NOTE: To those who read the sermon last Sunday, this is how a sermon can be translated and downsized to a secular piece for the newspaper.
It is usually impossible to be certain about the uniqueness of any historical contribution. Unlike our mythologies about great inventors, ideas percolate in more than one place, and among more than one people, and at more than one time in history. Ideas and inventions and ways of doing things bubble up from the collective human endeavor. Ancient versions of democracy, for example, can be found in many cultures – not only in Greece. Electricity, the telephone, airplane, and car were not singular inventions by individuals but a race to be the first to completion and then the first to production and distribution.
So it is all the more startling to claim that sabbath – a day of rest bestowed upon all people by a God who loves them – is a gift from escaped slaves who came to be known as Hebrews. It makes perfect sense. A society with its origins in slavery would yearn for a day of rest, and understand the toll that uninterrupted labor takes on the body, mind, and spirit.
Imagine if you can, true rest. Electronics put away, multi-tasking suspended, no “thing” to accomplish or complete: no goal, project, or destination. How un-21stcentury, don’t you think?
Our resistance to sabbath makes me think of Newton’s first law of motion:“An object at rest remains at rest, or if in motion, remains in motion at a constant velocity unless acted on by a net external force.” (FYI: I went online to a teacher website, khanacademy.org for help). At the website I found a two-minute video of astronauts in space eating tacos. It is a perfect icon for Newton’s law. An astronaut has a drink in one hand and a taco in the other, and when he reaches for some sauce to add to his taco, he just lets the taco go. The taco stays put waiting for him to hold it again. It is like some cartoon – an impossible reality for us because of gravity. It is what Newton told us, that out in space an object with no velocity stays put unless something comes along to move it, and one with motion remains at the same velocity unless something slows or stops it.
There are global forces at work nurturing our motion and preventing our rest. There is of course the gluttony of employers large and small, that want more and more productivity. Don’t stop, don’t take vacation, don’t give someone else the chance to steal your job. If we do take a break on the weekend, there is Lowe’s, De Lago, youth sports, and Darien Lake, if not wineries and breweries, cooing like a siren’s songs in our ear. Consumerism is a ravenous beast requiring constant feeding, and everything about our culture and technology is built to amplify its barking voices as well as our own innate hungers in love with it.
Sabbath, true sabbath, is subversive. It requires stopping and resting. Stillness even. But apparently sabbath does not exert enough force to slow the velocity of consumerism, nor have the power to make us stop. Unlike Newton’s law, entering sabbath and coming to rest, only happens with a powerful internal force.
It is worth asking ourselves the question, “What keeps us from stillness and resting?”