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Riverside, California
Studying scripture and preaching the Word to draw us into deeper understanding and more faithful discipleship.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Go Team! Commandments 7 & 8

Can I just say, marriage is hard sometimes?  They tell you before you get married that “it takes work”, but really “it takes work” comes nowhere close to expressing the truth of how hard it is to share your life with someone who loves differently, believes differently, prioritizes differently, spends differently, and thinks differently than you. And “it takes work” will never be able to encompass the challenges of loving through miscarriages, foreclosures, bankruptcy, in-laws moving in, job changes, cancer, parenting, and even just every day misunderstandings and miscommunications.  Marriage is hard and demands a lot.
I’m not trying to discourage you who are engaged, but I am trying to state the facts that marriage can be really tough. It requires 100% commitment and effort from both people.  Some say it’s 50/50, but really it’s 100/100—each person has to give of themselves to make the marriage work.  And when you’re giving it all to grow in love—you really have to give it ALL—you’ve gotta give your best to be your best.
Think of it this way—say you’re drafted and sign with the Denver Broncos.  What’s your responsibility?
·         Get to know the team
·         Learn the plays
·         Practice with the team
·         Train for strength and endurance
·         Push through adversity
·         Celebrate the victories with the team
If you want to be any good, you have to put in a lot of work with your team.  But what if you didn’t show up to the Denver practices. Or maybe you just kind of faked your way through it but never really learned the plays and hardly learned what would work well with your team mates?  Instead you decided to start practicing with the New York Jets.  You learn their plays and hang out with those guys, despite the fact that you’re in a lifetime contract with the broncos.  How well would you play with the Broncos if all your time was with the Jets?  Not well.  If you don’t invest in a team, then you can’t expect to succeed with the team. 
Marriage is like that. If you sign on with your partner—you can’t go and spend your time and energy with someone else.  It may sound like a good idea, especially if things are rocky, but at the end of the day, your team isn’t stronger. You need your head in the game. You need to be all in. You can’t split your allegiances and still expect to succeed.
                God knows the power of the covenant of marriage. God knows what it is to be loved for all your strengths and all your failures.  God knows what it is to be accepted and heard and valued when everything is going your way and when nothing is.  Marriage is meant to offer us that deep love and acceptance. But a depth of trust and intimacy don’t just happen by luck, they take work and intentional effort. And so you’ve got to be all-in. 
                Now, just like any good team, even with the right players, and regular practice, and strength and endurance training, and good communication, some plays won’t work, some days you’ll lose.  But you don’t quit the team just because it was hard or just because you lost one game, or even one season.  If you signed on, then you continue to give your best to strengthen the team.
                Now remember what I said in the beginning?  Marriage is hard. Some seasons hit hard.  Some years feel like all you’ve done is lose.  BUT, marriage is also rich with blessings.  The hugs, the listening ear, the companionship, the intimacy, the trust, the adventures, those are the wins.  That’s what make it worth all the effort and sacrifice.  And to know the fullness of what that commitment can offer you have to give it your all, and give it your best.  We won’t know how amazing marriage can be if we are always considering what it would be like to be on a different team. 
God wants you to play for the team to which you signed. 
                To be sure, the 6th-10th commandments are pretty straightforward.   It hardly seems like they warrant explanation, but there’s always more than just understanding the letter of the law.  And there’s the fact that we struggle to uphold the laws in their entirety, regardless of how well we might know them. Commandment #8 says, “thou shalt not steal”.  We get that.  No one should take something that doesn’t belong to them.  If I tell you not to steal, you know what that means.  We can readily define what is ours and what is someone else’s and know that we shouldn’t just take that which doesn’t belong to us.  But why not?  Scripturally, we understand it’s because God has made enough for all of us—God’s provision is abundant. And if we understand and live within that, then there’s no need to steal.  To live by God’s law is to allow for God’s provision to provide for all as God planned.  We are invited to believe that playing fair is sufficient and worthwhile because winning isn’t about having more than everyone else.  Winning for God is about being the best of who we are created to be. 
