and that we need to do the things that matter the most to us. And Randy also reminds us that brick walls often arise to test us and to help us to see how badly we want the thing that we dream about. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Remember the Beauty of Your Dreams.” And, this week, I’m challenging you to do that.

What hopes and dreams has God placed into your heart? What ways is God calling you to put your fingerprints on the world? Is there something that you believe God wants you to do before you die? What’s keeping you from simply doing it, right now?

Seize the day! God has a great, big, wonderful plan for both you and for the ministry of Christ’s Church. Lift your five loaves of bread and two little fish before God and ask God to bless them and multiply them today. You might be surprised by what God can do!

 

When You Get Off Track

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Sin almost always starts with something small, doesn’t it?

Imagine a small child walking into a grocery store, picking up a candy bar, stuffing it into his pocket, and walking out the door. Picture a middle-aged man who is struggling to pay his bills, and who decides to free-up some cash by cheating on his income taxes. Perhaps, you know someone who’s living in an unhappy marriage and who’s begun to talk with one of her co-workers about her problems – and maybe, she’s shared a few drinks, some secret telephone chats and Internet messages, a few secret meetings, and perhaps even a bit more with him…. Imagine sometime telling a lie that quickly grows into something bigger, and into something even bigger, and then into something monstrous.

Sin almost always starts with something small, doesn’t it?

King Herod’s problems probably began with a little wink. And then, there were secret meetings and much, much more. And when John the Baptizer told King Herod that it was not right for him to marry his own brother’s wife, Herod had him thrown in jail. And after that, emotions flew out of control and anger turned into rage. What seemed to be an innocent little wink turned into an unexpected demand for an innocent man’s head to be removed.

In this week’s message, “When You Get Off Track”, we explore several things we need to do when we’re drawn into sin and find ourselves behaving in inappropriate ways. We discover that God calls us to:

  1. Honestly admit that we’re doing something wrong and stop doing it.
  2. Intentionally change course and move in a different direction.
  3. Realize that, when we sin, we need to change course immediately – because sin can set a whole set of consequences into motion that can deeply affect our own lives, or the lives of people that we both love and cherish.

And, perhaps, the hardest part of the whole thing is that we simply don’t want to do any of those things if we’re left to ourselves. Sins usually get repeated because they make us feel good in one way or another. Sin makes us to feel good when we think we’ve tricked someone, or when we think that we’ve gotten away with something. Sin causes us to feel good when we are struggling in a relationship by driving us into the arms of someone who seems to be “so much better” than the person we’ve married. Sin often encourages us to excuse our inappropriate behavior away – even as we hear God calling us to change course.

Sin almost always starts with something small, doesn’t it?

And so, today, I want to encourage you to just stop what you’re doing and change course if you know that you’re doing something wrong. The love and mercy of God is great, and God will give you the strength and courage you need to change course. Jesus promised that He will always be with us – even as He challenges us to change our lives, so that we can live-into the future God’s planned for us. As I shared last week, God’s grace is always sufficient to meet the needs of today – especially when we need God’s continuing help to battle against the very things that have the power to destroy our lives.

Grace Sufficient for Today

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Having faith isn’t always easy, is it?

We’re pushed and shoved, and we’re disappointed when things go wrong. We face times in life when we’re pushed to the wall and when we don’t know where we’re going to get strength to face even one more day. We face difficult challenges. God doesn’t always take our problems away – even when we ask God to do it. St. Paul once described some sort of challenge that he faced as a “thorn in his flesh.” Do you feel like you have a “thorn” in your flesh? Is there something in your life that you would like God to change?

St. Paul was once a nasty man. He held the cloaks of the people who stoned St. Stephen and he did everything that he could do to destroy the early Church. Paul arrested people who believe in Jesus and had them thrown in jail. But, one day, St. Paul met Jesus face-to-face and his life was changed forever. In fact, Paul devoted the rest of his life to sharing the message of Jesus – the very message that he once had tried to destroy.

