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SummerSermonSeries FinalMessage for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, June 2, 2024 on Deuteronomy 5:12-15 given at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

I met Regina in Detroit while serving my first congregation. Even though she had served as a minister in a non-denominational church, she brought her grandson to the church I was serving because she and Eric lived in the neighborhood and could walk. We became fast friends and Regina became an important mentor for me—both in ministry since I was a new pastor, and as a white pastor serving in an African American neighborhood.

Regina is one of the most peaceful people you ever want to meet. If I called her up right now and had her on speaker phone, I promise you she would answer the phone by saying “peace and love.” Regina was the first person I knew with whom the Holy Spirit spoke directly; she would share with me what the Holy Spirit told her to do. I thought I just didn’t have this spiritual gift, but over time, I realized that I just had not learned how sit still and quiet my mind enough to listen.

One day, Regina, my husband, Dan—also a pastor, and I were talking, and she could hear how we were running around like a couple of chickens with our heads cut off. We didn’t have any kids, yet, so it was easy to work 70 hours/week trying to do everything possible to get things going at our congregations. Dan was frustrated that some things he was working on were not coming together.

Regina looked straight at us and said—with love—“You don’t believe in Jesus.”

We were stunned into silence –for about 3 seconds. “Don’t believe in Jesus? I have a Master of Divinity degree that says I do—I am a professional believer in Jesus!” We’re spouting and sputtering and defending. We wouldn’t work so hard if we didn’t believe in Jesus. All we want is, what Jesus wants….and so on. Regina stayed peaceful and calm and loving while she chuckled and smiled knowingly.

Then she said, again, with love, “We already have a Savior, and you’re not it. Jesus died on the cross, so you don’t have to. You’re killing yourselves trying to tell folks about it.” 

It’s hard for us to rest sometimes. To slow down and smell the roses, as the saying goes. It doesn’t matter what your vocation is—there is a lot of pressure to always be busy. Certainly, your job will take all the extra hours you’re willing to give them for free. In fact, most jobs today do expect you to work all the time, to respond to email and texts at all hours of the night and early morning, and on the weekends. Kids schedules, school plays, sports, spending time with family, often involving travel on weekends—every hour of the day is filled.

I’ve noticed it doesn’t really change in retirement—if that’s you, you’re as busy as ever—helping with grandchildren, learning how to play pickle ball, staying fit, managing health appointments, and doing incredible volunteer work, visiting your children, even taking care of elderly parents.

Every day feels like a lot to manage, that it’s not okay to put anything down, because we live in culture that glorifies busyness as a sign of importance, of ego gratification, or social status. Or something, like it makes it worthy of using up space, and taking in air.

But isn’t true that some days, for some moments, it feels good, or it would feel good, to just sit and do nothing? To soak up the sun, or sit in the cool air between the rains (if we had that in Texas right now!), to listen to the birds, to look at the intricacies of a single flower, to lie on a blanket and watch the clouds?

Our bible passage from Deuteronomy says, Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work.

The word “Sabbath” literally means “to rest.” To not work. To not do anything; to take time out and worship the Lord, to give thanks; and then to take nap, enjoy creation, give yourself and your body some peace and love, as Regina says.

This 3rd of the 10 Commandments from God, bears significance, not just because it is a day to worship and give thanks to God, but because when the Israelites were in Egypt, they were slaves—they had no rest, no day off, no chance to recover from their work, no time to enjoy creation, family, or the fruit of their labors. Their life as slaves was work, work, work, burden, and more labor, often enforced with violence.

So, God says, I have liberated you from slavery, I have freed you from the shackles, so do not treat yourselves or each other as slaves who take no rest. Do not put yourself back in bondage to anything, or anyone, or to any idol, be it success, money, or possessions that prevents you from a day off from your labors. Observe the sabbath, a day of rest and worship, a day when you treat yourself, your body, your animals, those you care for, with peace and love, and treat me, your God, with worship and gratitude.

This can be easier said than done, which is why God commanded it. It’s a great set-up really. "I gotta take a nap this afternoon—God said I had to do it!" You can blame God.

Summer is a great season to tweak our schedules and practice taking a Sabbath day of rest each week. We put on the church calendar that my day of rest is Friday—it’s also on my voicemail greeting. So, unless it’s a hospital emergency, funeral, or wedding rehearsal, I try not to work on that day, and to rest, and spend time with Dan. Of course, it doesn’t always work out, but it is part of my weekly plan. I would never rest, it wasn’t planned as part of my schedule (and you know I wouldn't do it!).

This summer, I invite you to slow the pace and have some fun in the sun to nourish your body, soul, heart. And if a whole day is too difficult, start with a half a day, or begin even with a complete hour or two of rest.

One of the best ways to replenish the soul and have fun before or after your nap is getting out in God’s beautiful creation. Have fun with your friends or family, go on a hike, visit some of the nature preserves and parks in the area, explore new terrains when you travel.

I read an article recently in Psychology Today (we've known this for centuries in the church!), and even there they identified 5 spiritual practices that contribute to our well-being, and we can do 3 of them easily outside, having fun in the sun.

The five practices are meditation, awe, gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion. Meditation, awe and gratitude are all great practices to do outside—whether you are on vacation or staycation.

Meditation: You can meditate listening to the birds sing, water moving, or just sitting outside being present and listening to your own breath.

Awe: It is most often amazing vistas in God’s creation that gives us a sense of awe and wonder. In fact, wonder is the very first spiritual expression we have as humans—it’s what babies do with their big eyes looking around and it's why we put the mobile above the crib—because an infant’s first spiritual expression is wonder and awe. Being in God’s creation helps evoke this very basic spiritual instinct we all have, but tend to ignore in the busyness of life.

Gratitude: Having fun in the sun—doing some gardening, going to the zoo, being on vacation, or just walking through our neighborhood and noticing new plants, and neighbors is a natural time to express gratitude for the many ways God surrounds us with blessings.

These small moments of meditation, awe, and gratitude remind us God created us for a spiritual life as part of creation—we are wired for rest and holy connection since God is in all things, and is always present with us.

Our hand-out today is this bookmark which Erin and I made this week—we have enough for one per household this morning, including large print.

This has our Summer Faith, Summer Fun schedule on it as well as a reminder to bring me a bulletin from another church you visit on your summer travels, or from a Saturday night service if you’re on staycation—that’s a nice of saying you can visit another church, but don’t skip St. Luke’s when you’re in town!! Put your name on the bulletin, and I will put your name in a drawing for a movie gift card!

On the back of the bookmark are fun outdoor spiritual practices I call, “Wild Wonders” that you can do alone with friends, family, or kids. These are ways to have fun in the sun, to pause from busyness, stay connected to your faith, your spirituality, and those you are with.

There’s a Meditation Walk, Bird Listening, a Rainbow Scavenger Hunt, which you could turn into a game with a timer and teams; there’s also a Water Reflection, and Stone Balancing. There are also a few other suggestions when you click on the QR code and go to the link.

Any and all spiritual practices give God the opening to work in us the other two spiritual components of our well-being—forgiveness and compassion—both of which can grow by spending time with God and one another in outdoor summer fun!

The next time we saw Regina, she brought us a sign to post up in our home office. It looked like this:

God is in Control!

Admittedly, we still struggle with over-work, but every week, when we take our Sabbath rest, every day when we end our work at a reasonable hour, we affirm our faith—that God is in control, and he sent us our true Savior in Jesus Christ.

Jesus has already died for us and rose again, that we might have life, and have it abundantly! So let’s take our rest this summer, St. Luke’s, and have some fun in the sun!

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