Now that might sound “soft” and like an “everybody wins” mentality.  But it’s not about giving everyone a trophy regardless of performance; it’s about ensuring a fair game.  Think of it this way—this last week the New England Patriots won the AFC championship game—but then a couple of days later, the news broke that Tom Brady, their quarterback, had played with deflated footballs.  There’s some question about who deflated the balls.  Was it Brady?  A coach? The equipment manager? Someone on the sidelines?  I’m not here to solve the mystery, but instead to point out that regardless of who did it—deflating the balls stole the opportunity for a fair game. 
Is it possible that the patriots still would have won, even with the balls fully inflated?  Sure. But that’s not the point.  The point is we don’t know who would have won if it was a fair game. It could have been the patriots. But it’s possible it would have been the colts.  It’s great to win, but if you win you want to know you did it—that you gave your best and played well and the best team won.  Similarly, a loss is a loss—it’s not what any team wants, but a loss is tolerable if you know the other team brought their A game and played a better ball game. But you don’t want to lose because a ref threw the game or because some guy deflated the football.  We all want to win, but we know that can’t happen 100% of the time.  Losing happens.  Most of us can accept that.  But what we can’t accept is not being given the chance, a fair chance, to show our stuff and prove we were the better player or team. 
To live with the satisfaction that what God has provided is enough is to take our share, and use it, to play a fair game, and trust that the highs and lows that will result will pan out in the end.  But your chance to succeed, to be your best, is stolen when someone else rigs the game.  No one wants to play the team that cheats. No one wants to play in the arena where the refs always call for the home team.  Why bring our best if we aren’t given a fair chance in the first place? 
So how does all of that relate to the 8th commandment?  How does cheating in a game relate to everyday life?  Well, in how God designed life, everyone has a chance, everyone has gifts and talents to use, and everyone should be given the chance, a fair chance, to be their best.  But institutionally and systemically, we have rigged the game.  Now, not necessarily us personally and individually, but companies, governments, and some groups have stolen the opportunity for everyone to play a fair game.  Now some of those structures and injustices have been around a long time.  It’s hard to undo systemic injustice.  But if we want to have an honest conversation about playing fair and providing an opportunity for everyone to live into the world God designed, then we have to acknowledge that for a lot of folks, the game is rigged.  If they don’t have clean water, or enough food, or access to education, then how can we expect them to bring their A game?  We’ve been taught to absolve ourselves of responsibility for them.  We are responsible for us and they are responsible for them.  But, as Christians, we are called to see the world not just for what it is, but for what God wants it to be, and that means everyone should have a fair chance.  And a fair chance includes access to the necessities of everyday living.  You wouldn’t expect a fair game if one team had all the best pads, shoes, and equipment, while the other team played barefoot, with cardboard pads, and equipment that’s falling apart.  Each team may be coming with what they have, but really, it’s not a fair game.  We can see that.  So, how can we think that a fair chance is offered when they have to walk a mile to get a few gallons of river water, while we have purified water anywhere anytime.  The game has been rigged around the world.  And part of our responsibility is making sure we play fair and that our brothers and sisters around the world have a fair chance to become their best.  That means we invest in wells for clean water, schools for education, and food for their tables. And it means we look at the systems that promote and protect inequality and injustice and work against it. 
