Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23, 2012 Sermon "Rest"

July 22, 2012
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Cell Phone Rings…  (video)
Does that sound like your life?  It sounds like mine some days.
Maybe for you it isn't the phone.  Maybe it is your spouse, the kids, your parents, coworkers, the yard, the church, the garden, the boss, the…  (You fill in the blank) what is it that fills up your life to overflowing?  Between work, school, family, church, volunteering, friends, hobbies, and whatever else you do: chances are, if you are like most Americans, your life is filled, or overfilled, with something all the time.
·                   Our Pharmacist Nephew in Seattle reports working more than 40 hours a week for the last 6 months.
·                   25 million Americans work at least 49 hours a week. 
·                   11 million work at least 59 hours a week.
That's before they mow the lawn, do the laundry, eat, or sleep (which is why we have become a sleep-deprived society.)  One has to wonder if these folks ever get around to spending time with their kids, their spouse, or savoring a quiet moment watching the stars from their deck.
The cell phone has just aggravated the problem.  The technical ability to be instantly available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is the new customer service expectation and it spills over into our lives.  Our friends, family, and coworkers come to expect the same 24/7 service from us.
As a pastor, I AM on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  The cell phone, email, and text messages are simultaneously a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because I can go about my work and life and you can reach me in case of emergency.  A curse, because it creates the illusion that I am able to be in all places, at all times, and know all things.  Only God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient.  I am not God, and I have to keep reminding myself of that.
I know that each of you in your own way face the struggle of trying to be all things to all people at all times.  Again only God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient.  You are not God; you don't have to keep reminding yourself of that, that's my job.
The cell phone, of course, is not really the problem, then.  The cell phone is a symbol of our pathologically busy lives.  It is a symbol of our voluntary enslavement to busyness.

In today's Gospel story, Jesus was too busy to even eat.  He didn't have a cell phone.  I am not sure he would have had time to answer it.  He didn't have time to even eat.  In today's story, Jesus and the disciples are being pulled too many different ways by too many different people.  People are expecting them to be all things to all people, and even Jesus has to draw the line.
In today's story, we see Jesus drawing the line.
Jesus had been teaching and healing for some time.  He finally got the 12 disciples to the point where he thought they were ready to do some on their own.  So he sent them out 2x2.  They cast out many demons and cured many who were sick.
They came back like children coming home from camp.  They gathered around him saying, "Guess what we did," "you should have seen us." 
Jesus said, "Job well done.  Let's get away.  Let's go to a deserted place by ourselves and rest a while."  They just started to walk toward the boat and Andrew's cell phone rang.  It was someone wanting healing, but Jesus shot Andrew a stern look that said "don't you dare."
Just then, Peter got a text message that the Pharisees were stirring up trouble again.  In addition, Bartholomew, and Thomas and Matthew; you can you picture it…
They got into the boat and fortunately, there was no cell reception on the Sea of Galilee.  Whew!!
When they got to the other side, however, it started up all over again.  There were so many needs; the disciples didn't even have time to eat.  Jesus was keenly aware, however that both he and the disciples were badly in need of the renewal that could only be found in a deserted place perhaps one without cell towers- certainly one without the crowd pressing in on them. 
They needed a deserted place.  An isolated place.  An empty place.  They needed to be alone.  They needed rest.
We need to rest too.  You might be thinking that this sermon is kind of unusual for me.  I did a whole sermon series on serving- "get out there and serve one another."  I have preached on mission and evangelism.  I have preached on how to change the world, starting with ourselves.  I can't say I have preached as often on rest.  Perhaps because I have been too busy preaching about getting busy.
Nevertheless, we can't be about the business of making disciples, changing the world, helping the needy, and caring for the lost 24/7.  We are certainly called to be in the world for the least and the lost.  Nevertheless, we are also called out of the busyness of the world in order to nurture our relationship with God lest we become one of the lost.
Jesus the Christ needed to get away to a deserted place, don't you think you do too.  Or do you think that you are stronger and better than Jesus?
The idea of rest is not a new concept with Jesus.  There was nothing radical in Jesus' call for Sabbath.
God rested after 6 days of creation, what makes you think you can be on 7 days a week, week after week?
God saw fit to include rest as number 4 in the in the 10 commandments, do you think you are exempt from the law?
Remember this commandment was first heard by the Israelites who were fleeing slavery in Egypt.  Can you imagine how this was to people who were recently slaves in Egypt?  Imagine, their time was never their own they never, ever had a guaranteed period of rest.  They worked whenever the taskmaster said "work."
When they heard the 4th commandment to keep the Sabbath, they must have said, ""Wait a minute, you mean we not only get to rest?  We even have to rest?  Glory Hallelujah!"

