June 3 2018 “Simply Social Sabbath” I Samuel 3. 1-20, *Mark 2.23-3.6 Pastor Jacqueline Hines
How many of us growing up remember the days when none of the grocery stores were open. If you did not get your milk and bread on Saturday, you had to wait until Monday morning. There were no 24 hour grocery stores. As Sonia told me last week, there were no restaurants to eat at after church. You ate Sunday dinner at home. [slide # 1 family dinner]
In my generation, we were ironing Sunday dresses and cooking dinner even on a Sunday, something many in the generation before us would never think of doing. We can think of each generation as getting slack on the rules of Sabbath or we can think of each generation coming to grips with the reality that some rules need not be adhered to blindly and rigidly, but reflectively, flexibly, respectfully, and prayerfully. [slide # 2 remember the Sabbath…] Once when I was studying the Sabbath, I was preparing to do as little common work as I possibly could. It was a challenge when my mother asked me to drive her to the grocery store. I asked the Lord what I should do and I heard God speak to my heart in clear, but simple and paternal tones, “Of course, you better take your mother to the store.” That put an end to any notions I had of thinking I had to choose God over my mother. [slide # 3 law of love]
Sometimes we are frantic about following God’s law. Sometimes we are afraid we will miss our blessings and bring the wrath of God down on our lives. Rather God wants us to see the Ten Commandments – and particularly the 4th [ slide # 4 fourth commandment] one that tells us to honor the Sabbath - as a loving hug that binds us to a wise God and binds us to one another’s affections rather than being a rope that restricts us from enjoying life! [side # 5 the greatest commandment, heart]
In our scripture from Mark, Jesus gives the example of a time when David and his refugee buddies were hungry and ate the bread that was to be kept constantly at the altar. It was called the bread of presence. It represented the nurturing, providing presence of our God. Eating the bread was against the religious, cultural, and spiritual laws. Since David and his soldiers were hungry, they had good reason to eat the bread and put the law on hold. They were close enough to God to reason that eating the bread would not violate the Spirit of the law.
Jesus emphasized the spirit of the law when he said in verse 27, ‘The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath;” God did not make us so we could follow certain rules of the Sabbath like robots. God made the Sabbath for us so we could find rest and relaxation and joy in worship and joy in each other’s presence, and not work ourselves to death. [slide # 6 Sabbath rest]
One of my colleagues mentioned that his wife had a very high profile job. She was making good money, but she was so stressed out by the long commute, the inconvenient hours, and the intensity of the personnel matters that she was under a doctor’s care for high blood pressure and high glucose levels and other symptoms. As soon as she retired, her health changed for the better.
One of my relatives has vascular issues and developed an ulcer on her lower leg. She got a second job full-time job, planning to make some extra money for a few months and transition into deciding which job she was going to keep. It has been nearly a year that she has been working two full time jobs. Family members have grown accustomed to having her pay for dinners and other goodies. But, she still has two full time jobs, and now instead of having one ulcer on her leg, she has two. God made the Sabbath to bless us not to hurt us.
Breaking laws, religious or otherwise, can be very tempting. It is tempting to roll through a stop sign when there is no traffic in sight. [ slide # 7 stop sign] We are often in a rush and can justify doing our own thing. Still, establishing healthy boundaries and obeying safety rules are good habits that are a blessing for many reasons. [slide # 8 obedience…blessings]
It is important to rest and not work ourselves to death. Even more important is it to rest in the Lord after we have done God’s good and holy work. I love the Isaiah 30 verse where God says, “In returning, repenting and rest you shall be saved. In quietness and trust is your strength.”
One thing that has made us especially rest-less these days is the type of incident we witnessed in a Starbucks coffee shop. [slide # 9 Starbucks] It amazes me and gladdens my heart to know that in such incidents, people of many different races take videos with their phones and speak out against hatred. It was Melissa DePino [ slide # 10 Melissa] who videotaped the Starbucks incident.
A few months ago, an incident of the same ilk was discovered at our own United Methodist Albright College in Reading. Also, it is not unusual to find hatemongers driving persons to catastrophe because of their sexual orientation or transgender identity. No human being should be mistreated for any reason. It is good when God sends somebody to help us see the changes that need to be made for the better.
Our work is to always be about the mission of helping others find the light of Jesus and having their lives transformed. [slide # 11 mission of the church…] Our work is to welcome all who enter into God’s presence with us, to share outrageous hospitality no matter where they have come from or where they are going. Our work is to be the hands and feet of Jesus wherever we go. It is not always an easy work, so God provides rest for our souls.