As a church, we’ve worked hard to help create opportunities and chances for people to be their best.  We have given nearly $200,000 through our Christmas Miracle offering over the years, and more throughout the year, to create a fair chance for people to have employment, education, housing, and basic necessities.  As a denomination, we have given millions of dollars to fight malaria in Africa so people have a chance at a healthy life.  United Methodists have built schools, hospitals, shelters, clinics, and churches to help level the field, providing for the everyday needs of brothers and sisters around the world.  We have truly been about God’s work.  And at the same time, we know that we enjoy more riches in one year than most will enjoy in a lifetime.  The game is getting better, but it’s still not fully fair.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

There's no "I" in Team (Commandments 5 & 6)

Football is a team sport.  We know this, right?  11 for each team on the field and a gazillion on the side lines (NFL 53, college 80 on the roster). Generally a few players or positions are known and get all the glory, but every one who is worth his salt knows he can’t do his job if they aren’t doing their job.  We learn the names of quarterbacks, receivers and running backs and they get the glory. They throw and catch the ball and make the game exciting.  At least on a surface level, but really, if the linemen don’t block, the quarterback gets sacked and the ball doesn’t move down the field, generally, it moves back up the field.  And if you’re playing defense, if the big linemen don’t hold their line, your linebackers and safetys won’t ever make it to sack their quarterback or the defensive backs won’t be able to catch the running backs.  Every position on the field has a responsibility and work to do, and only when they do it well together, not just for themselves or their own glory, is it really a good team that makes for a good game.  But beyond what happens on the field, there’s a dynamic of teamwork that cultivates the culture of sportsmanship for the whole team.  And beyond one team are so many more, for if there are no opponents, there’s no game. And beyond the NFL teams, there’s the college teams that create excitement and energy around the sport and who nurture those who will one day play in the NFL, but before them there’s the high school teams and before them there’s the junior league teams. And really, before them there’s countless coaches, players, refs, and fans who have followed, played, and participated in the game for years.  In some form or fashion, every game that we watch on TV today stands on the shoulders of every game that’s been played before.  Those men on that field wouldn’t be able to do what they do, or make the money they do, if there weren’t a long history before them. 
That’s a pretty obtuse way of thinking about the game, but hopefully it helps us understand that no person, no play, no game, no team stands alone as independently strong. No matter how great they are, they wouldn’t be able to be that without all the others who have gone before them.  And, in team sports, even as the weakest team in the league, no one person can take the full blame.  Each one is part of a team, and the team rises together and it falls together.  Each individual is interdependent on the others who stand beside him.
All of that is true, but we aren’t really talking about football, are we?  After all, life is a team sport too.  We often like to think we are there on our own.  We celebrate independently wealthy, or independently successful. But really there is no such thing.  Because without the others on the field of life, no single person could be who they are or do what they do.  We are dependent on others for everything. We rely on others to cultivate, harvest, ship, and sell our food. We rely on others to build our homes, our schools, our cars, and our offices.  We rely on others to be at the gas station at midnight when we need a quick stop. We rely on others to make sure the electricity, gas, and sewers are all working properly.  And if we run away to the woods to live by ourselves, to get away from it all, claiming that we are really on our own and independent, we forget that someone built the roads we would drive, or built the car we would drive, or taught us how to walk. Someone manufactured the tent, or at least the fabric of our clothes and our blankets, and someone made our supplies. Someone taught us to garden, start a fire, cook, look for food, and protect ourselves. We are only able to be who we are today because of those who have gone before us. 
When God gives us the commandment to honor our mother and our father, we are asked to do that—to honor them. But doing that means appreciating who we are and where we come from. Honoring our parents means honoring the whole of our past.  Because who would our parents be without their parents and their parents without theirs before them? But of course it’s not just a 2 parents and a child, but there are brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins.  The web of people that form our family is immense.  And we would not be who we are today without them. We have learned our values, our manners, and our habits from them.  From a young age we picked up on sayings, quirks, and customs without even realizing it.  We are who we are, in so many ways, because of our parents.  Now that doesn’t mean that we have to love everything we were taught or believe everything they believe.  We have become our own persons. We are independent and responsible for our own lives.  But no matter how far we might move from the place of our childhood, it is still part of us.
Some of us are more eager to celebrate that than others.  Some of us had a great childhood with happy memories.  We can remember the time our parents spent with us, family game nights, cooking in the kitchen together, talking about our day, and taking family vacations.  And others of us had a much harder time.  Others of us faced arguments and abuse.  Our parents didn’t ask us about our day, they yelled at us because the chores weren’t done or the food wasn’t right.  Some of us parented our parents in the midst of an illness or an addiction.  Our childhoods were not universally good or rosy.  But, for better and for worse, they have shaped us to become who we are today.  We learned love, we learned fear. We learned perseverance. We learned hard work. We learned communication. We learned to fend for ourselves.  We learned to trust.  And we learned to doubt. 
