Sabbath

Where Jesus Fails

Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.

When his disciples needed a rest, Jesus didn’t snap his fingers and heal them of their stress and exhaustion. Instead he tried, unsuccessfully, to find them a place to rest. God will never give us a red bull energy drink when we need to take a day off for our own sanity. There are no cheap fixes for the over-committed life. Even Jesus had to look for a place to hide his disciples so that they could recover their inner calm

Sunday, July 22, 2018
Pentecost 11

Rules don't always Rule

Our society is getting obsessed by rules. I grew up in 1960s, we broke the rules. Go to Barnes &Noble and just note how many books have the word rules in the title. You’ll find 10 rules for dieting, dating, and getting your dog to behave. One of the best sellers on Amazon this year was  “Robert’s Rules of Order.” Why now?

I’m betting that it has to do with our current political polarization. Whether you are arguing about immigration or the Russia investigation, one or both sides will be running to the rulebook to make their case. The NFL just passed a rule regarding players kneeling during the anthem. Notice that they didn’t pass a rule to prevent hot dogs and beer from the being sold during the anthem, or the announcers speaking over the playing of the anthem, or the coaches using the 10 extra minutes they can get with all the players in the locker room to prep for the game.

All of this has something to do with Jesus. Mark begins his gospel by showing us Jesus breaking the rules. There was a lot of religious rules back then that most people ignored — But if you were a religious teacher, you were expected to keep all the rules, plus make up a few more, just to prove yourself more holy. Jesus didn’t play this game.

Sunday, June 3, 2018
Pentecost 3

Passover in September?

Because it follows the Exodus story, the Lectionary tells us about Passover just after Labor Day. This seems strange, because this Jewish feast always falls in early spring, often near our Easter. What God tells Moses to do here is a ritual. Many of us flee from ritual. When people do a passover meal, they sometimes call it a “Seder,” which means an order of service or a ritual. God speaks through Moses, saying, do this and you shall live. God is serious about this and Moses must have been persuasive. How else would he get people to splash blood upon the door posts of their house? In some ways, doing ritual is our downpayment on spiritual change. We pray to be made different people. But nothing changes until we make some outward sign of commitment. So a couple wants to change and become more serious about their relationship. He buys her an engagement ring. They set a date. These are ritual things. Let’s sat you want to lose weight. You can wish and hope. Most people find that going down and actually plunking money down as a deposit on having a coach or a weight loss program and clearing your calendar so that you actually are committed to go running at 6am… I’m not endorsing any of this, I’m just saying that these are the kind of things one does. In the Bible, ritual is tied to real sacrifice. This is something you commit yourself to doing, even when it is easier to stay in bed. This is something you do even when it is expensive (Passover lamb wasn’t cheap for the people in Egypt).
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Pentecost 18

Trust the Process

The salvation of our souls is a process. Paul describes it this way, “If we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). There is a death process, where we release our hold on the things of this world. There is also a mysterious life process, or resurrection. We have to trust that these two processes are linked. If we let go, we also take on. The dying can be an old selfish way of seeing the world. I might have been raised with racial stereotypes or with a competitive attitude about life. If I can let go, God has a process that will fill me with love for others.

I find myself thinking of a caterpillar spinning a cocoon and beginning their transition to butterfly-ness. The caterpillar has to trust the metamorphosis process. Why should he let go of his old life? He was happy feeding his face, munching across the magnolia leaf. Every butterfly that we encounter has made the same choice, to let go of their old life and trust the process. Do we have the courage of this little worm?

Often our default approach to life is to doubt and to be impatient. We know that there is a process for everyone to share the road. If we follow the traffic laws, we can arrive safely at our destination. Yet we speed. If we encounter a detour or construction, we swear. We start looking for ways to use parking lots and shoulder lanes to get ahead of everyone else. The opposite of trusting the process is to look for questionable ways to obtain our own ends. We break the rules. We circumvent processes put in place to help everyone.

