July 4, 2021
Sunday Worship, The Gift of Rest
Prelude—Come Unto Me
Lighting the Peace Lamp— Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
Welcome— Good morning and welcome here. It is good to be together before God today. This summer, we’re practicing making time and space for the sacred this summer. We’re invited this morning to reflect on God’s good gift of rest. If there’s something in your life that you’d like us to pray with you about or if there’s something else that you’d like to be passed on during Sharing Time, just send a message to me (at firstname.lastname@example.org put in the chat); and I’ll be glad to pass that on. Now let’s continue with our call to worship.
Call to Worship—
Breathe in rest.
You are here.
God is here.
Breathe in the gift of rest.
Breathe out fear.
Breathe in the gift of rest.
Breathe out busyness.
Breathe in the gift of rest.
Breathe out stress.
Breathe in permission to rest.
Breathe out weariness.
Hear Jesus’ words: “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.”
Adapted from A Sacred Summer, FreerangeWorship
Children’s Time Gathering Song— Come and See, VT #282, Sung by CMCL on Jan 26, 2020
Children’s Time—Darrell Yoder
Offering—Thank you for your continued support of your congregation. Our budget supports our staff, our building, our congregational care, and our outreach commitments. We are grateful that this community is a place to seek and give mutual aid – and to reach out beyond our community, too. Thanks so much for being the church and giving to the work of the Church.
We would be silent and rest now, Lord.
that we may receive
the gift we need,
so that we may become
the gift others need.
Voices Together #1021, adapted
Sermon— “The Gift of Rest,” Susan Gascho-Cooke
This summer, we continue our look at the practices and themes that can help us find the sacred in our moments and our days. Today, we are looking at rest. The Gift of Rest.
There are approximately 750,000 words in the English translations of the Old and New Testaments. The first 800 tell the story of God tangibly, thinking, breathing, forming and loving the world into being. And the 806th word (according to the NRSV) is “rested.”
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished,
and all their multitude.
And on the seventh day God finished the work they had done,
and they rested on the seventh day
from all the work that they had done.
So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it,
because on itGod rested
from all the work that they had done in creation.
The rhythm of life as presented in our faith’s creation story is one of creativity in work followed by satisfaction and rest.Unfortunately, that rhythm did not last long. About 1,000 words after we read about the world’s first “rest,” we come to the word “toil” in contrast to the “work” of Genesis 1, which God punctuates with rest. The work of creating and tending the new earth was the work of seeing, molding, breathing, naming, shaping, delighting in the unfolding beauty, pausing to sit back and watch, to reflect and consider whether the painting is done, or whether it needs something more.
But Paradise is Lost so quickly, and so quickly the story turns from blessing to curse. Beloved creatures Adam and Eve, for eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, are told that from now on creativity (bringing new life into the world) will be painful, and work will be toil achieved by the sweat of the brow, and the earth will fight against themto yield food and nourishment.You shall sweat until you die and your body returns to the earth. No rest for the weary in Genesis 3.
These contrasting narratives would make a truly sad How It Started vs How It’s Going meme.
But what, really, is a curse? After all, Deuteronomy 30, records God saying: “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live …”
Unfortunately, for much of humanity, throughout history and now, life has indeed been largely about unrewarded toil, with little rest. I believe, however, that our sacred text makes clear that the reality we were created in and for, the life that was dreamed and intended for us by God, was a life of creative labor, punctuated by rest and satisfaction.
Rest is codified in the Ten Commandments — it’s #4, in fact:
Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy,
as the Lord your God commanded you.
For six days you shall labour and do all your work.
But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God;
you shall not do any work—you, or your children,
or any laborer that you enslave,
or any of your livestock,
or the resident alien in your towns,
so that even those you enslave may rest
as well as you.
Remember that you were enslaved in the land of Egypt,
and the Lord your God brought you out from there
with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm;
therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
As Walter Brueggemann wrote in his book,Sabbath as Resistance: Saying NO to the Culture of NOW,“Sabbath is the great day of equality when all are equally at rest.…”Brueggemann also notes how this commandment is the hinge between the three commandments about right relationship with God
1. You shall not not put any other gods before me
2. You shall not make or worship idols,
3. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of God
and the six commandments that follow the 4th, which are about right relationship with your community:
5. Honor your father and your mother
6. You shall not murder.
7. Neither shall you commit adultery.
8. Neither shall you steal.
9. Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife,
nor shall you desire anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The life reflected in these ten commandments is no utopia, nor is it the Kin-dom of God that Jesus preaches and teaches. The commandments do not say, “thou shalt not enslave anyone,” for example, which omission seems like a pretty egregious oversight.
I think it’s significant, though, at the least, that God’s intention is for there to be restfor everyone, even in an unjust, unbalanced reality. And that it isyourresponsibility, ourresponsibility, to ensure thateveryonewithin our web of connection restsjust as well as you do.Rest is not just for those who have lucrative enough jobs or inheritances to be able to afford vacations. Everyone should be able to restas well aseveryone else. Sabbath is bodily and economic, despite the history of Christianity’s attempts to spiritualize it.