All of us come from somewhere and were shaped by someone, normally a lot of someones, and it’s important to remember that we are part of a team, whether it feels like it in our daily work or not. We are part of a bigger story. And we are invited to honor that story.  The details of that get a little complicated.  In honoring our parents, we ask questions about whether we should be supplying their needs, moving them into the extra bedroom, moving in with them, taking them on daily errands, or putting them in a care facility.  Those questions are not easily answered. And each of us will need to answer them differently, based on our own circumstances, just like our parents had to decide what was best for each of us on a daily basis.  How much instruction, how much help, how much discipline, how much indulgence. Our parents, and the others who raised us, had to make those decisions each day.  And we, as we honor our parents, we are faced with our own set of decisions.  The specifics will differ for each of us. But the foundation and premise of how we answer must be based on an awareness of and appreciation for the story that comes before ours.  Our decisions are more likely to honor our parents if we understand how our story is intricately woven with theirs. 

You shall honor life—every life—and recognize the value of each life.
It sounds so simple and yet clearly, we have a problem with this one.  We all know this is not how the world works. No sooner have we uttered the commandment “thou shalt not murder” do we begin to voice objections:
·         What about self defense?
·         What about just war?
·         What about cases of incest and rape?
·         What about for mass murderers?
The law sounds well and good until we think about the complexities of life.  We think we’d like there to be no murder, but realistically it seems too idealistic and utopian for most of us, not all of us, but most of us.  Thou shalt not murder.  It just doesn’t seem possible. I mean maybe I’d never kill anyone, and maybe you’d never kill anyone—but what about the military?  What about the officer who’s called to a hostage situation?  What about the parent protecting their child from violence or abuse?  What about the doctor trying to save a mother’s life even though the baby won’t make it?  What about them and those circumstances? Certainly, killing is bound to happen—someone is going to have to do it because not everyone values life like God commands. And not every situation has a simple peaceful ending.  There are countless exceptions to the rule. 
So then how are we to understand the spirit of the law if we can’t foresee holding to the letter of the law?
Think of it this way—honor and respect every life equally.  It still probably sounds overly simplistic but if we lived by this rule, we’d be a lot closer to fulfilling the 6th commandment. 
To think of it in context, we’re going to look at some recent events, events that challenge what many of us believe about “rightful” death and “wrongful” death.  And events that often stir our politics.  I’m not trying to be political.  I’m wanting us to think about the commandment in concrete terms, not just in theory. The recent events and court decisions around Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York have reignited the #blacklivesmatter movement across the country.  The movement is founded upon the belief that some lives are treated as more valuable than other lives.  And so there is a clear response to declare that black lives DO matter.  Now, some of you are ready to argue, “Why can’t we just say, “All lives matter”?” 
We can.  And they do. All lives matter.  Black lives matter.  And white lives matter.  Brown lives matter. And Asian lives matter.  Young lives matter.  Old lives matter.  Famous lives matter and unknown lives matter.  American lives matter and Iraqi lives matter.  Military lives matter and terrorist lives matter. 
That one got you, didn’t it?  Terrorist lives matter.  And so do the lives of those they threaten and those they kill.  Every life matters. The objections that are surfacing in your mind are only a sign that we struggle to embrace God’s truth that all lives matter equally.  In human terms, we think there have to be exceptions.  Terrorists. Mass murderers. Pedophiles. How can their lives matter in equal portion to innocent victims?  That logic doesn’t even hold up in our minds. For most of us, it doesn’t even count as logic.  But God’s truth is that every person, every single person, is a beloved son or daughter of God and every life matters.  Sinners and saints.  Believers and non-believers. Insiders and outsiders.  Every life matters.  And if they matter to God then they should matter to us.  And if we saw with God’s eyes, and loved with God’s heart, we would see that every life matters.  And we might not be so quick to make the exception about which lives we could sacrifice.
