Sunday, August 15, 2021

Paula Stoltzfus: Communion.Formation.Freedom.

God’s Gift of Sabbath: Receiving God’s Rest
Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Matthew 11:28-30

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I have enjoyed baking bread for about 10 years now.  In the last number of years I have been learning and practicing baking two different types of sourdough bread.  I am fascinated by the science of sourdough which captures the yeast in the atmosphere to feed on the gluten to make dough rise into what we know as bread. 

Our rapid rise yeast makes it possible to produce bread in much shorter time. The yeast feeds on the sugar to raise the bread. I brought some here this morning for us to watch and serve as an illustration.

God’s rest and yeast, where am I going with this?

Photo 1: by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

In our Deuteronomy text this morning we have God giving the 10 commandments to Moses as a guide for the recently freed Israelites.  They have just escaped generations of enslavement under the tyrannical rule of the Egyptians.  Their religious and cultural patterns had been compromised as they lived under severe work demands. Egyptians were not allowing them to freely live out their faith.

Upon receiving the 10 commandments, God was offering for them guidance in living into God’s way of being. God reminded them that they were worthy of rest.

In the Biblical narrative, the beginning of creation, God established rest in the rhythm of God’s being.  The seventh day, God rested.  God stopped, looked around, and communed with all that had been created. God was not driven by endless creativity and work.  God saw the value in pausing and being in relationship with all that had been created.  Sabbath rest is God’s gift of grace for creation. It is living out a freedom to have bounds and limits. 

Contrary to a hard work ethic, Sabbath grace doesn’t come in completing everything on our list.  It isn’t given when we pass God’s “worthiness” test.  It is given because we are.  It is a gift of grace given to all that which is created. 

As humans, we have tangible rest through sleep and relaxation. We also have an invitation to rest in a relationship with God’s grace and love. That may not be as tangible.  This past year perhaps put that to test for some of us.  May I dare say we have grown in seeing ways in which we experience sabbath beyond the walls of the church.  Sabbath happens for some on a different day if Sunday is a work day.  Sabbath can occur everyday where we decide to stop, notice, be present with the Divine around us and in us.

When we commune with God, we acknowledge that we are more than a creature who toils on this earth. We are more than our friends and followers on social media.  We are more than our pay scale.  We are more than our work.  We are more than the kind of car we drive or the home we live in. We are more than our limitations.
Sabbath rest is a time when we connect with the core of who we are through the eyes of God’s grace.

As we get in touch with this grace, we are invited into the training ground of Jesus’ yoke he mentions recorded in Matthew.  We are invited to enter into a relationship with Jesus in which we learn, grow, and follow Jesus' leadership.

Photo 2: by Phinehas Adams on Unsplash

We are a couple generations away from knowing about the use of the yoke. The yoke linked two animals together to share the load together.  At times it was used to train a less experienced animal to learn the ways of farm labor. 

Jesus invites us in this passage to not go it alone in life. That is a lonely road. We can learn the ways of Jesus by spending time together, working alongside, and living into the common goal of loving justice, doing mercy, and walking humbly with God.

This kind of yoked rest is formational. Forming our spirit to be in step with God’s spirit. The mysteriously heavy weight becomes light as Jesus bears the load of life with us.

Both God’s rest manifested in relationship with creation and Jesus’ co-laboring model of formation invite us to lay down the heavy weights of our culture.  I believe some of these weights to be our focus on business and production, seeking top dollar, consumerism, corporate cultures operating at the expense of others, white supremacy hierarchy, and Christian nationalism.

Friends, that is a lot of weight to carry. All of it has one beginning from a place of needing to prove one’s worth.

God’s rest invites us into a relationship in which we begin with our worthiness.  In this relationship we have the choice to accept this gracious gift of rest and relationship.  In the accepting, comes freedom.  Freedom to say no and yes. Freedom to be more than what you do.  Freedom to be restored from fatigue. Freedom to be released from shoulds and oughts. Freedom to just be.

Photo 3: by Grant Ritchie on Unsplash

In this time of pandemic. We have lived with limits of masks, events being cancelled or adjusted, and travel restrictions. For some, work has been complexified times 10.  For others, the isolation has been so intense. And still others, it brought a welcome reprieve to a fast paced life.

As we peer ahead to decisions we have made or will make, what portions of what we have experienced in the past will we want to hold onto?  How might God’s invitation to rest and be in relationship, give you the freedom to choose the pace, involvements, and work that matches the co-labor model of the yoke?

This yeast before us is happy and active.  I like to see this vessel, a picture of each of us, where the yeast of God’s spirit joins our sugary passions to create something we couldn’t grow on our own.  When we accept God’s gracious gift of rest, we enter into the non-quantitative relationship which mysteriously grows beyond what we can ask or imagine.

May it be so as we offer ourselves in a prayer of confession as written in the bulletin.

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