Pastor Clif Christopher author of Rich Church, Poor Church tells the story of going to a new church, having a wonderful first Sunday service and returning to the church that evening to lead the youth group only to find out that there were no youth, so he went out through the neighborhood and to the schools and invited the youth to play basketball and eat hotdogs. After a while, a few members called him in for a meeting and told him that having all those kids around was causing too much mess to clean and the money being spent for snacks was not in the budget, so they wanted to make a new rule: only those kids whose parents were members could come to the group. That attitude is a far cry from that tells us to show hospitality without grumbling as I Peter 4.9 instructs us. [slide # 12 show hospitality]
The pastor said now let’s think about this. What would Jesus do? One member shouted out, “Now you leave Jesus out of this!” We do well to remind ourselves on a daily basis that our journey of faith is not about us, it is about the mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world, it is about diversity and dialogue and daring to pray trusting God to guide and provide.
Fortunately, we do remind ourselves daily as the United Methodist Church that we are all about the mission of making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world. That is why we encourage bible studies, VBS, preschool, and camp where children and youth can get a year’s worth of Christian education in one week. [slide # 13 VBS, Preschool dates] That is why I work hard to make sure everyone’s gifts and talents are being used and sharpened, because we need all hands on deck to equip and strengthen each other to make the journey, to follow Jesus everywhere he leads. That is why we train and equip ourselves to have good boundaries so the bullies and perpetrators remain outside and the peacemakers feel safe as they do God’s work within and without.
We want peacemakers more so than peacekeepers because peacemakers sometimes have to speak the truth in love and stir up the pot while peacekeepers tend to keep the peace, even when others are suffering. Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.
Our Bishop Peggy Johnson reminded all her pastors one year to work hard to keep an eye out for those who need Jesus and those who have never been a part of the church before. It is one thing to work to add members to our rolls from one church to another. It is another thing to work to welcome those who have never professed their faith or never belonged to the church before.
The story is told of one church that had a budget of almost 2 million dollars, and they had two persons join who were new Christians. One expert noted that $800,000 was invested and only two persons professed Jesus as their savior. He questioned whether they had their spending priorities in order. The question was raised, should they spend more money on a mission to encouraged outsiders to follow Jesus? One member chimed up saying, “Why would we count those who are just now professing their faith?” It was said as if outsiders do not matter, but outsiders are the very ones we are called to include in the sheepfold. [slide # 14 calling God-starved…]
What is the work we need to do to reach those who are outside the walls of the church? We received a generous community grant to help us with the elevator. We were encouraged to apply for the grant again, but this time we were asked to work as hard as we could and make a conscious effort to invite persons to serve on our boards who represented a more diverse population.
As a global church, we are in competition with many other businesses, like Starbucks that nurture diversity as a means of keeping the peace and providing good for others in this world. They too are working hard, doing God’s holy work, even though they cannot call themselves religious, much less Christian. Such businesses and organizations, like non-profit hospitals, schools, etc. are financially supported and being called good by many non-religious folks, while some days, churches are left behind, wondering why we should even bother to count the outsiders.
Starbucks gave up millions of dollars to see that their staff was trained to avoid another inhospitable incident. [slide # 15 hands…diversity] Perhaps they were inspired by the church. The United Methodist Church has deep roots in education and training. Yesterday, a diversity training was held at Cedarville UMC. At least two from Bethel attended. It is not the first training that Bethel has been a part of. The Spirit leads me to pray for teachers and students every day. Education and training is the key to eradicate slavery, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, unemployment and many other forms of oppression in our world today. [slide # 16 key on bible]
Education is the key to promote peace, development and well-being. For two Wednesdays in June on the 6th and 20th, staff and leaders of Bethel will gather to attend an in-house training designed to benefit our ultimate mission of equipping and making disciples who are in the business of transforming our world.
The United Methodist Church has close to a thousand, if not more, schools, academies, and universities around the world - Asia-Pacific, Africa, North and South America. Education is an integral part of the Methodist Movement led by John Wesley and Charles Wesley in 18th century England. Kingswood School was the first Methodist school, founded by John Wesley on June 24, 1748, and is still in existence today. [slide # 17 Kingswood school]
After we pray for guidance, educate ourselves, and unite as one body in Christ, we will surely know what work we must do to reach those who are outside our walls, those who need our Jesus. [slide # 18 welcome home]
We will do as one of Allen’s songs reminds us to do, “So you bring the one next to you, And I’ll bring the one next to me; In all kinds of weather, we’ll all work together, And see what can be done…”
For many reasons working hard at welcoming and inviting others to follow us as we follow Jesus is an overwhelming task. There are so many needs and so many new ideas and cultural meanings with which to dialogue and digest. It can be exhausting, sometimes humiliating, and sometimes uncomfortable. Still, it is only after doing God’s good and holy work that we can find rest! [slide # 19 prayer…God’s rest.] Amen. [slide #20 rest..salvation] [slide # 21 make disciples…]