But, even though St. Paul was devoted to his ministry and to sharing the message of Jesus with as many people as he could, he faced a challenge. St. Paul called it his “thorn in the flesh.” And even though a lot of folks think that they know what St. Paul’s “thorn” was – we really don’t. And that’s OK.

“Grace Sufficient for Today” is a message that can help you to think about the “thorn” that you are facing in life, right now. Jesus once told us that we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has enough worries of its own. St. Paul faced his own “thorn in the flesh” by living from day to day – trusting that God would provide whatever he needed to get through yet another day. And in that, there’s a wonderful message of hope and guidance for all of us.

Several years back, quite by chance, I had the opportunity to meet Billy Graham.

By the time that I met Billy Graham he was pretty fragile. I’ll never forget that he needed two men to walk beside him and hold him by the arms as he entered the room. But, even more than that, I’ll always remember the conversation that I had with Billy Graham as he shared his thoughts about his struggles with Parkinson’s disease. He said that throughout all of his struggles, the one thing that he had learned – over and over again – is that God’s grace is always sufficient to meet today’s needs.

That’s a powerful message; and it’s also a message that echoed inside of me when my own hands started to shake about five years later. “God’s grace is always sufficient to meet today’s needs,” I remembered as the doctor told me that I have Parkinson’s disease, too. “Don’t worry about tomorrow,” Jesus once said to us, “because tomorrow has enough worries of its own.”

Faith is a wonderful gift. The fact that God will provide whatever we need – just when we need it the most – is a source of great hope in challenging times. God is God who blesses us and strengthens us and supports us and cares for us in incredible ways! And God is a God who has promised us that we will be given the faith that we need to face each day.

How can that message bring strength and hope into your life, right now?

How can the fact that God’s grace is sufficient for today help you and encourage you as you face whatever you need to face this week with Jesus by your side?

 

Christ’s Church for ALL People

Christ's Church

We live our lives with a lot of rules, don’t we?

Written and unwritten rules are just accepted as the “truth” and we often simply accept the things that we’ve been taught without questioning. The rules that we’ve been taught teach us to separate the “good people” from the “bad people” – and it’s, ultimately, these same written and unwritten rules that shape our thinking and our behavior.

And that’s why we’re still trying to figure-out what to do with folks who come to America from other countries. That’s why we’re still struggling to figure-out what to do with folks who fall¬† in love with people that they’re not “supposed” to fall in love with. That’s why many predominantly white denominations in the Christian Church are struggling to figure-out what they need to do to survive and flourish in a society where white people will very soon be the minority in America. That’s why we’re still trying to figure-out what to do with people who think and who choose to live their lives in ways that we don’t always understand or want to accept.

“Christ’s Church for ALL People” is a message that challenges us to think about the very nature of the Church. How do we make sense of Jesus – a man who touched people who were considered to be “unclean” by others? How do we make sense of Jesus – a man who ate in the homes of tax-collectors and sinners, and who wasn’t even afraid to touch the corpses of those who had died? How do we make sense of a God who loves white people and black people, people who live in the United States and people who want to come to America from other countries? Doesn’t the Sacred Story remind us that God has created ALL people to be both precious and valuable? Doesn’t the Sacred Story tell us about Jesus – a man who came into the world to welcome and embrace people, and to even die on the Cross for everyone?

People – even God’s people – are not always good at lifting-up the fact that everyone is precious and valuable in God’s sight. Even Christians can have a hard time accepting the fact that: there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). And yet, that truth is fundamental to the Christian faith. “Christ’s Church for ALL People” is who we are even in a tumultuous time when many people are speaking a very different truth even inside the Church – the place where Jesus continues to challenge us to offer our welcome and embrace to ALL people and to help them to realize that the Church is a “home” where God’s love and care can be experienced by everyone.

 

Together in the Same Boat

jesus boat

One of the oldest images of the Church is a boat.

Many congregations gather in a worship space that is shaped like an upside-down boat. The place where the congregation sits during worship services is called the “Nave” – a word that has its origins in the Latin word “Navis” meaning: Ship. You might even say that Christians are “all in the same boat,” and that Jesus is carrying us from wherever we are in life right now to wherever God wants us to be – as we continue to gather as God’s people and participate in the ministry of the Church.

