A Sermon on Genesis 2:1-4, Exodus 20:8-11, and Mark 6:30-32
Preached at Trinity Presbyterian Church of Independence, Missouri
September 8, 2019 – Outdoor Sunday
The heavens and the earth and all who live in them were completed. On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation. This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught. Many people were coming and going, so there was no time to eat. He said to the apostles, “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” They departed in a boat by themselves for a deserted place.
I want us to try something together. For a full minute, I want us to be silent. You can close your eyes, you can look around. It’s ok if you need to cough or if your kid gets wiggly – silence is never perfect. But let’s just sit, intentionally quiet, and listen. One minute, 60 seconds, starting now. (Keep Silence for sixty seconds).
What did you hear? Would you have heard that if we had been talking or singing?
Today is Rally Day at our church, the day in which we recognize that summer has ended and a new program year of the church has started. We’ll kick off Sunday School next week, prep for the Fall Fun Fest and Stewardship Season, move on to Advent, all the way through Easter and next summer. In most churches, Rally Day is an opportunity to get everyone excited to be involved and busy during the next year. That’s a good way to do Rally Day. But today, I want to focus on something we might forget as fall get busy – today I want us to remember to take time for quiet and rest.
Throughout Scripture, God calls us to rest – to take holy rests called Sabbath. This is a sharp contrast to most of our lives, because we are experts at giving into the temptation of busyness. It used to be when you asked someone how they were, the automatic response was “fine.” Now, the automatic response to “how are you” is “busy.” I hear myself say regularly say things like: “Oh, I’ll rest better if I just finish this one thing.” Or, “I really shouldn’t go do that wonderfully fun thing with you, because I just have so much to do at home.” Or, “Sure I need to rest, but if I don’t take care of this then no one will.” If you’ll allow me to be brutally honest, I have caught almost all of you saying at least one of these before. I’m not being critical – I love it when you work hard and say yes, especially to the church.
But sometimes, we make an idol out of our busyness. We determine that we’re defined by what we do, and to be the busiest bee in the hive is to somehow be the best. And if we can be the most humble about our busyness, then all the better! Beloved, this is not who God created us to be. Being constantly busy is a sin. Hard work is not a sin, but refusing to take time to rest is – refusing to rest suggests that we think we can be busier and better than God.
God rests all over the Bible, and commands us to do the same. God could have easily kept creating after 6 days. Instead, God created Sabbath, and entire day of rest, a break from the other 6 days. God delivers the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and, knowing that they are used to 24/7 labor, commands them to keep the Sabbath – the day of rest - holy. Jesus sees his disciples are tired and commands them to rest. Sabbath isn’t a luxury, it’s a command from God. It’s necessary to rest for our lives to work. But rest has become alien to us. I wonder how many of us were uncomfortable being silent for a full minute. If it felt like an eternity, perhaps we need to do it more often.
We are called to resist the temptation to be always busy. We have to learn the discipline of truly discerning what can wait, what can remain undone, and what we can let someone else handle. We have to say “no” to a completely full schedule and allow time for rest, worship, and quiet – just as God does and just as God tells us to do.
And so once a year, we come to this Rally Day service and take a Sabbath from even our regular Sunday. We go outside when it’s not too wet, in the creation in which God invented rest – today we get to listen to the rain and wind of that same creation. We give our Sanctuary electricity. We Sabbath from having printed bulletins, which gives our natural resources a break. Our nursery workers and musicians and ushers and worship leaders get to Sabbath from normal Sunday duties and just worship with the rest of us.
In this service, in this Sabbath from Sabbaths, I’m going to invite you to
another minute of silence. Push aside what needs to be done next. Push aside wishing for your comfortable pew. Push aside the need for every day to be the same and welcome the opportunity to rest in a different way. Let’s be silent for a minute and listen to God, enjoy just being with one another, and enjoy the quiet. Let’s take 60 seconds for quiet, starting now. (Keep Silence for sixty seconds).
The living American poet Wendell Berry has made a practice of writing a poem about his Sabbath time every Sunday. This is one he wrote in 1979:
The mind that comes to rest is tended
In ways that it cannot intend:
Is borne, preserved, and comprehended
By what it cannot comprehend.
Your Sabbath, Lord, thus keeps us by
Your will, not ours. And it is fit
Our only choice should be to die
Into that rest, or out of it.
As we rest today, as we enjoy being in each other’s company, let’s remember to make Sabbath an intentional part of our life of faith. Next week we’ll begin our fall programming, and we have a lot in store! Activity is good. Work is good. But we are only supposed to do those things about 85% of the time - 6 days out of 7. On the 7th day, we Sabbath.
Rest is something we need to do, alongside Bible study and tithing and working the funnel cake book and all the other things we do. God doesn’t define us by our productivity; God defines us by what’s in the heart. So, my friends, I encourage you as we transition into fall to take Sabbath seriously. It is good, it is holy, and it is needed. Amen.