Sunday, June 25, 2017
Pentecost 7

Three things about Creation

As I begin the summer, with all of its activities, I always refresh my commitment to spend some of it simply enjoying creation. This year I hope to continue my pursuit of elusive butterflies and their caterpillars, which I photograph and post to my Facebook page. Learning which caterpillar becomes which butterfly has helped me to appreciate the complexity of God’s creation. Where before I saw woods and meadow, now I see habitat, biodiversity, and adaptation. This is a spiritual maturation that Genesis 1 and Psalm 8 encourage. What lays ahead of us should be a season of wonder.

Genesis gives a simplified, non-scientific, account of the beginning of life on earth. I think it is silly to pit this ancient text against modern understandings of how the world works. Genesis is a gift given to us to inspire awe about our world. We see God declaring everything good; both the darkness and the light, both the sea and the dry ground, both our home turf and the dome of heaven. We are free to explore all of this and to become wise. Evolution and other scientific discoveries, allow us to understand the ongoing dynamics of biology. Knowing these things helps us in our fight against life-threatening pollution and climate change. Only a fool would think science and religion are enemies.

Sunday, June 11, 2017
Trinity Sunday
Pentecost 2

Amos 2: Bad bananas

“May all your heads be bald and your wardrobe turned to sackcloth!” This curse has been brought to you by the prophet Amos. It’s mid-summer and everyone is heading out on vacation. There are parties on the beach and gas being guzzled by ATVs. It is also the last day. The end will come soon. Judgement. The vision that God gives to Amos is stark. Our summer fruit is rotten. The festival music will end. The wailing will begin. As mentioned last week (see Amos 1), many pastors are afraid to preach from Amos because he has mostly bad news.

Sunday, July 17, 2016
Pentecost 11

Negative Space

This morning, there was news about a french chef who committed suicide after losing one of the Micheline Stars that had been awarded to his restaurant. The commentators spoke about the eighteen hour work day that chefs/owners regularly put in and the competitive grind of the business. Whether you become a doctor, a cook, a lawyer, or an importer of fancy candlesticks, someone will say to you, “If you want to succeed in this business, you need to give 110 percent.” You will hear that and interpret it to mean that your career is worth 9, 13, or 18 hours of your life each day.

Dusting the Altar Rail

Do this: while you’re reading Solomon’s dedication prayer for the temple, take a can of Pledge and dust the altar rail. If your church doesn’t have one, take a few moments to complain about that fact (the architect must have been a pagan). Solomon admits that God doesn’t need an altar rail to be worshiped — in fact his great temple didn’t have one. Actually, his whole temple was an altar rail and the courts around it equivalent to the kneeling pads we place before our rail. In church language, people come to the altar during prayer time, even if they don’t leave their pew. Similarly, those living at a distance in Solomon’s day, lifted their hands towards Jerusalem and the Temple when they prayed.

 

Sunday, August 23, 2015
Pentecost 16

Child's Play

Someone has observed that Americans play at their work (hence our declining productivity) and work at their play (hence the billion dollar recreation industry). To those who trick out their computers to play video games, spend hours perfecting their golf swing, and exhaust their weekends in constant motion, the Lord says, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” Many of us don’t know how to rest. When Jesus calls us to come to him and find rest for our souls, something in our hearts says, yes! But then we ignore Jesus and listen to our busy calendar.  Others, though, have a problem being fruitfully employed. The Lord’s word to them is “Six days you shall labor…” Americans have become so enamored with time and labor saving devices, that they have forgotten the value of spending a day at one’s craft. 

 

Sunday, July 6, 2014
Pentecost 9

Away from it all

What an odd choice. Jesus you’ve just been baptized and announced to be God’s gift for humanity; where are you going to go?  Jesus’ answer, “Away from it all.” We live now in a world of constant connectivity. I grew up in a time when if you passed people on the street talking to themselves, you knew they were crazy. Now, if you are simply walking — I mean looking at the world around you and putting one foot in front of another —- people ask you what’s wrong with your cell phone. Information floods in. We refuse to simply be quiet. We contribute our tweets to the chaos. We have become crazy people.

 

Jesus didn’t need to get away as much as we do. He chose forty days of wilderness. Complete isolation. He had no cell phone reception or wifi. The world lost his wisdom from Facebook for forty days. He heard no one. Even the devil honored this choice of solitude until the last few days. Jesus only needed forty days to reestablish his sanity, how long do you need?

 

Sunday, March 9, 2014
Lent 1
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