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Sunday, June 13, 2021
“Living 24/6” Sermon Series
Scripture: Genesis 2:1-3 & Matthew 11:28-12:1
Rev. Dr. Troy Hauser Brydon
I’m not good at taking breaks. This drives my family nuts. When we take a vacation, I map out all the things we should do each day. I want to maximize our time. From sunrise to sunset, I usually have a plan. Rarely does that plan include “do nothing.” The same goes for the way I work. I love that laptops and cell phones have made it so that my office can be anywhere I am, so I bounce from my actual office to the coffee shop to my patio to the car waiting for a swim practice. Every space is now an opportunity to accomplish more! Blessedly, I am a catnapper, so when those moments come where my body says, “Enough!” I just shut my eyes for 15 minutes, and then I’m good to go.
It’s always been an aim of mine to preach on topics that I need to hear. I think it’s helpful for me to remember that I struggle with so much of the Christian faith and that perhaps when the congregation overhears that struggle, you, too, might find yourselves in a similar position. For most of this summer, we’re going to take a good, long look at the Sabbath. What is it? What is it good for? Why is it even a thing? Why are we all so bad at taking Sabbath? As you’ve already heard, I’m terrible at taking breaks. I want to go, go, go. There’s always some other way to be productive for work or around the house. My own work ethic can put me in bondage. The blurring of work/home life over the past year has made this even more of a challenge for all of us. For many of us, our homes have become our workplaces and classrooms. No amount of discipline can really keep us from answering that email late at night or shortening supper because we have that one more thing to do.
The first two chapters of the Bible describe God creating the world over seven days. For six days God spins out light and dark, sky and sea, plants and animals, but God leaves one-seventh of the time to create rest. God provided a 24/6 pattern, but we like to reclaim time and live 24/7 to our detriment.
When we hear the word “Sabbath,” I’m sure lots of you go back to that time when stores weren’t open on Sundays. One of our guides in the coming weeks will be Matthew Sleeth, who is a medical doctor who has written a book about the benefits of learning to live with sabbath. Our series title comes from his book of the same name, Living 24/6. Sleeth observes, “Just a short while ago, almost everything in society stopped one day a week. Gas stations, banks, and grocery stores locked their doors at night and on Sundays. No more. We are no longer a society that goes to sleep at night or conducts business six days a week period now we go 24/7. And in the metamorphosis to a 24/7 world, something has gone missing.
“What got taken away is rest. Sunday was the day when libraries and pharmacies barred the door and people got dressed up and drove to church. Those without particular religious convictions simply took the day off…. Subtracting a day of rest each week has had a profound effect on our lives. How could it not? One day a week adds up. 52 days a year times and average lifespan is equal to more than 11 years. Take away 11 years of anything in a lifetime, and there will be a change. This is a law of the universe: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Subtract over a decade of sleep, work, or education, and the entire character of one’s existence is altered.
“Multiply 11 years times 1/3 of a billion Americans, and you are looking for a lost continent of time. Unfortunately, in our society it’s not Monday that got mislaid; It’s our Sabbath, or a day of rest. If there is to be any hope for recovering the Sabbath, we must first admit that something is missing. Despite assurances of convenience, safety, and choice, America has been conned. My generation was raised with a day off each week. We witnessed the change to 24/7; we saw a cultural treasure stolen. Still there was no outcry. It happened so quickly, and yet so gradually, that no one even protested. And now my children’s generation does not have a day or rest at all…A weekly day of rest is like Cherry Garcia ice cream and hugs: we can survive without them, but we can’t really live.”
So, let’s start there. The Sabbath was never really what our society made it to be. It wasn’t about no shopping or no playing on Sunday. Our practice of Sabbath came to be about denial or boredom. God created Sabbath to be about abundant life. It’s helpful to go all the way back to the beginning to understand the creation of Sabbath and God’s good purpose for it.
