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Sunday, June 27, 2021
“Living 24/6” Sermon Series
Scripture: Genesis 18:1-8 & 2 Timothy 1:3-7
Rev. Dr. Troy Hauser Brydon
For a good decade of my childhood and youth, my family would load our family van to trek to Green Lake, Wisconsin, for the week. For the first few years of our travels, we took our 1985 Chevy Beauville van. It might have been the ugliest van in existence, and it was basic. I’m not even sure it had air conditioning, which was particularly a problem in July driving from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin. Around 1993 we upgraded to a Ford Mark III conversion van – complete with a six-inch color television and VCR. It’s amazing how much faster that trip became when we could zone out on pirated VHS tapes for hours on end.
No one in the family loved the road trip. To this day my parents still do all they can to avoid Chicago and the traffic around it. But we took the trip every year because waiting for us on the other end were friendships that deepened year after year. There were the Brittons from Lawrenceburg, Indiana; the Ramphals from St. Paul, Minnesota; the identical twins – Matt and Andy – from Iowa who would alternate clean cut and skater locks every year so no one knew who was who; there were the Brocks from Dillsboro, Indiana; there were the Kutches from Dubuque, Iowa. To this day I remember their hometowns because we would spend the months in between writing letters to each other. Hand-written, mailed letters, folks. We were regular pen pals. Letter after letter through the years forging friendships in a way that just is not possible in our fast-paced e-world.
During the week we all spent in Wisconsin, we maximized all of our time. There were organized activities for the youth in the mornings. Afternoons were free, so we spent a lot of time playing softball or tennis on the courts. In the evenings, the adults would go to a long worship service, and each and every one of us would quietly slip out (as though our parents didn’t know) to go hang out over root beer floats next to the shore of Green Lake, talking about life, about what a great movie Forrest Gump was, about faith, about anything. These hang out times would go on well into the night, sometimes with groups of us hanging out on a small dock, staring out the stars together, and talking about what really mattered to all of us.
Decades have passed since those simpler times, but I still look back with astonishment on the depth of relationship we were able to form with each other over the years. There was something substantive and real about those moments. There was something holy about the space between us, forged through those late nights and long letters. We’ve all moved along in life, closer to the age our parents were when they brought us to Green Lake, but I still feel that sense of gratitude for the gift of relationship we had over that time.
You might be wondering about what this has to do with Sabbath, which, of course, is the subject at hand this summer. The first two weeks really focused on our crazy-busy schedules and our need for rest and restraint, but now I’m turning to something just a little bit different. Sabbath is most certainly about time, but the concept of Sabbath can find application on all sorts of ways. Today we’ll focus especially on how we can be Sabbath for one another. Sabbath is not just about individuals. It occurs in relationship. Sabbath is a gift that occur in the space between people. Wayne Muller encourages us in this. He writes, “One of the most precious gifts we can offer is to be a place of refuge, to be Sabbath for one another.”
So, today we’re going to take a look at how Sabbath creates the space for relationship between God, us, and others through the texts we’ve heard this morning. One of our ongoing themes throughout this series is that making space for Sabbath is about finding abundance, not about doing something just because we should or because it’s good for us. This is not a diet. It’s living into the fullness of God’s purposes for us.
As I dwelled on our texts this week, God revealed to me three themes about how Sabbath functions in the space between us in relationship. Let’s start with our text from Genesis. It’s part of the Abraham narrative, and it’s the first part of the story where God reveals to Abraham and Sarah that they’re going to have a child in their old age. It begins like this, “The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him.” Now, if you’re paying close attention, this doesn’t seem to make sense. The Lord appeared to Abraham. That seems like a stunning encounter, doesn’t it? But Abraham doesn’t actually see God. There’s no earthquake. No burning bush. What is there? Three men standing outside of Abraham’s tent. If three men showed up at my door, I’d assume they’re trying to sell me something or perhaps they’re at my home to fix the plumbing. I wouldn’t think God just showed up. Yet, that’s what Abraham does. In these visitors, Abraham sees the Lord at work. So, there is something holy, something special in the space between Abraham and these visitors.