The Sacred Story tells us that the disciples of Jesus traveled in a boat; and so, every time we hear stories about the disciples in a boat, we need to think about the Church. And as we do that, we can learn many important lessons about faithful living and ministry that apply to our lives and to our ministries even now.

How are things going in your boat these days? Have you noticed that the days of putting extra chairs in the aisle during worship services are pretty much gone, and that the news is filled with more and more stories about unfolding chaos in the Church? People – in the 21st-Century – tend to view attending a worship service as one of the many equally valid options in a sea of other activities on an average weekend. Most Christian congregations and Jewish synagogues have seen a nearly 50% drop in worship attendance – in just the last ten years. It appears that the boat is sailing through a pretty rough storm right now, and that water is splashing over the gunwales as waves crash all around us.

“Together in the Same Boat” is a message that’s been created to help us to make sense of that and to help us to hear what Jesus might be saying to the Church these days. Perhaps, we need to listen to Jesus as He says, “Let’s go over to the other side”? Perhaps, we need to realize that the Church needs to change as people change? Perhaps, we need to realize that, while the message of Christ crucified and risen doesn’t change, the we way that we communicate that message to people needs to continually change? And that change is going to require faith.¬† “Going over to the other side” can be very scary; and, maybe, it’s OK for us to admit that we’re experiencing some angst and fear these days? As we travel to an unknown future – trust and faith and daily prayer are more necessary than ever!

But, as people of faith, we don’t need to be discouraged and overwhelmed. In fact, the Sacred Story reminds us of four truths that we must keep in mind as we journey together into the future:

  1. The Sacred Story reminds us that “we’re all in the same boat” – and that, even as we travel into uncharted waters, we have each other as faithful companions.
  2. The Sacred Story reminds us that, as Jesus calls us to “go over to the other side of the Sea,” He hops into the boat with us. Jesus is here – and we’re not alone.
  3. The Sacred Story reminds us that, as we move forward, we need to celebrate the fact that the ministry that we’ve done in the past is still good and worthwhile. Our movement toward the future isn’t meant to invalidate what we’ve done in the past, or to say that it was, somehow, “wrong.”
  4. The Sacred Story reminds us that, even though what lies ahead is still unknown, the “other side of the Sea” is a place where Jesus is going to help us to do great and wonderful things – and the future before us is going to be both God-filled and good.

And so, always remember that we’re “Together in the Same Boat” as we journey into the future with Jesus by our side and with the Holy Spirit as the wind in our sails. And, also remember that the destination that lies before us is going to be a place that will be filled with new challenged and blessings, new storms and times of peace, new blessings from God and new life to be shared by God’s people.

 

Living in the Legacy of Jesus

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Have you ever thought about the purpose and the meaning of your life?

The Bible presents the story of a God who’s at work to topple the forces of evil. The Sacred Story tells us that God created the world by bringing order to chaos, but it also tells us that everything fell apart in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate fruit from the “Tree of the Awareness of Duality.” The Sacred Story reminds us that people have struggled since the beginning of time to “get right with God,” but it also tells us that the path to peace with God has been provided by Jesus. God is going to win! The Sacred Story tells us about a Great Day when God’s going to wipe every tear from our eyes, and when there will no longer be pain and sorrow and mourning. And the great “Hero” of the Sacred Story is Jesus. Jesus – the great “Hero” – rises-up to confront what’s wrong with the Creation and to conquer the forces of evil, so that good will ultimately win.

You and I, and all of the people who have been bound to Jesus – the “Hero” – in the waters of Holy Baptism are engaged in the Great Epic Battle. You and I, and all of the people who have been bound to Jesus in the waters of Baptism, are called and summoned to step-up to the plate, to directly engage the forces of evil and to overcome it in the name of God. And our participation in that Great Epic Battle – the ongoing war between good and evil – is ultimately what provides meaning in our lives and the purpose of our ministries.

