Mar 7, 2021
Beloved, we are created in the image of a God who rests. A God who hopes, desires, and commands us to rest. And yet, we turn from God back to the slave driving gods and ways of Egypt in our incessant weary-ing drive to hustle, produce, and do. And so with grace, again and again, God shows us the way and invites us into God’s holy rest.
From within the commandment we are reminded of this: “in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day.” (Exodus 20:11). And again, before the commandments begin we are also reminded of this: “Then God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;” (Exodus 20: 1-2).
Remember with me that this commandment of Sabbath is found in within the narrative of the Exodus of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt through the wilderness and toward the promised land. This commandment of sabbath is given to those in the wilderness.
This commandment is part of the emancipation of the people from slavery-- from the work system of Egypt and the from Egyptian gods who demanded it. The very first commandment is that you shall have no other gods before me. Well, those other gods be them Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian or Persian -- all of them required of their people endless production for they were insatiable. As far as I have read, no other ancient near eastern culture had a God who rested and commanded the people to rest. It was driving and doing and building. Pharaoh’s system of production was legitimated the the gods Pharaoh worships. Pharaoh endlessly demanded production & his system was designed to always need more and more surplus, thus more and more storehouses for his treasures on earth, thus more and more bricks, thus more people to construct them. His was a system of relentless production.
And, when the enslaved Hebrew people desired to go out into the wilderness and offer sacrifice to their God, Pharaoh called them lazy and told them that though the were required to make the same amount of bricks, now they could also the gather the straw needed to make them (Exodus 5:6-9).
But we have a God — the only true God —who brought them out of the Egypt, out of the house of slavery. We have a God who rests. And, if we’re not resting, we’re following other gods.
And yet, again and again, we turn from God back to the ways of the gods of Egypt. This is what Jesus encounters in our Gospel for today. Jesus sees this same sin of Pharaoh — system of relentless production and exploitation — in the temple the Lord. There are moneychangers who made a profit exploiting the poorest who could only afford to buy doves to offer sacrifice to their God. Can you see the parallel in the stories? A place that was to be for the worship of a God who rests had become a place of work. No wonder Jesus’ zeal showed— one could say the gods of Pharaoh were being worshiped in in Father’s house!
We have a God who rests.
We have a God, who in Jesus Christ, who before turning tables in the temple, spends time at home resting with his family and friends and before that feasting at a wedding. And after turning the tables in the temple, Jesus is spending time in worship and prayers with friends for a festival. But not just any festival—in case we missed the connection before— it is the Passover festival, the one l remembering the very exodus from Egypt. Again and Again, Jesus shows us the way resting and reminding us through his actions that created in the image and likeness of a God who rests.
And some of us— if we’re honest about it— and after being at this wilderness for a year—could use this reminder.
I want to share with you some wisdom from Anne Lamott that I also shared in its entirety online this morning. Anne writes:
“There is a story in the new book about my friend Mark, who gave a spiritual retreat to fifty or so people on rising up, on renewal and second winds in these catastrophic times. One woman, who worked with children who had AIDS, came all the way from Africa to hear his teachings. Mark talked all morning about filling back up, about energy reserves that are released by curiosity and (paradoxically) service. Then he handed each participant a cheap Mexican blanket, and had them lie down for a nap, like in kindergarten. The woman from Africa was furious with him for wasting her time. She had flown nearly 10,000 miles to study with him. He tried to soothe her, but she stalked to the back of the room with her blanket. Everyone stretched out or curled up, closed their eyes, spaced out, and rested. The woman came over after the nap, and told Mark, “I slept. I dreamed. I’m beyond exhausted. I hadn’t even known that.” I think we are exhausted in a brand new way, physically and psychically. We are wiped put by having been such good sports for so long…”
And she continues in some words I commend to you and suggests what I would call an aspect of sabbath as one solution to exhaustion. She comes about this solution through another story and the wisdom of youth sharing:
“…my grandson’s 4th grade class had Condiment Day every Thursday. Ketsup: You had to catch up on some assignments. Mustard: There were things you absolutely must do, things you couldn’t put off any longer. And relish: something that you loved doing, something fun or silly, or any activity that brought you pleasure. Relish, joy, and pleasure are one solution to exhaustion.”
Relish, joy, pleasure, delight is one of the primary aspects of sabbath rest. I am grateful for even the short holy time to lay down in green pastures and to relish in the texture of the grass and the cool of the wind and breathe in God’s word. Again and again, God knows what God is talking about. I know God’s message and words are for me and, beloved, I hope, and suspect, they resonate for you as well— for here’s the thing: the commandment for sabbath was given to a people in the wilderness.
Even as we wander wearily in the wildness with our trauma bodies, trauma brains, and traumatized spirits, there is a sabbath. And the spiritual practice and disciplines of rest and relish are one of the ways our God shows us to reminder and listen for our belovedness. Beloved, my hope and prayer for us all is that again and again God will show us the way to relish and rest in sabbath.
* Story from Anne Lamott found on the post for 3/6: https://www.facebook.com/AnneLamott
** Interested in more about sabbath?, I commend to you The Nap Ministry: Rest as Resistance (https://thenapministry.wordpress.com) & Walter Brueggeman’s Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now