June 7: Deuteronomy 5 & Matthew 11

Note:
Linda is not feeling well today, but a text introducing the sermon series on Sabbath appears below. The other pieces of worship are in the audio here.
We will still be holding the planned 10am Zoom service.

PreludeHere Comes the SunChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Prayer
(text only)Pastor Linda
Psalm 131Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ReadingDeuteronomy 5: 12-15
Matthew 11: 28-30
Henrik Strandskov
Introduction to Sabbath series(text only)Kara Root, Pastor at Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis, MN
HymnWhen Peace Like a River
#785, vs. 1 & 4
Chris Johansen, piano

Welcome

Hello, this is pastor Linda, and I welcome you to take this time to set aside whatever it is that’s occupying your mind. Turn off the TV, silence your phone (unless that’s the device you are using to listen in on!). Breathe in a huge, lung filling, belly-out, life-giving breath. Let it go – slowly. Close your eyes, breathe again. Try to focus your mind and body on the moment of now, the position in which you are seated, the sounds of your surroundings. Try to be open to the word of God, to a word of God to you. Be still. Breathe in fully again. Let it out slowly. Listen with all your heart and all your strength and all your mind.

Confession & Forgiveness

We gather apart, yet never alone, in the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 
Amen

If this week has shown us anything, we know that together, we confess our entanglements with justice, hurts, entitlement, greed – and God’s difficult, blessed vision of a very different way. We seek the face of God, confessing our sin.

Silence for reflection and self-examination.

God of heaven and earth,

we name before you the sin that enslaves us, the sin that wounds us and others, the sin that scars our world. Forgive us and heal us. Give to us, and to all, the freedom of the glory of the children of God, loved by your image residing mysteriously within each and every one of us.     
Amen

Come, all who are weary, all who carry heavy burdens. As tender as parent to child, so gentle is God to you. As high as heaven is above the earth, so vast is God’s love for you. As far as east is from west, so sweeping is God’s forgiveness for you, and of all we would confess, renewing our lives in +Jesus Christ, our friend, our Redeemer, our All in all.
Amen.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and ever-loving God, throughout time you free the oppressed, heal the sick, and make whole all that you have made. Look with compassion on the world wounded by sin. In your lavish mercies, revive our faith, heal our bodies, restore us to wholeness, inspire kindness and courage, and mend our suffering communities. In all the beautiful names of God, we offer this plea.
Amen


Scripture

Deuteronomy 5: 12-15

12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15 Remember that you were a slave 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.

Matthew 11: 28-30

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


Sermon series introduction

Kara Root

Source: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=4093

Sabbath is a tricky concept for Christians.

We’ve tended to see it as a Jewish thing, not really applicable to us, or, more recently we’ve conflated it with trendy forms of self-care. It’s the only one of the Ten Commandments that we brush off as not really that important. But it’s the longest and most descriptive commandment, the hinge words between how we relate to God and how we relate to each other. It’s not a throw-away comment.

The Israelites are no longer slaves, no longer owned by a master and locked into a system that dictates their worth solely by what they produce. They’ve lived this way some 400 years; it’s deep in their psyche. Now they are free, and they will need to learn how free people live, alongside other free people, with God as their master instead of Pharaoh.

The other commandments take the people out of slavery; the Sabbath command takes the slavery out of the people. One day in seven, God says, you stop all work. You do this because you are not to be defined by your output. One day in seven everyone rests, and all distinctions that you erect to define your value and measure your worth disappear — old, young, rich, poor, slave, free, citizen, foreigner — you are all simply and completely human beings, alongside one another, all beloved children of God.

This is the hardest lesson to absorb, so we have to do it regularly, God tells us. We have to regularly step out of the mindset and activity of the world around us, the measuring, comparing, competing, striving, producing and consuming. We have to regularly stop doing and practice just being.

Like all the other creatures and the earth itself already do, we must succumb to the cycles of rest and renewal that God built into the fabric of existence, which we are brutally determined to transcend. One day in seven, this command says, you on purpose remember that you are not God. And you on purpose remember that you are neither better nor worse than anyone around you, but connected in a mutual belonging to God and each other. This is what it means to be human. This is what it means to be free. But we forget this most of the time.