I’m not saying that is easy or simple. But it is our work, as followers of Christ, to live God’s laws and to share God’s love. And when we do that, genuinely and whole-heartedly, we begin to see with God’s eyes and we see the value of each person. 
All lives matter equally. Maybe we can say that, but we struggle to live it.  All of us.  If we didn’t struggle to respect and value each life on the same level, then we wouldn’t have to make claims reminding ourselves or our society that blacklivesmatter, young lives matter, LGBT lives matter, or disabled lives matter. All lives matter.  Lives that look like ours and lives that don’t. Lives that speak our language and lives that don’t. Lives that worship like ours and lives that don’t. Lives that think like we do and lives whose beliefs trample ours.  God’s standard is not one of “either/or” but instead one of “both/and.”  To live the 6th commandment, is to look with the eyes of Christ.  It is to see that those we hate and those we scorn are also beloved children of God.  We don’t have to agree with their politics, or their actions, or their beliefs.  But our arguments, discord, and bitterness do not affect their inherent value as a child of God.  Everyone, every single person, matters equally to God. And to honor each life is to recognize and respect how beloved they are.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Calling Plays & Time Outs (Commandments 3 & 4)

No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name.
8-11 Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.

When I was in Riverside, we worked a lot with a lot of people.  We worked with the teenagers, many of whom would spend their afternoons tucked away in a corner of the building smoking, or smoking out.  We also worked with the homeless, some of whom were chronically homeless having been on the streets for 10 or 15 years. And, as you might imagine, we had a fair number of issues.  We tried to offer  a safe place where people could receive food, a hot shower, fresh clothes, and God’s grace.  We also tried to be a place that didn’t permit illicit drug use, or enable bad behaviors.  Our policies and practices changed over the years as we adapted to the ministry needs and often, my name carried the greatest weight for enforcement.  People knew I was the pastor of the church and people knew that the pastor’s word was the law of the land.  That wasn’t my thing, it’s just how things panned out.  On more than one occasion, in an argument with a church member, one of our ministry friends would counter with, “Well, Pastor Debbie said I could.”  Generally the church folks knew better, but that wasn’t always the case.  And some of our friends would even use my name when the police came through claiming that I had offered permission for this or that or the other. But the best was when I would come upon someone new and offer a reminder of the rules and they would argue with me saying, “well Pastor Debbie told me I could.”  That was fascinating.  They used my name because they thought it held power.  But they had no idea who they were talking to or what “power” they might be invoking with that name. They had just been told that “Pastor Debbie” was the name to use in order to win the argument. 
I can laugh about it now, but at the time I would get frustrated that they were using my name in vain. I hadn’t talked to them. I hadn’t given them permission. Yet they were using my name for their purposes. 
I don’t equate myself with God, but those encounters help me catch a glimpse of what God is getting at when we are told not to take the Lord’s name in vain.  In simpler terms, the third commandment means, “Don’t use God’s name carelessly, as if it means nothing to you, or without an appreciation for the weight it holds.” Said in a positive light, “Use God’s name according to the power it holds.” 
God’s name is powerful.  Do you realize that?  I think most of us don’t believe that. It’s just a name. Sure it’s God’s name, but still it’s just a name. But according to the scriptures, God’s name holds power.  The Jewish scribes who used to copy the Bible by hand would stop every time they came upon God’s name. They would say a prayer before they wrote the name and then stop and say another prayer after they wrote the name.  Why? Because they understood and respected the power of God’s name.  The scribes knew it means something when it’s said aloud.  God’s name has the power to bless, to heal, to work miracles. And God’s name has the power to curse and to destroy. Just the name is powerful. And more often than not we use it as if it means nothing. We use it carelessly.  God wants more than that from us.  We are permitted to use God’s name, but with intentionality, respect and purpose. 
