40 Days of Writing, Day 3

February 20, 2015

Sabbath:

1 : the 7th day of the week observed from Friday evening to Saturday evening as a day of rest and worship by Jews and some Christians

2 : the day of the week (as among Christians) set aside in a religion for rest and worship

I once heard and I can’t remember where or who said it that this is the commandment that we celebrate breaking.  Seriously.  We are busy, busy people and some of us get off on just how busy we are.  Like life would stop or end as we know it if we celebrated a discipline of Sabbath.

I have never worshipped another God, but I have worshipped the calendar, the dollar, the Facebook, the bar scene, the jam packed schedule, the need to be wanted, the want to be needed but never another God.  So I feel like living into the commandment is a work in progress but not fully broken.

I have a tattoo that is an image of a creature that lives in the waters below- but I have never worshipped it as an idol so I’m just going to say I am doing okay on this commandment.

I have totally taken the Lord’s name in vain, often and with great creativity and celebration.  Moving on.

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy- what does this even mean?  Hold on, we’ll come back to this one…

Honor your mother and father- Okay, so when I was a teenager, this was a bit of a rough one but that is what we call maturing, rebelling and trying to figure out our own identity apart from the ones that rear us.

Thou shall not commit murder.  Yes!  Finally one I can say I haven’t actively participated in.  Whooooo hoooooo!

Actually, after reading through the rest of the list of commandments- I am batting a pretty crappy average.  But here is where my attention is drawn, out of all the commandments, the Sabbath, the time we are to set aside for prayer, for rest, and to hold it so sacred that you don’t let anyone in your family work either- breaking this commandment is often seen as a badge of honor, a jewel in a person’s crown.  Taking one day and setting it aside is what we are told to do but the rest of the world says- No way.  In fact, we have created technology that makes the practice of sabbath that much harder to do.  Connectivity right at your fingertips.  I don’t even know why we call them smartphones- we rarely use them to make phone calls on anymore.  But checking our emails, texts, tweets, blogs, instagram, tumblr, lectionarypage, social media and Lord knows what else- that’s what we do.  But what and how do we keep the Sabbath?  What does that mean?

Well, it means to take a period of time, set it aside, and spend that time in prayer and in rest.  I’m not suppose to work on a sermon, or just drop by the office to make sure whatever loose ends are dangling from my desk aren’t on fire.  This, however, is not part of our current culture.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  And I bought into that juicy bit of socialization hook, line and sinker.  And people who work in the church don’t always do a good job of keeping this commandment.  Nope.   Seminary doesn’t teach us how to do this.  In fact, we never really talked about it- not in class, not in small group, not in church, not in field ed (although my mentor and supervisor and I do talk about it frequently now), not in Clinical Pastoral Education, not in study groups, not in our one on ones- nope.  None of that.  And I came from a hospitality background that was open 7 days a week, 365 days a year so we didn’t learn about sabbath rest there either.

There is no real way of learning about sabbath and implementing it except by claiming that time, holding yourself accountable to that sacred space, place and time and being okay knowing that by taking time for myself might be letting others down or disappointing people.  Sabbath is a work in progress.  At my age, there is a great deal of unlearning I have to do but I want to do it so that I can make a full faith effort in taking intentional time and giving that time to God.  It will be clumsy, it will be haphazard, it will be bit by bit but it won’t happen at all if I don’t try.

So, for the first time in my life, I did not check my work email today.  It might not seem like a big deal to you but to me, it is huge.  I also didn’t just drop by the office today either. I didn’t revisit my sermon and I didn’t look at the calendar and I didn’t make any pastoral calls or visits.  Instead, I slept in, prayed, worked out, prayed, hung out with my family, prayed, enjoyed a meal with my family and before I go to sleep tonight, I will pray again.

Do you struggle with taking Sabbath too?  How do you keep the Sabbath?

O Lord, hear my prayer (and forgive my offenses).

Oh Death.  You are a jerk.  Really.  You never seem to be late.  You always seem to come too soon- at least too soon for those who are left behind.  I hate you.  I hate the waiting and then the event and then the picking up the pieces.  I am not even close by or even really that close to either of them but she was a classmate of mine.  And the one that left us last week was a coworker of mine in the past.  These are people I know, that I love, that I have shared meals and prayers with and you are just so damn rude to come in and bust up our little party.  So I will remember them both this evening, I already have.  And I will lament the words I should have said, the notes I should have sent and I will bow to the mystery that is you and give thanks that I believe in a savior that conquered death- although that is not something I should be thinking about right now in the season of Lent.  But it is what I hold on to.  It is where I find some kind of comfort.  It is in the telling of their stories that they will continue to live on in our words, our thoughts, our remembrances and in the ways they have touched our lives that will be revealed in the years to come.

OH God!  Be gentle with those of us who mourn.  Comfort those who are shaking their heads, who are weeping, who are shaking their hands at you this evening.  Be gentle with this heart who is mourning 2 beautiful women, 2 very loving and faithful women.  Be gentle with me even though my language with you is not so gentle.  I know that with time I will come to know that for both of them the passing from this life to the next was a blessed relief of the bodies that held them prisoner.  But I’m not there- not quite yet.

May the souls of Charlotte Ann Harrill, The Rev. Jennifer Ronan Durant and all the departed rest in peace and rise in glory.  And may Death take a holiday tomorrow.

Oh Lord, hear my prayer.

It took only 2 hours before I broke my first Lent fast this year.  2 hours.  We finished our first Ash Wednesday service, I walked down town to offer ashes to the people I encountered along the way, came back just in time for a 9am meeting and afterwards went to my office to finish my sermon for Sunday.  From time to time, I will take a mental break, read the local newspaper online, or some other news site.  I found an article that grabbed my attention, read it all the way and then clicked on the “comments” button.  My Lenten fast is to not read comments on any… ANY articles.  It is a bad habit, a time suck and I never feel enlightened by the words written there.  Quickly people are divided by other commenters into camps of either full of shit, bat shit crazy or racist.  Really.  What part of this feeds a person’s heart or soul to leave these kinds of thoughts on a total stranger’s article- or even in reply to another total stranger’s comment?

There is so much garbage that I consume on a daily basis.  I am embarrassed to even try and total up the time spent reading and then reacting, rarely ever responding but either way, it is always in disbelief at how we are, how I am easily put into a box, labeled and discarded with a second thought.  Why do we do that to each other?  I am guilty of doing it too.  I am guilty of unceremoniously lopping off segments of my neighborhood- my neighbors near and far, based on one disagreement.  I find myself thinking, “Yep.  They are full of shit.” or “They must be bat shit crazy.” or  “They are definitely racists.” based on one 3 sentence comment.

I don’t want to be that kind of person. I don’t even know how these kinds of comments became socially acceptable, but they are.  We have stopped engaging in discussion and have jumped real quickly to dissension, divide and displace.

I was a member, for a brief moment, of a group on Facebook specific to the Episcopal Church and the vitriol that took place in that group just pushed me right over the edge and caused me to leave a group- a group I would have loved to call community, but could not handle the lack of Christian love.

I would rather spend the time I previously used in reading comments some other way.  I don’t know exactly how I can use that time but I hope to figure that out soon.  Today, when I caught myself breaking my fast, I stopped, asked for forgiveness and prayed.  And then finished my sermon.

Life is too short for this- remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return…comments and all.

Oh Lord, hear my prayer.