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Resurrection and the Life of the Earth: Sabbath!

Easter 7, Common Lectionary Year A:

Psalm 36:5-7; Romans 8:38

©2020 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones

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Introduction to Scripture & Sabbath Musings

The biblical library is full of other,
more obvious passages about the Sabbath
than the ones we’ve chosen for today.
There’s the verse with which we began worship,
in chapter 2 of Genesis where the notion of “Sabbath”
as a day set apart by God
for rest, delight and holiness is first introduced.
Then there’s the rule-bound writer of Leviticus
sternly admonishing that we keep the Sabbath holy.
And there’s the liberating teaching of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel (2:27)
reminding those who would suck the life and joy it,
that the Sabbath is supposed to be
a gift of God for humanity,
not the other way around.

So what is this Sabbath gift?
If you look at all the biblical references together
(there are 176 of them),
something powerful begins to emerge.
Sabbath – which means
to cease, to stop,
to release, and to delight,
is, as it was for God,
and so also for us creatures,
a punctuation in time.[1]
A deliberate pause –
in fact a repeated habit of taking
deliberate time in which one ceases from
the labour of creating and organizing,
and producing and contributing, and controlling,
to enter into the restful, delightful mystery
of being a part of creation,
and a part of the divine eternal,
as God’s beloved.

The brilliance of this gift of Sabbath
becomes more evident,
when we realize that more often than not,
Sabbath time punctuates troubled time.

That’s what I want to lift up in these two readings
today, neither of which are formal Sabbath texts,
but are rather the fruits of live that
have been shaped and reshaped around
the habit of Sabbath,
of ceasing our human-centredness
long enough to remember who and whose we are.

The verses from Psalm 36, are the filling in a psalm sandwich!
The opening and the ending of the psalm are all
caught up in worrying about the apparent ascendancy
in human politics of liars and cheats and frauds, – the sort of unrelenting news cycle that gets us down,or frazzled, or fearful.
Then comes this Sabbath Pause,
the psalmist, the singer steps away from the rat race,
perhaps she steps out on the deck for a moment,
or walks around her garden,
or down to the lakeshore as the first evening stars pierce
the purpling sky,
she stops and rests, eyes and soul wide open
to this Sabbath pause,
and then she sings:

Your steadfast love, O Holy One, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgments are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O Holy One.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the foundation of life;
in your light we see light.

Can you sense the luminosity of this prayerful pause?
You can feel the bubbling up of…. joy, praise, awe,
connection with someone, something far more
vast, spacious, eternal than mortality,
things without which the human soul atrophies.

Our second reading is some 1000 years younger
than the psalm, and is written by Paul,
the missionary apostle, towards the end of his life,
one that was riddled with troubled times:
persecution, arrest, imprisonment, torture,
shipwreck, displacement, ostracism from the family of his roots,
epidemic, war, chronic illness, factionalism,
ridicule over his allegiance to a crucified criminal,
whom he believed had defeated death,
and in so doing had changed Paul’s life.
These words are born from a life-time of Sabbath practice,
of punctuating all this troubled time with Sabbath time.
They are words that have reached across the centuries
to punctuate the mortal grief of saints and sinners alike
with a ringing Sabbath affirmation of the steadfast love of God.
Listen for these words are true:

For I am persuaded, I am convinced
that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing.
There is nothing we are experiencing now
which can separate us from the love of God.
But we could do with taking a Sabbath pause,
for a second, a moment, an hour, a day,
often, to punctuate these troubled times
with the gift of remembering who and whose we are.

I take a day every week,
it has become holy for me,
necessary, vital, to keep balance,
to keep perspective, to put a pause
between busy times, troubled times
to be filled with moments of attentive emptiness,
and readiness for delight of immersion
in creation’s goodness:
the rise of sourdough,
the spangling light on the river,
the satisfaction of weeding a flowerbed.

Our CPU children this morning spent time planning
a Sabbath pause for their day,
running through a sprinkler
and delighting in the cold tickle of sparkling water;
and making inukshuks with the pebbles along the riverbank;
baking bread;
re-reading a favourite storybook;
cuddling with a sleepy cat;
sharing highs and lows over supper.

I invite you to do the same.
Make a mini-Sabbath moment today;
pause and release while you brew a favourite tea.
Connect with nature with the earth in some way,
watch the bluejay fall off the birdfeeder, listen for the chickadee,
stop when the sun pinks the sky before setting tonight.
Whatever it takes to receive God’s gift of Sabbath,
to remind you who you are, God’s beloved.
Journal it, or share your Sabbath pause
on the comments page of this FB live feed
throughout the day or week.

And with all my heart, for every moment
of Sabbath you take,
Shabbat Shalom.
God’s Sabbath peace be yours.

[1] AbrahamsHeschel, “A sanctuary in time.”

Prayers

UN Environmental Sabbath Program Litany of Commitment

We join with the earth and with each other

to bring new life to the land,
to restore the waters,
to refresh the air.

We join with the earth and with each other

to renew the forests,
to care for the plants,
to protect the creatures.

We join with the earth and with each other

to celebrate the seas,
to rejoice in the sunlight,
to sing the song of the stars.

We join with the earth and with each other

to recreate the human community,
to promote justice and peace,
to remember all children – all creatures – of the earth.

We join with the earth and with each other

to join together as many and diverse expressions of
one loving mystery:
for the healing of earth and the renewal,
the resurrection of the life of the earth.

Amen.

Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon, eds. Life Prayers: From Around the World. (HarperSanFrancisco, 1996)

A Sabbath Prayer (Sam Poore Hamilton)


HOLY ONE, Living Christ, Holy Spirit,
Grant me grace this day
to rest and remember
that there is nothing I have to do,
nothing I have to buy or sell,
nothing I have to produce or consume
in order to become who I already am:
your beloved creation, your beloved disciple.

May your overworked creation
and those who cannot rest today
come to know the joy, the delight,
and the liberation of your holy Sabbath.

Amen.

Sallie McFague, Life Abundant

There is only one world,
a world that God loves.
Since God loves it,
we not only can, but should,
love it too.
In fact, loving the world (not just loving God alone)
or rather, loving God through loving the world,
is the Christian way.

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