Sermon 3rd June 2018

St Columba’s Church of Scotland

Sermon from the 3rd June 2018

Revd Andrea Price

Listen Here: https://soundcloud.com/user-942286720/sermon-3rd-june-2018

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, our Lord and Saviour.

 

During the Second World War men were divided during their basic training according to their religious denominations and were expected on a Sunday to attend service at the Anglican, Roman Catholic or Jewish place of worship, as the case might be.

One of the men in an attempt to evade attendance proclaimed himself an atheist.

“Don’t you believe in God?” asked the officer.

“No,” he said.

“Nor in keeping the Sabbath Day holy?”

“No, one day is as good as the other to me.”

“Then,” said the officer, “you are just the man we have been looking for. You will stay and clean out the latrines.” (Anon)

 

Poor lad! He walked into that one.

Strictly speaking the officer did not do right to make him work on the Sunday while everyone else was resting, as we heard from Deuteronomy today. All people and even all animals are to be allowed to rest. All people, not just the bosses or the citizens but the aliens and slaves (part of the economic pattern at the time) – everyone was to have a rest.

 

The invention of a regular Sabbath rest is surely one of the great inventions in human history. Everyone works better, more efficiently when they are rested. Ideas flow better. Problems gain perspective and straight forward solutions are found more easily.

Sleep research in medicine is revealing more and more insights into the importance of sleep, not just for the short term but for the long term health and wellbeing of people. During sleep the brain e.g. cleans itself aided by the lymphatic system – so our bodies are not doing nothing!

One news report suggested that sleep deprivation and sleep problems may thus further the onset of forms of dementia.

 

But how we rest and when we rest varies greatly. Traditionally Muslims keep the Friday, Jews the Saturday and Christians the Sunday. Modern work patterns and our 24/7 world mean that Sundays have long stopped to be the quiet and at times terribly boring day it used to be long ago.

You will remember stories in your family of games or knitting or playing ball games being forbidden on Sundays. In the Western Isles long ago a Wee Free elder once passed a young mother pushing her child in the pram on the Sabbath – pushing prams being classed as work.

He stopped, took the child out of the pram and passed it to its mother. Then he proceeded to smash the pram to pieces. He said to the mother: “It is a crime to take the bairns out in the pram on the Saabath!”

Ridiculous we think nowadays, misogynistic even. But are we better now than our at times overzealous forebears? Or have we gone too far the other way and are in danger of loosing a good thing?

God, is love. God is life giving. And God is life renewing. And for this end the commandment to keep the Sabbath, in whatever shape or form is a good thing for humanity.

A Rabbi once wrote:

“Just visualise the feeling of liberation from the telephone, traffic jams, dislocation and responsibility; imagine having the leisure to be within a few minutes of your home, available to your family, local friends and neighbours, able to absorb the details of the neighbourhood you choose to live within, without the pressure to fix it, change it, resolve it , transform it; picture the periodic opportunity to carry on a conversation with an acquaintance or friend, finishing a story with your child or just staring into space without feeling that you are guilty of not using your time constructively. People pay a lot of money to go on structured weekends for this very purpose.”

 

When Jesus lets his friends harvest grain on the Sabbath to feed themselves and later heals the man’s crippled hand he challenges the narrow rule of Pharisaic thinking, who used the Sabbath regulations to mark their people’s national distinctiveness against the heathen Romans and Greek overlords in their land.

 

Jesus in breaking the Sabbath rules is causing future trouble for himself but more importantly claims God’s authority for himself.

For behind all we do in our lives is always a deeper question:

Who is the boss? Who is the final authority commanding us, shaping our thinking, directing our actions?

Do we live for our self alone or for our family at best? Or worse are we being commandeered by claims of economic, nationalistic or other kind, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, sometimes even against our better judgement?

 

Today we have celebrated the baptism of two children and will celebrate the confirmation of such a baptism long ago of an adult, because we do not want our children and our lives to be drifting along in the stream of life in whatever current we may be caught in.

Instead we have chosen our boss, the God of life, the God of love, the God of new life. We want our children to learn the way of Jesus, the way of love and kindness, the marvels of God.

 

Hildegard of Bingen, 12th century nun, musician, poet and scientist:

 

The marvels of God are not brought forth from one’s self.

Rather, it is more like a chord, a sound that is played.

The tone does not come out of the chord itself,

But rather, through the touch of the musician.

I am, of course, the lyre and harp of God’s kindness.

 

So let us rest today in the stillness of God’s presence, here and when you celebrate, walk and talk and play today or on your Sabbath day.

Amen