Let’s think about it in football terms:  If I wanted to yell a play, I might say “Blue 32, blue 32” to which my husband replies, “That’s a cadence, not a play.” And I say, “See, that just proves my point.”  It sounds like a play to me. And I want to sound official, so I say “blue 32” but I don’t have any idea what I’m calling or what it means, or what the other players are going to do as a result.  The calls means something. The numbers, the colors, the letters,  they all mean something. And if I want to be effective, I have to understand what I’m saying both for myself and for the other players.  But to be effective, I have to learn the game, learn the plays, learn the strategies, learn the positions, and learn the calls so that I can get my team to work together.  If I want things to happen, I have to know what I’m saying and say it with intentionality.  So, if in the huddle I call 34 blast, and then we get to the line and I see the defense has lined up differently, I have to call an audible to get my guys to move, we’re changing plays, so I call “Chocolate pudding! Chocolate pudding” which, for us, means “spread 2MO Jet TB Sweep 27.” Yeah that (indicate the picture). Admittedly, I have no idea what that means, not even with the picture.  I’m just saying what my husband told me to, but at least this time I could get the rest of the team to do what they’re supposed to do, unlike when I call “blue 32”. But to be good at the game, to be worth my salt as a player, I’d have to stop relying on Rick to clue me in and learn it all for myself.
It’s not an exact parallel, but it’s like that with God’s name.  We might use God’s name in ways and phrases that we’ve picked up. They seem to sound right, or make sense to us. Or we’ve been coached to say them. But honestly, we don’t really know what it means or what might happen if we say, “Be healed in Jesus’ name.”  or “God bless you” or even if we use “G. D.” Unless, we understand that God’s name has power and use it with meaning and purpose, we lose the opportunity to do amazing things for God’s sake.  If we really appreciated the power of God’s name and how to use it, we might have the faith and courage to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, or allow the lame to walk.  God’s name has the power to do all of that.  So the question becomes, will we learn God’s plays?  Will we use God’s name with purpose and intentionality? Or will we just pretend we know what we’re saying and only wish God would do something? 
The next commandment is the one to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.  I don’t know why, but it seems like the 4th commandment is taken as mere suggestion and considered kind of trivial.  I’m not sure most folks even think about what it would mean to practice Sabbath or keep the Sabbath day holy. We understand what it means to have a day off…it means you don’t go to your paid job, but instead you run around like a crazy person doing all your errands, washing dishes, doing laundry, and getting caught up on house work and yard work.  And most of us think our day off is our Sabbath and if Sabbath is errands and chores, it’s no wonder we think it’s kind of a worthless suggestion instead of a commandment that’s meant to benefit us. J. Ellsworth Kalas is a scholar and a professor and a pretty extensive writer and he translates the 4th commandment like this: you shall keep the Sabbath for the Sabbath shall keep you.  The Sabbath shall keep you.  To understand what that means it’s actually most helpful to turn to the New Testament.  In the Gospels, we see Jesus heal on the Sabbath and he’s often rebuked by the Pharisees for breaking the Sabbath…for working.  But Jesus argues against them. In essence, he says, the Sabbath is meant to be restorative. It’s meant to offer healing, wholeness, and peace. The purpose of the Sabbath is redemptive. And so, when he heals, forgives and redeems on the Sabbath, he’s fulfilling the law, not breaking it.  So when Kalas says “the Sabbath shall keep you” he means, “the Sabbath will restore you, heal you, and offer you wholeness.” 
All of that sounds pretty different from running errands and doing chores.  Because most of the time those things aren’t restful or redemptive for us.  So what is?  Well, that depends on the person.  For some of us, sleep is redemptive. For some of us it’s reading a book. For others of us it’s a 20 mile bike ride. Others it’s a run. Others it’s cooking a meal, for others it’s gardening. For others it’s crafting.  There are lots of things that help us feel whole and complete, it all depends on who we are. 