What does he do with them? He invites them into his life. He asks them to stay and break bread with him. They make some bread, dust off the grill, and throw some burgers on it. When someone has made the point to visit, it’s worth the effort to show hospitality to that person. What’s really interesting to me is that Abraham does this expecting absolutely nothing in return. It’s as though his actions reveal that the effort is worth it regardless of the outcome. Abraham’s actions are not transactional. He welcomes these three strangers without reservation and without expecting anything in return. It would have been enough for him just to have hosted these three men on their journey and treated them with kindness. Yet, these visitors have a message from the Lord. They give Abraham the unexpected news that he and Sarah will finally be parents after a century of waiting. He welcomed them expecting nothing in return, but he received an unexpected blessing because he opened his life up to the relationship. The Lord worked in the space created between Abraham and these three men. What does this tell us? We should open our lives up to relationship, not because we are guaranteed a blessing but because it creates the conditions for that blessing to occur. Relationships are not transactional, and neither is the Sabbath.
Let’s move along to our text from 2 Timothy. Now, this is not a Sabbath text. It’s not from the Ten Commandments. It’s not a Sabbath controversy in the gospels. Rather, it’s a glimpse into the deep, beautiful relationship the Apostle Paul has with Timothy. Paul and Timothy met during Paul’s second missionary journey, which took him through Lystra in what we now call Turkey. Timothy became a co-laborer in Paul’s ministry and was like a son to him. My attention today is drawn to Paul’s deep gratitude for the person Timothy is because of those who raised him. While it is not always the case, it is often the case that who we are is heavily influenced by those who raised us. Just as I am who I am in part because of those summer weeks spent in Green Lake, Wisconsin, so too Timothy is who he is because of his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice. It’s a lesson I see to be so completely true here at First Pres. There are a good number of us who are a part of this church because of our relationships. We’re here because it’s our parents’ or our grandparents’ church. We’re here because we met people in our first visits or in our new members class who have become lifelong friends. We’re here because we have witnessed the growth of our children’s faith thanks to countless volunteers who gave of their time to create space for faith between kids and adults.
Faith is lived generationally. We see it in this short introduction to Paul’s letter to Timothy. Lois has passed faith on to Eunice who passed it along to Timothy. Perhaps you’ve seen it in your own life. It’s always a blessing to look out into these pews and see multiple generations of one family in church together or to know that many of you are here because of the faith of your parents or some other loved one. Sometimes the opposite is true. Some of us have come from backgrounds that did not create the space for faith. I’m in awe of those of you who found faith despite your upbringing. This is true not just for faith but also for how we manage our time and relationships. Just as Timothy’s mother and grandmother created space for faith and relationship, so also how we manage our time and relationships has connections to how we were raised. It’s something that shapes us, but it is not fate. Our upbringing is important, but it does not ultimately control us. However we were raised, I hope that we take steps to make space to be Sabbath to others.
You see, leaving space for relationships is vital to abundant life. We all know how difficult that past year has been for relationships. To keep each other safe, many of us held off on visiting in person with those we loved. Even when we felt comfortable, sitting outside with ample distance in between us just couldn’t replace hugs, laughter, and play. One of the things I most love about this church is that we have deep connections to each other. After more than a year away, one of my greatest fears is that we’ll forget how important those connections are. I do see it in your faces as you return and see others you haven’t seen in a long time. You are so relieved and glad to be back together that it makes the effort to get here worth it.
I’ll tell you what. It’s also a challenge to rebuild social energy. I know I’ve gotten out of practice over the past year. As I’ve started attending graduation parties or the all-church picnic, I had my “deer in the headlights” moments where all I could think was, “People. So many people. What do I even say to them?” It took effort, but I am very much enjoying the happy reacquaintances with you all. Narrowing the space between us has been a source of delight.
That’s part of God’s design for our relationships. As we move Sabbath from a concept that is solely about time into a broader idea that it includes space for deepening relationships, we come to learn how to be more fully human. “At our best, we become Sabbath for one another period we are the emptiness, the day of rest. We become space, that our loved ones, the lost and sorrowful, may find rest in us. Whenever two or more are gathered, there am I in the midst of you. Not fixing, not harming, not acting. Quietly empty, we become Sabbath, where the sorrows of the world are safely poured and gently dissolved into the unfathomable immensity of rest, and silence.”
So, this week let’s take some time to delight in each other. Call a friend you haven’t seen in a while and set up a time for coffee. Perhaps you can be more intentional about your visit by bringing something special to you. You can share why that object is special to you. Or share a story about why this other person matters to you. Go deeper than the weather or summer plans. Get real with each other. When you do, I think you’ll find that the space between is charged with holiness and that God meets you even there. Sabbath is a space for us to find delight in each other.
 Wayne Muller, Sabbath, 119.
 Ibid., 183.