“Those who participate in [Sabbath] break the anxiety cycle. They are invited to the awareness that life does not consist in frantic production and consumption that reduces everyone else to threat and competitor” (Breuggemann 27–28). “Our life does not exist in commodity,” but in community. (Breuggemann 32)
We need this reminder, this invitation, now more than ever. And frankly, most of us probably need thecommandmentto do it.
I’m in a profession and a denomination and congregation that provides its pastors with sabbaticals. Not all churches provide that, though, and most professions and jobs don’t even pretend to offer work stoppages for the explicit purpose of rest and restoration.
Which brings us back to the wording of the commandment about honoring the Sabbath: It’s not just about taking rest for yourself, the commandment makes ityourbusiness to make sure that everyone in your community is getting rest.
This is no easy or simple task. Most people who don’t rest enough do so because they feel they cannot pause because they can’t afford to lose the income. And we valorize over-working in America, especially when the poor are doing it. That’s how you achieve the American dream, how you “get ahead,” how you pull yourself up by your “bootstraps:” the noble parents who work 3 minimum wage jobs so that their children only have to work one job wishing a living wage.
The only way to do this is to participate in dark magic, in necromancy: robbing your body and your spirit and your family of energy and time that should be invested in replenishing yourself and engaging in relationship and play.
We saw this year how hard rest was, even when you couldn’t do “all the things” because of social distancing. The emotional toll of fear and anxiety and isolation made it difficult to feel restored, even if you were able to free up more hours for sleep
And now that we are tiptoeing back toward normalcy, COVID-wise, will we harken to the echoed whispers of our 2020 selves, begging our future selves not to go back to “normal” levels of stress and busyness?
Can we hear Jesus words, in Matthew 11:
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
Again, though, it is the dual invitation: to honor the Sabbath for ourselves; to do everything in our power to prioritize rest and restoration in the cycle of our lives, but also to do everything in our power to create the conditions in which rest and restoration are accessible toall?
Could we have sabbatical co-ops? or sabbath co-ops? where a group of people make a pact to support one another so that in turn, each person can take rest in ways that don’t economically jeopardize their lives?
Could we find ways to preemptively give one another permission to rest — and permission to not have to run one’s self ragged in order to deserve rest?
The worship resources we’re drawing from this summer give some ideas and inspiration for finding Sabbath rest for ourselves, and I’ll share some of those here and we’ll send the full list of suggestions and prompts out as an email later today.
But the corporate aspects of Sabbath are, I think, trickier; there simply aren’t neat suggestions for building in 5-15 minute breaks forsocietalrest We must imagine that ourselves, and call each other to enact it.
Each day of the week, take time to do the 5 or the 15-minute practice. Plan a time to do the Going Deeper practice sometime during the week.
- 5-minute Practice:Sit down somewhere peaceful and comfortable or pick a quiet spot to lay down and just rest for 5 whole minutes.
- 15-minute Practice:Plan ahead and consider what helps you rest and relax and connect with yourself and Jesus. Make a plan to build that into your day.
- Going Deeper:Set up a Sabbath/Rest Day. We all need community to help us practice real rest because we forget to do it on our own and if we live with other people, it helps them to be on board too. If you are going to set up a sabbath rest time or an afternoon or a 24-hour sabbath day practice, you need to talk about this with a friend, family, housemates, small group, etc., so you can have the space to practice rest either on your own, or better yet, as a group. When could you have an evening or an afternoon that is all about rest? Put it on the calendar and actually open the gift of rest together.
Choose one or several to try.
- Sabbath Spot:Create a place in your home or yard that can be your Sabbath Spot, your rest area. Each day this week, practice resting.
- Create a Sabbath Box:Select a big enough container to hold items like your cell phone, laptop, or game controller. This box is designated to create space to store away items that might distract you as you choose to disconnect from the world and connect with God.
- Permission Granted:Create your own permission slip. Write on this slip, “You have permission to rest. -Jesus.”
- For Families:Talk about what an actual Sabbath rest day could look like for your family. Have no chores or shopping. Talk about what would bring you rest and joy both as a family and as individuals. What things would restore your soul as a family?
- Listen:Create a playlist of restful music to listen to during your time of sabbath rest practice.
These are just a few prompts. You are creative people — I know you! May you feel encouraged, nudged, blessed to rest. And if you simply don’t feel that permission within you, blame it on God, and say that God told you you had to!
Whatever it takes. Try rest.
And try to build in true respect and affirmation for the rest of others.
May it be so. Amen.
Sharing Time—Please email your prayer requests or reflections this morning to email@example.com. They will be sent out by email by Monday morning.
Sharing Time Prayer—Having brought our spoken and unspoken prayers before God, let’s rest now in the prayer Jesus taught his followers to pray:
O God in heaven,
holy be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory now and forever.
Announcements—Next Sunday, July 11, 2021 will be an outdoor, in-person service at 10:00 a.m. at the West Earl Township Park, located in front of the Township building at 157 W. Metzler Road, Brownstown PA.
Closing Song—Blessed Quietness
Go now in peace.
May you enjoy God’s good gift of rest and blessed quietness this week.
May joys flow like a river and the Comforter bring assurance to your soul.
Worship Leader: Leslie Homer-Cattell
Sermon: Susan Gascho-Cooke
Children’s Time: Darrell Yoder
Tech host: Drew Brubaker