“Sabbath Rest” a sermon
by The Rev. Jay Lawlor
9th Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 11, Year B – July 22, 2018
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church – Richmond, IN
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Jesus calls his disciples to many and varied ministries. In the story from Mark’s Gospel today they’re all exhausted. So Jesus calls them to some time away. To rest. To reflect.
Jesus invites them to go for a boat ride and get away from ministry for a time. So Jesus and the disciples get in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. It’s time for some rest.
Brother Mark Brown, SSJE once commented that “Resting, getting away from it all, retreating is a spiritual practice. It’s also a religious duty: it’s right there in the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath Rest.” He explains that the Sabbath Rest in the most literal sense is about taking it easy on the seventh day of the week. But, he continues, that Sabbath pertains to other times as well. Annual retreats, or regular retreat days come to mind.
This are all important as part of a Sabbath experience. Nonetheless, the truth is we need a little Sabbath Rest every day. It doesn’t need to be elaborate or fancy. Sitting in church for a while. Going for a walk in a park, along a river, lake, or ocean. Sitting quietly with a cup of tea? Curling up with a good book. These, and many others, can all be good moments of Sabbath rest. A little daily Sabbath rest from all the good work of ministry keeps us energized to be followers of Jesus. It helps keep us connected to God. It allows time for us to be reminded God loves us.
Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann has a wonderful book titled Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now. Brueggemann points out how contemporary Christians pay little attention to Sabbath. We can too easily be consumed by the rat race – not to mention the stress and anxiety it creates. Brueggeman writes how “Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative. It is resistance because it is a visible insistence that our not defined by the production and consumption of commodity goods.”
But such resistance requires our attention and intention. We must pay attention to cultivating our relationship with God and be intentional about Sabbath. Both in little daily doses and opportunities to get away for retreat. It is only in finding Sabbath rest where we can follow Jesus and serve as his disciples.
Singer and songwriter Bob Dylan, who recently was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for his lyrics, wrote many years ago in his song, Gotta Serve Somebody, that you:
Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Dylan’s correct. We all serve somebody. This is what motivates Jesus’ compassion for the crowd in our reading from Mark today. They are like sheep without a shepherd. And he begins teaching them.
Through his teaching, Jesus is inviting them into a relationship rooted in love and service. But in order to serve, followers of Jesus must also find restorative rest. Sabbath. It is both practical, to avoid burnout, and deeply spiritual. Sabbath rest allows us to pay attention to our relationship with God. To know of God’s love for us. Our ability to follow Jesus and serve in his name depends upon on it. Amen.