I have a hunch that more and more of us find ourselves in a place not very different from Egypt.  Where the ancient Hebrew slaves languished under Pharaoh.  We languish in a slavery that is more insidious, because it is self determined, self-constructed, self-imposed.  It is more difficult to detect and overcome because we are our own slave driver.  Here is no one else to blame.
To what are we slaves? 
·                   We are enslaved to our notion of success, and therefore put few limits on work.
·                   We are enslaved to ideas about our children having every opportunity possible, and therefore schedule them into frenetic lives and wonder why they have a hard time focusing.
·                   We are enslaved to the belief that the only thing that will bring contentment is more -- more money, more space in our homes, more cars, more things to put on our resumes or in our closets, more.... more, more. 
·                   We are enslaved to the drive to make everyone happy by being all things to all people.  Frankly, we are harsher taskmasters to ourselves than any pharaoh that ever sat in Egypt.  In addition, look around at the results.  Look into the eyes of those around you.  We are a people beaten down, used up, and run over by our own busyness.

So, listen again to Jesus' simple invitation to "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile."  This is not just an invitation to take an afternoon off or go on vacation -- though those may be important elements -- this is an invitation to loosen our shackles and climb out of the cages we've constructed from a culturally-fed belief that busyness is happiness; that a full schedule means a fulfilling life; and that life consists of what you do and what you have,
Jesus says Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  (Mtt 11:28)
Psalm 46 says, "Be still and know that I am God" Be still-- rest.
The psalmist says, HE MAKETH ME TO LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES.  He leadeth me beside still waters, he restoreth my soul.  REST.
That is how seriously God takes rest.  He MAKETH me to lie down.

·                   The Lord commands rest
·                   The Lord Jesus models rest.
·                   And the Lord- the good shepherd will make us to lie down in green pastures.
When we stop.  When we finally stop.  We just may discover the blur we have seen out of the corner of our eye, is actually Jesus.

But it's hard!!  Even for Jesus.  Jesus and the disciples weren't even to their deserted place when someone recognized them.  Word got out, everyone hurried to the deserted place, and when they got there, it wasn't.  (deserted that is)
Over and over again in this story, Jesus tries to get his disciples to a deserted place.
Sabbath rest is no easier for us.  But it is a matter of life and death.
Not just because God says, "keep the Sabbath day, for it is holy.  Anyone who desecrates it must die; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community."  (Ex 31; 14)

Warren Wiersbe once said, "The ability to calm your soul and wait before God is one of the most difficult things in the Christian life.  Our old nature is restless...the world around us is frantically in a hurry.  But a restless heart usually leads to a reckless life."

In The Twenty Four Hour Society, Martin Moore-Ede says: 

Our most notorious industrial accidents in recent years—Exxon Valdez, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, the fatal navigational error of Korean Air Lines 007—all occurred in the middle of the night.  When the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian A300 airbus killing all 290 people aboard, fatigue-stressed operators in the high-tech Combat Information Center on the carrier misinterpreted radar data and repeatedly told their captain the jet was descending as if to attack when in fact the airliner remained on a normal flight path.  In the Challenger space shuttle disaster, key NASA officials made the ill-fated decision to go ahead with the launch after working twenty hours straight and getting only two to three hours of sleep the night before.  Their error in judgment cost the lives of seven astronauts and nearly killed the U.S. space program.  We ignore our need for rest and renewal at the peril of others and ourselves.

In his book, SABBATH: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, Wayne Mueller writes: 

Sabbath is more than just a day to "catch up on television and errands."  Rather it is "time when we take our hand from the plow and let God and the earth care for things, while we drink, if only for a few moments, from the fountain of rest and delight."

Some time ago, a newspaper in Tacoma, Washington, carried the story of Tattoo, the basset hound.  Tattoo didn't intend to go for an evening run, but when his owner shut his leash in the car door and took off with Tattoo still outside the vehicle, he had no choice. 

A motorcycle officer named Terry Filbert noticed a passing vehicle with something that appeared to be dragging behind it.  As he passed the vehicle, he saw the object was a basset hound on a leash.  "He was picking them up and putting them down as fast as he could," said Filbert.  He chased the car to a stop, and Tattoo was rescued, but not before the dog reached a speed of twenty-five miles per hour, and rolled over several times. 

(The dog was fine but asked not to go out for an evening walk for a long time.) 

As we close this morning, I want to encourage each individual here to do three things.  If you don't do them today, you probably won't do them at all.
·                   1. Stop running your little legs off.  If the world did not stop when God took rest, it won't stop when you do either.
·                   2. Rest every part of you- if the world didn't fall apart when God rested, what makes you think it will fall apart because of you. 
o       Rest your cell phone ear- shut it off
o       Rest your body, stop with the chores and take a nap
o       Rest your lips.  Be still and know that I am God.
o       Rest your mind, stop with the worrying and listen to music
·                   Finally (I made this a separate one because there is no Sabbath without it)You rest your soul -
o       "They that wait upon the LORD… what are they doing.  Not working, not seeking, not searching, not earring, not anything,,, just wait upon the Lord and they shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  [Is. 40:31]
o       Rest and renew.

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