“Living in the Legacy of Jesus” is a message that’s been created to stir you and to call the Church, as a whole, into action. We live in an Age where increasingly large numbers of people are struggling with an addiction to opioids, and when a growing sadness in many hearts is driving people to suicide. We live in an Age where poverty creates a situation where nearly half of the children in America go to school with an empty stomach – and lose an important meal every day during their summer vacation. We’re living in an Age where racism and bigotry have been revealed as the Achilles’ heel of American culture. We live in an Age where countless boundaries and barriers and walls are being created, and where people are being encouraged to experience life as “Us versus Them.”

As we fight the epic battle against duality – following Jesus, the “Hero” – we write a story that not only tells the story of our lives, but that also tells the world how we make sense of what it means to live in the legacy of Jesus. As we fight the epic battle against duality, the story we write is used by God to stir-up and create faith in others.

The story that we write helps people to understand what God’s doing in the world today. The story that we write is also one that invites others to join hands with us – so that, they can also be a part of what God’s doing.

You and I, and all of the people who have been bound to Jesus – the “Hero” – in the waters of Holy Baptism are called to engage the forces of evil, and to overcome them (with God’s help) in the name of everything that is good and right and holy and true.

“Living in the Legacy of Jesus” – by participating in the epic battle against duality is, ultimately, something that gives meaning to our lives, and provides a purpose and a “calling” to the ministry of the Church. And as we write the story of what God’s doing in our midst and in the midst of our churches, as we celebrate our victories and learn from our mistakes, and as we tell others about what God’s doing, ministry becomes magnetic – and people see that we have something both significant and life-giving to share with the world – as we invite them to be a part of what we’re doing with the help of God.

Give Yourself (and Others) a Break!

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Do you ever feel like there’s not enough of you to go around?

I begin my morning by reaching over and grabbing my cell phone off the nightstand, so that I can see what I need to do. I watch people running from place to place to place – trying to juggle their schedule at work with their commitments to their children, while trying to take care of aging parents as the grass on their front lawn continues to grow. I recently asked a group of teenagers, “How many of you would like to tell your parents that you just need to stop once in a while?” – and every hand at the table went up. How many of you have convinced yourselves that you’ll have all the time in the world to do the things that you want to do when you retire? But, what if you don’t have enough energy to do those things, or the gift of good health, when you retire?

This week’s message, “Give Yourself (and Others) a Break!”, calls us to stop and to think about the Sabbath. The Sacred Story tells us that God created the Sabbath after being busily invested in the all-consuming and exhausting work of Creation. The Sacred Story tells us that God created the Sabbath because we live in a world where we don’t allow ourselves to stop, and because we live in a world where other people don’t allow us to stop either. The Sabbath is a time to be filled and sustained with God’s gifts. God created the Sabbath as a time of healing – even though other folks don’t often think about the fact that we need God’s healing and restoring power in our lives.

But the Sabbath wasn’t just given to us. The Sabbath is also a gift that we can extend to other people. What would life look like if we began to realize that life is about more than an endless list of chores and obligations? What would life look like if parents began to realize that young people need to stop as much as they do – and if young people could see that their parents sometimes need to stop running, too? What would life look like if we began to realize that other people can’t always pick up the ball and run with it every time we decide that we don’t want to do something anymore? What would life look like if we built our society upon the premise that God has given the gift of the Sabbath to everyone; and that people who are working two, three, or even four jobs to make ends meet, need to be paid high enough wages to be able to stop and rest, too?

The Sabbath is a gift that allows us to break-away from our busy routines, but the gift of the Sabbath is also an issue of justice. “Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy. On in you shall not do any work – you or your son or daughter, your male servant or female servant, your ox or donkey or livestock, or even the traveler who is within your gates – so that they may rest just as you do.” (Exodus 20:10-11)

Do you ever feel like there’s not enough of you to go around?

If you just answered “Yes!” to that question, you’re in good company. “The Sabbath was made for people,” Jesus once said (Mark 2:27). Don’t we all need to shift gears once in a while for the sake of our own health and well-being? Don’t we all need to remember that we live in a world where we can feel like there’s not enough of us to go around – because we never allow ourselves to step off of the running treadmill – and because we don’t allow other people to do it either?