While we seek meaning from our lives, forces around us seek to shape how we find that meaning. 24/7 connectivity in our pockets ensures we’re saturated with messages that strip us of our freedom and humanity, and suck us into relentless comparison and division, ranking and judging, striving and measuring. With social media, texting, email and phones ever at the ready, we’re justified in acting as though the world can’t run without us; (the average American checks their phones 80 times a day while on vacation).1

Spirituality is nice, and God is, of course, real, but do we really need God?  We’ve got it pretty much covered. Meanwhile we’re so disconnected from true selves that we can barely stand when emotion of almost any kind arises — it throws off our equilibrium. We’re chronically over-committed, under-resourced and exhausted, and who in the world has time for Sabbath?

If we step off the spinning carousel it will all fall apart, and we’ll never figure out how to put it together again. In fact, let’s label Sabbath self-indulgent, or keep rest a reward for a job well done! Let’s bolster our Protestant work ethic with a good dose of self-effacing pride. “How are you?” we’ll ask each other. “Busy!” we’ll answer, holding it out like a badge of honor, proof of a life well-lived. Look how well we are producing and consuming! We are not wasting any time.

Sabbath is one of God’s big ten, right up there with not murdering, because unless we regularly stop, we forget that God is God and we are not. We forget that we are creatures — with bodies and minds and hearts that need tending, dependent on the love and care of a creator who is ready to meet us when we stop moving long enough to be met. We forget that we are in this together, alongside everyone else, and we need one another because life isn’t meant to be done alone and against. And human beings that forget their humanity are arguably the most destructive force in the universe.

Rest is not a reward to be earned. It’s the starting point. The Jewish day begins at sundown. All creativity, invention and construction happen in the second half of the day, fueled by, and resulting from, rest. And when the Sabbath day arrives, everything stops, whether you are ready or not. Sabbath interrupts and takes over.

You don’t start Sabbath after all the work is done, the house is clean, the thank you notes are written, and the gutters are cleared. When the sun hits the horizon, you stop. The phone goes off, the screens go dark, the work is put down and the only thing left is human beings being human, in the presence of God, who was there all along but who largely went unnoticed until now.

It’s uncomfortable. It’s strange. We are trained to measure the worth of a day by what we accomplish; what do we do with a day in which the goal is not to accomplish a thing? Expect there will be restlessness. Often there are tears, as emotions we’ve stuffed down come up in the space we’ve made. These become, like hunger pangs during a fast, a sacrifice back to God and a gift to us, a reminder of our pressing need to stop, so unaccustomed and painful it is to have our basic humanity in our face like that. We’re out of the rhythm. We’ve forgotten how to remember.

Our texts this series all touch on the underlying truth that Sabbath is God’s strategy for helping us remember that God is God (and we are not), and that we are human beings, made in God’s image for love and connection, (and not locked in a never-ending competition for worth and resources).

You’re made to care for one another like God cares for you. You must stop, regularly, to remember this, or all the other commandments will become simply another way to measure, compete, and dehumanize yourselves and others. You’ll forget the God who saves you and the freedom you’ve been saved for, and you’ll go back to being slaves.


Notes:

1“Time for a digital detox? Americans check their phones 80 times a DAY while on vacation – and more than half have NEVER unplugged when taking time off,” Daily Mail, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5741687/Americans-check-phones-80-times-DAY-average-vacation.html


When Peace Like a River

vs. 1
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll,
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
it is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain
It is well (it is well) with my soul, (with my soul),
it is well, it is well with my soul. 

vs. 4
Lord, hasten the day when our faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll, 
the trumpet shall sound and the Lord shall descend;
even so it is well with my soul.

Refrain
It is well (it is well) with my soul, (with my soul),
it is well, it is well with my soul.

Text: Horatio G. Spafford, 1828-1888
Music: Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876