In Genesis 1-2 we have this beautiful, rhythmic telling of God’s orderly creation. Before any physical space exists, there was time. God takes that time and begins bringing order to it, adding sunrises and sunsets as a way of marking the time. Six days of creating the stuff that we see, and then God does something wholly wonderful with the seventh day. God rests. God sees and delights in the creation and steps back into time in a way that reminds us that it’s not just about the doing; it’s about the being. On the previous six days, God sees the creation and declares it good, but on the seventh day, God goes further. God blesses it and calls is “holy,” that is sacred or set apart.
We are good at declaring spaces or physical objects holy, but we’re not so good at doing that with time. Think about it. Most religious thinking attaches holiness to places like a sanctuary or a mountain. Some people do that with pastors. (I know you do when you say things like, “Whoops, I didn’t mean to swear around the pastor!” You know you do it!) Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit Israel. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is built on a possible site of the crucifixion and entombment of Jesus, is in the heart of Jerusalem. Within it is a relatively small chamber called an Edicule where some believe Jesus was laid. (I don’t believe it, by the way.) You have to wait in a long line that rings around the Edicule to get it. I was surrounded by women from Eastern Europe, presumably Orthodox of some sort, who were weeping the entire time in line. While I and my traveling companions were mostly interested in saying that we did go into the Edicule, these women were moved by the holiness of that specific place. It was sacred to them.
Genesis 2:3 says that God blessed the seventh day and made it holy. It’s the first time that word is used in the Bible. Isn’t it interesting that holiness gets attached to time before it ever gets attached to space? We are really good at holy spaces, but we’re not so good at holy times. Sure, for some of us Sunday morning is a sacred time. Few things will keep us from showing up at the church on that day. Of course, that’s a good thing. But think about what has happened to Sunday mornings as the time became less sacred. Sports practices crept in. Travel dance and swimming came along. The need to sleep after a late Saturday gathering with friends won the day. Brunch became absurdly popular. Now, I love soccer. Hanging with friends late into the night is amazing. Like you, I want my kids to have access to every opportunity they can have. And there’s nothing wrong with brunch! Love it. But as we’ve moved from 24/6 to 24/7, we’ve lost the sense that not every second of the week needs to be encroached upon by the stuff of life. So, don’t hear this as your pastor judging the hard decisions we all make about how to use our time. I get it. But I am trying to urge us all to remember that God created us to be 24/6 not 24/7, and giving no mind to rest and replenishment is a recipe for disaster for us, for our children, and for our grandchildren.
Abraham Joshua Heschel was a rabbi born in Poland who lived through the horrors of the Holocaust yet emerged to write some beautiful and useful books. He has one on Sabbath, which he refers to as “a palace in time,” that is, the Sabbath is like building the most beautiful house you can in time rather than space. We’ll also be using his wisdom over the course of this summer. Here are just a few things he points out about how Sabbath reconnects us to time. “The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to the holiness in time.” “Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.” Sabbath is that reminder that we are human beings, not human doings. Yes, we should work hard. That’s part of God’s creative purpose for us. But we should also learn the art of resting in the presence of God. Sabbath is about rest, but it’s not just about a little break here or there. Its aim is to delight in the joys of being God’s beloved creatures.
Jesus himself faced the challenge that all humans face – doesn’t pleasing God mean not just strict obedience but also lots of effort? I find it fascinating that Jesus is constantly in trouble over how he and his disciples practice Sabbath. Jesus tells us that God is very interested in who we are because who we are is what dictates what we do. So, following Jesus is something that brings rest. “Come unto me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest.” Sometimes we get things mixed up and think that this is all about effort and perhaps reward. I know that’s true for me, not because I think I have to please God through my hard work but mostly because our world is demanding. It’s always one thing to the next.
Each week during this series we’re going to give you an assignment. This week it is simple. Rest. Take a nap. Do nothing. Set aside your phone. Order food out. Chill out. When your mind wanders, bring it back to the God who declared rest “holy.” Find your palace in time where the all-powerful God who created everything meets you and reminds you that you also should practice a holy rest. Heschel tells us, “The work on weekdays and the rest on the seventh day are correlated. The Sabbath is the inspirer, the other days the inspired.” Without the inspiration of Sabbath rest, we’re missing out on the delights God has for us. So let Sabbath recharge your soul and launch you into the other six days. It’s the best decision you’ll make each week!