By Mary Lee Talbot
Reposted from The Chautauquan Daily
Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.
Ba da, Ba da, Ba da, Ba da … Feelin’ groovy.
The Very Rev. Tracey Lind led the congregation in singing the first verse from Simon and Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” at the beginning of the Friday morning Devotional Hour.
“At Chautauqua, you slow down and have meaningful conversations, you look at life and God from different perspectives and you rest and are refreshed; it has been a time of Sabbath,” she said. “This morning, we will look at the radical commandment of keeping Sabbath.”
Her scripture was Exodus 20:8-11, and “Keeping Sabbath” was her title.
Lind once invited a group of clergy for an Easter Sunday brunch. As the clergy enjoyed Bloody Marys and eggs Benedict, they began to brag about how busy they had been during Holy Week and Easter.
“There was a new rector who won this clergy Olympics. She had led 15 services, written and delivered seven sermons, led three Bible studies, took communion to 12 shut-ins, visited six people in the hospital, located the lost Pascal candle, baked the Communion bread, referred a fight in the flower guild, laundered her vestments and cleaned her office. She even went to the mandatory diocesan clergy service where clergy renew their vows to live a wholesome life as an example to all people,” Lind said.
“This was not me, but like the rest, I thought, ‘Did I work hard enough?’ Our sense of accomplishment, relief and exhaustion was defined by work as if we would be more rewarded with money, and status and God’s approval,” she said. “This is deeper than the Puritan work ethic. We are like the Energizer Bunny, and it does not have to be that way.”
God rested on the seventh day and gave us a weekly day of rest. Sabbath, Shabbat, comes from the Hebrew word for “rest.”
“The Creator rested on the seventh day, and this was part of creation; the Creator rested and was refreshed,” Lind said.
She quoted Jurgen Moltmann that in creation, God came out of God’s self, and in resting, God retreated into God’s self. In creation, God was in relationship with the creation, and in rest, God gave creation rest.
“God acknowledges creation as family, and we honor creation by acknowledging God as the sole creator,” she said.
In the Ten Commandments in Exodus, God was speaking to a newly liberated people.
“Slaves do not own their time. Keeping Sabbath is a privilege and duty that comes with freedom. It is the unique expression of the spirit of Judaism. This is a perpetual covenant, not just with Israel, but with their animals, their land and their slaves,” she said.
“This is at the root of the call to justice, that men and women who work hard get rest, that children who are at the mercy of adults get rest, that there is recovery for animals that work hard. As Rabbi (Arthur) Waskow has taught me, this is wise environmental policy. Walter Brueggemann has said that Sabbath is an antidote to the anxiety about the fragility of the world.”
She continued, “It is said that if every Jew kept the Sabbath, the Messianic Age would come. I wonder what the world would look like if everyone practiced Sabbath?”
In Jesus’ time, a great deal of intellectual energy and spirit was given to what it meant to honor and keep the Sabbath. In Jesus’ day, there were at least 39 things that could not be done on the Sabbath. Yet, Jesus’ call for the “humanitarian Sabbath exception” was not unique, Lind asserted.
“It was a common topic of first-century rabbinical debate about the law,” she said.
The letter and the spirit of the law were always in tension. Throughout history, it was the Sabbath that preserved Israel — not the other way around.
The evolution of the Christian Sunday from the Jewish Sabbath took until the time of Charlemagne in the eighth century. Lind recalled the Sunday “blue laws” where all commerce was closed. But she asserted that something has happened to the essence of the Sabbath in Judaism and Christianity. She described the feeling of being too important to be out of touch with email and to load up the weekends with activities.
“We laugh about it, because we know it is exhausting,” she said. “This is a sign of oppression. We are slaves to a new pharaoh, one we like. Dorothy Bass has said that the arrangement of time is basic to building a culture, but we are not building a dwelling, we are building an all-night arcade. Why is it so hard? We are paying a price, and we need to slow down, because we are moving too fast.”
Lind’s suggestion was a fusion of Sabbath and Shabbat, for Christians to take Saturday night for dinner with family and friends, Sunday for worship in the morning and recreation in the afternoon, and Sunday evening to get ready for Monday.
“This would be 24 hours with no commercial activity, no use of non-renewable energy, a time to see friends, read a book, have relaxed meals, take a nap, go for a walk. Don’t nap on Sunday, so you can work better the next day. And I am told it is a double mitzvah to make love on the Sabbath,” she said.
Lind urged the congregation to find another day for Sabbath if they worked on weekends.
“Craft a schedule, a time for prayer, rest and play, to breathe without having to earn something,” she said. “We need a day to celebrate life, a day with no rules. We have been given the gift of time in the presence of God who creates and rests. Isn’t that a radical concept? Shabbat Shalom!”
The Rev. Natalie Hansen presided. The Rev. Sarah Suzanne Scherschligt read the scripture. She is the associate pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Va. She is a fellow in the New Clergy Program this week.
The prelude was “Sheep May Safely Graze” by Bach. The musicians were soprano Julie Nord; flutist Barbara Hois; clarinetist Debbi Grohman; and pianist Willie La Favor. The Motet Choir sang, “There is a Land of Pure Delight,” music by Grayston Ives and text by Isaac Watts. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, led the choir.