When I was in seminary, I heard a talk about Sabbath that was really compelling. I had never practiced Sabbath before. Like most, I had been dismissive about its relevance in my life.  I would go to school all week and work on the weekends at a church, plus study, read, and write for my classes. Every day was full. Every day was busy. And every day required something from me. And then I heard that talk, and she talked about doing things that were good for her soul. That could include a pedicure or a massage or a good book.  And that sounded different and desirable. So I started practicing Sabbath. Even then, Sundays were a work day, so I decided to take Saturday instead.  Saturday was my Sabbath. No church work and no school work.  And at first it was really hard. I had intense feelings of guilt. I was supposed to be productive. I was supposed to be doing things.  And I had huge guilt that I wasn’t. I literally had to fight those thoughts and tell myself, “it’s ok to sleep or watch movies, today is your Sabbath, you can do work tomorrow.” I fought that for awhile, and, in time, what I noticed was if I allowed myself to rest on Saturdays and do what I wanted to do with my time, then when I went back to work and to school on Sunday, I had more energy and more drive. I wasn’t fatigued and always asking myself to give and do and be. Instead, I felt restored, my reserves were being filled on the Sabbath and I was better able to do my work on the other days.  Sabbath was becoming redemptive.  That time practicing Sabbath in seminary convicted me.  The Sabbath would keep me, it would heal me, fill me, and restore me.  It wasn’t some ridiculous thing God suggested, it was God’s gift to me and I was meant to enjoy it. 
I’ve continued to practice Sabbath.  Each week I have a dedicated day set aside for rest and restoration.  Admittedly, it’s different with a husband and a child.  There are some “jobs” like cooking,  diapers, and the demands of parenting that don’t ever really stop.  But instead of seeing those things as taxing, I try to think of what helps us rest and be restored as a family.  It’s not always naps, but those help. But it’s play time. It’s meal time.  It’s hanging out together.  And it’s not work.  Of course, there are exceptions. I’ve always been flexible to do a hospital visit, a memorial, or a wedding rehearsal on my Sabbath.  But, for those things that can wait, they do. It’s important that I allow God to fill me before I try and do my job day in and day out.  The scriptures encourage us to work and to do our job well. They also say we should rest and keep it holy.  Holy in the Hebrew is qadash and it means holy and hallowed, it also means set apart.  God is holy for who God is but also because God is separate and set apart. So in keeping the Sabbath holy, we are meant to set that day apart and find time with God.  Some of us are wary of that part. We think it means we have to sit and meditate or pray all day. But I don’t think that’s the commandment. I believe we can find God in the things we love and enjoy. I listen better for God’s voice when I’m rested and enjoying life.  I find God in Ruth’s laughter. I find God in my own laughter. I find God in Rick’s hugs. I find God in a savory meal. I find God in the creativity of a good book. I find God in the construction of a sewing project.  I find God in the restoration of order in my house.  We don’t do every Sabbath the same.  Each Friday is different.  But the sacredness is in our time away from work and the demand to be productive.  The divine is present in the moments where I am receptive to God at work and I’m more receptive when I’m not stressed and drained. 
Most of us have made the mistake of treating the Sabbath like a time out.  We think if we take a momentary pause from our work, that’s enough.  But restoration and redemption take more than that.  If we play a long hard football game, a two minute time out isn’t going to do a whole lot for us. It allows us to catch our breath and get a swig of water. But it doesn’t allow our muscles to relax, our bodies to be cleaned, our mind to stop focusing on what we have to do.  We should play a good game and give the best of what we have, and take our time-outs, our momentary breathers. But beyond that, we need the Sabbath. We need a chance to slow down and stop. We need to not be plagued by productivity. Instead we need to relish and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  We need to allow God to fill our spirits and restore our bodies.  Most of us are convinced we can’t afford to do that. There’s too much responsibility. There’s too much to do. But really, we can’t afford not to do it.  The Sabbath shall keep us.  It shall be our life source in the midst of our busyness. It shall be a time set aside for us to attend to our souls—maybe reading scripture and praying, or maybe simply being present in the things we love most. 
I will say this, the transition can be tough. You will likely have to quash the voices that tell you there’s no time for this, that you have work to do, that you need to be more productive.  Tell them to be quiet and come back tomorrow. Your day of Sabbath is a gift that is meant to be enjoyed.  Amen.