Intentional Sabbath

Happy Sunday! Our newly-formed children’s choir sang in church this morning and it was absolutely ADORABLE! I’ll get one of the videos uploaded to YouTube so I can share it here.

It looks like we are in for more snow this week :( stay cozy, New Englanders! Be safe.

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
February 8, 2015

Mark 1:29-39

Intentional Sabbath

Last year I had one very busy weekend in March. The Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ was hosting their biannual Super Saturday conference and I had been asked to lead two workshops and help plan morning and afternoon worship. It was the weekend of the annual Spaghetti Supper and Dessert Auction. We were welcoming new members in church on Sunday.

I knew when I agreed to everything that it was going to be a busy week and weekend, but I couldn’t help myself. I truly felt that God was calling me to do all of these things and figured I could fuel myself on coffee and adrenaline and find a way to fit everything in.

The week leading up to the weekend was a complete blur. I prepared the workshops I would be leading and emailed back and forth with the other worship leaders about our services. The office was bustling and full of energy and excitement in anticipation of the Spaghetti Supper. I confirmed details and tried to make sure everything was perfect for our celebration of new members. I put worship together. I taught bible study. I started my sermon. I had a meeting about our sound system, drove to Weymouth for my clergy group, went out visiting and attended an event hosted by the Head Start Preschool.

Early Saturday morning, I drove out to Ludlow, Massachusetts for Super Saturday. I ran around all day (looking back, I probably should have traded my heels in for something a tad more sensible) and then loaded my car back up. I drove straight to the church, calling one of my church members on the way to say, “I’m going to be late – find someone to pray for me!” and ran into Fellowship Hall 15 minutes after the supper had started. I stayed at church late that night to finish my sermon, got very little sleep that night and was back at church early on Sunday morning to set up for worship and our new member celebration.

By the end of worship that morning, I could barely see straight; a migraine was setting in and I was starting to shake because I felt so sick. I left church before fellowship even started and was home sick for nearly three days.

I learned two things that weekend:

#1 – As it turns out, sometimes coffee and adrenaline is not enough to fuel us to do the work that we need to do or even to do the work that we want to do.

Okay, that one was kind of a given.

#2 – Most of the time coffee and adrenaline is not enough to fuel us to do the work that God is calling us to do.

In this morning’s reading from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus begins his healing ministry. He first enters the house of Simon and heals Simon’s mother-in-law, who is ill with a fever. Then many come to him later that evening, bringing people who are sick with various diseases. The next morning he begins traveling throughout Galilee, preaching and healing in the synagogues.

There is a sense of urgency to what Jesus was doing. When he first arrives at the house of Simon, the gospel writer uses the Greek word, euthys, which means “immediately” or “at once” to describe how quickly Simon, Andrew, James and John tell Jesus about Simon’s ill mother. And Jesus does not get much pause after that; according to scripture, the whole city gathers around Jesus’ door that evening for healing and the disciples go looking for him the following morning and greet him by saying, “Everyone is searching for you.”

It appears that Jesus is trying to run around and do as much in as short a period of time as I tried to do last March.

But Jesus does something a little bit differently.

Jesus stops. He retreats. He prays.

In the morning while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.

Jesus does not wait to burn out before he stops and takes care of himself. He takes time away from what he is doing so that he can be with God in prayer.

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus himself did not even try keep up with the pace we as human beings are constantly try to keep up in our own lives? Jesus knew that in order to continue to do the healing work that God had sent him to do that he needed to honor his Sabbath time.

Perhaps I should have tried that in March. Perhaps we all should try that more often.

Sabbath is not some hypothetical concept that exists because God rested on the seventh day of creation. Sabbath is a real and holy call from God; a call not only for us to create time to take a break from our daily lives, but also a call for us to seek out God during that time.

Jesus did not just take a break that morning; he did not sleep in or grab a nap after breakfast. Jesus went out to a deserted place so that he could pray.

The things in our earthly lives that keep us going – coffee, napping, exercising, engaging in our hobbies, taking vacations – are not enough. They are important, don’t get me wrong; I think we do need them. But they need to be balanced with prayer and real Sabbath. If we truly want restorative and divine healing in our lives, then we need to set aside time to be with God; nothing else can do what this will do.

Exercise will make us fit, healthy foods will nourish our bodies, napping will let us rest and hobbies will clear our heads. But none of those things have the capacity to do what God can do. Sabbath is not just about taking a break; it is about allowing God to heal you while you take that break. It is a restorative practice that, as human beings, we do not completely understand, but one that we do anyway, because we know that it works. We know that God can do miraculous things, even if we do not understand how. We believe this; our faith is grounded in this.

I think that we need to force ourselves to stop and be with God every single day. We cannot assume that God can do any kind of healing or restorative work within us if we do not actually make room for God to do that work. We need to be intentional about making this time for Sabbath and we need to be intentional about what we do during this time. We need to remember that scripture teaches us that Jesus believed taking his Sabbath was just as important as healing others. Prayer was not peripheral to Jesus’ ministry and identity and it cannot be to ours. In some way, shape or form, prayer needs to define our faith. We need to allow God to part of the healing and restorative processes that we so desperately need. Sabbath is imperative to who we are as Christians.

Jesus was intentional about taking his Sabbath and I think that if we want our faith to be strengthened and our lives and to be made more whole, then we need to be intentional about our time with God as well.
I know that everybody is busy, but I think this might be the key to finding more time in our lives. I think if we make time with God a priority in our lives, then the rest of the pieces of our lives fall into place better. I think if we take the time to stop and allow God to heal us and to restore us, then we will be better equipped to handle whatever might come our way. I think if we place God at the center of our lives, then our lives will stop revolving around things that break us down. I think if we are intentional about taking the time to pray to God every day – even if it is for just 15 minutes – God will use that time to recalibrate us.

This passage from Mark is about Jesus healing certain people in a certain time and in a certain space, but the healing did not end there. The healing that Christ did in his earthy life was not confined to a specific time and space; rather it was a portal that opened to something much greater.

And we are part of that – right here, right now.

I said earlier that most of the time coffee and adrenaline is not enough to fuel us to do the work that God is calling us to do. While most of you are not in vocational ministry, you are living out God’s call in your lives. You are called to serve your families, your church and your community. You are called to be good parents, good friends and good employees. You are called to be involved and try to leave this world a little bit better than you found it.

And God wants to help you live out this call.

Friends, here is my challenge for you this week: Take a break from the craziness of your life. Set aside time for prayer. Talk to God. Ask God questions. Write down your prayer requests in a journal if you feel silly saying them out loud. Be intentional; be intentional about this time, hold yourself accountable to following through and let something go if you need to in order to find time for Sabbath.

This is not a task; this is a gift. Sabbath is a gift. God’s healing and restorative presence in our lives is a gift; a gift that will strengthen us, enlighten us, heal us, center us and make us whole.

And it is a gift that will allow us to have the ability to do the work that God is calling us to do.

Spend some intentional time in prayer this week. Let me know if you notice a change.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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