Not the Super Bowl outcome any of my church members were hoping for last night, but we are moving on and getting ready for Mardi Gras Sunday! We’ve never done this before (at least not to the degree we are this year), so follow me on Instagram (@revsarahweaver) to see some behind the scenes this week!
I continued to preach through the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark this week. I am having so much fun following this chronologically! Part of me would love to go off lectionary sometime and preach through a Gospel in a more intentional way. I love that the lectionary brings us through different parts of the bible, but this has also been a lot of fun.
There is a LOT going on in this morning’s passage. My sermon could have gone in so many different directions. I ended up focusing on Jesus retreating to a deserted place to pray. I used the acronym, SIP – sabbath, intentional prayer – as an illustration. So take a sip!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
February 4, 2018
Take A Sip
On more than one occasion over the past eight months, I have been asked what has changed for me in ministry since having a baby. And the answer is, other than a flexible schedule, of course, my writing process.
My Saturday marathon writing days that I have relied on heavily since I was in college, for the most part, just do not work in this particular season of life that I am in. I have been trying to focus more of my office time during the week on writing, but sometimes that just does not work, either, in which case I end up doing a lot of writing at night after Harrison goes to bed.
This was the case last week, Friday evening. Bruce came home from wrestling practice and I was surrounded by notes and commentaries, staring at a blinking cursor, getting absolutely nowhere in my writing.
And here is the thing about sermon writing – the Sunday morning deadline is always looming. And that night I really did need to make some headway, because I did not have a lot of time the next day to write.
But it just was not working; and finally, I decided that I needed to rest. So I shut my computer, went downstairs and Bruce and I watched two episodes of The Crown. I knew my sermon would be there the next day.
Sometimes in life – both in work and at home – you need to walk away, take a break, rest and recharge. The same is true in our faith, as well. In fact, in this morning’s scripture, Jesus did just that.
Again, we pick up this morning where we left off last week. Over the past three weeks, we have been making our way through the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. Jesus hit the ground running in his ministry. He called his disciples, taught in the synagogue, cast out demons and now is healing the sick.
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
The news about Jesus starts to spread; people hear about what Jesus is doing and about the power that he has and they start to bring their loved ones to him so that he can heal them. Jesus is not simply healing the people in his direct vicinity; the gospel writer describes the, “whole city” gathering around the door of the house where Jesus is staying.
Can you even imagine? An entire city of people coming to your house; asking you to heal them and cast out their demons? Honestly, on the days when I feel overwhelmed by life and motherhood and ministry, I often think, well at least there is not an entire city of people banging down my door, asking me to fix their problems.
Of course, Jesus does not miss a beat. He cures the sick, casts out the demons and everyone – even the demons – knows who Jesus is.
But then, what does Jesus do?
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.
Jesus takes a break.
Jesus does not go and go and go and go; he pauses. He walks away. He retreats.
The cool thing about reading through these Marken passages chronologically over the past couple of weeks is that we know all that Jesus has going on. We know that he has been gathering his disciples, that his ministry started fast and strong and that the crowds following him are now growing at exponential rates.
And now he needs to rest.
This passage reminds us that we need to take Sabbath; every single one of us (even those of us that say we are too busy). Far too often we try to go and go and go and go without pausing, without walking away, without retreating. But in reading this passage we are reminded that Jesus, himself, needed Sabbath!
What makes us think that we do not need it from time to time?
This passage has a lot to teach us about what it means to take care of ourselves when we have a lot going on. Sabbath is not just a concept that can be found in the bible, but it was an integral part of the creation of the Gospel. As Jesus began to write this Christian narrative, he certainly had a lot going on, but he took time; he made Sabbath a priority.
We should do the same.
“S” is for Sabbath.
(Remember that; it will come around again.)
But Sabbath, alone, is not enough. There has to be intentionality to it, as well.
Jesus did not stay at the house and say a little prayer when things quieted down. He left; he went to a deserted place and intentionally carved out that time. He created the Sabbath time that he so desperately needed and we have to do the same in our lives, as well.
True Sabbath is not an impromptu timeout; it is what happens when we intentionally step outside of the busyness of our everyday lives and seek strength, wisdom and energy from God.
Sabbath is something we do for ourselves; not for others. Jesus did not use this time as an opportunity to teach the disciples about prayer or to pray for everyone who had come for healing. Jesus used this time for himself. He went to a place where no one else was. This time was about him and God.
And, truth be told, this makes Sabbath all the more difficult. Because what I am saying is that it is not something that can just be worked into our daily schedule. We cannot multitask and sneak some Sabbath in while we are already doing something else.
We have to be intentional about creating opportunities for Sabbath. And if you think you do not have time, believe me, I understand. But Jesus did not have time; Jesus made time.
We should do the same.
“I” is for intentional.
Here is the unique thing about Sabbath: I do not think Sabbath and self-care are the same things. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that self-care is extraordinarily important, but I do think that sometimes we confuse the two.
For example: Last Friday night when I watched The Crown instead of writing my sermon – that was not Sabbath, that was self-care.
Here is what makes the difference:
In the morning, while it was still very dark, [Jesus] got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.
The key phrase in all of this is, “there he prayed.” Jesus did not go to a desert place to take a nap or get a massage or go for a run; he went to a deserted place to pray.
I read a commentary this week that talked about just how important is it to note Jesus’ commitment to prayer, particularly as it comes through in this Gospel. It said:
For Mark, prayer is not peripheral to the identify of Jesus, and by implication, not peripheral for those who follow him.
Which means prayer should not be peripheral to our identity, but very much a part of it.
And I know this is a tough one, because prayer is not necessarily something we are all automatically comfortable with. But there are a lot of opportunities – both here at the church and at home – where you can learn how to pray and get more comfortable with it.
Coming to worship on a Sunday morning is a great way to find time for prayer during the week because we have that time carved out in our service.
I am going to make a shameless plug for Taizé because we create a space that is conducive to prayer and then, again, carve out that time in our service.
You can also institute a daily quiet time at home (which, full disclosure, I tried to do last year and failed about nine days in – but you might have more luck than me!). There are daily devotionals that you can buy or download where a prayer is already written out for you and you can use that as a starting point in your prayer time.
Part of our call, as Christians, is to connect with God through prayer. This is something Jesus demonstrated over and over again.
We should do the same.
“P” is for prayer.
This morning I invite you to take a “sip” – Sabbath, intentional, prayer – and connect with God and see how your life might be transformed. I guarantee – and I do not guarantee things very often – that you will be stronger and calmer and feel more whole if you take a sip.
God cannot work within us if we do not create that space to allow God to come into our lives and our minds and our hearts.
Back to my Friday night binge-watching of The Crown: I think I got more accomplished in a shorter amount of time on Saturday because I took that time to rest on Friday.
The same is true for Sabbath. When we intentionally carve out time for prayer, it does not matter how stressed or busy we might be, amazing things will happen.
So take a sip!
And may you, like Christ, have the strength, endurance, wisdom and voice to proclaim the Good News of God’s love in this world.
Thanks be to God!