Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sabbatical Sermon

Ecclesiastes
3For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
9What gain have the workers from their toil? 10I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.
11He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
12I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
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The very first Sunday I preached here - Donna McGeahan was the worship leader and I asked to borrow her watch - did not realize that there is a clock up here.
Time is really important to me - when the service goes long - I get the heebie jeebies - I am aware of time. All the time! I am aware that if you go too long, people tune out and stop listening - preachers have to have a sense of when to stop
I recall hearing years ago about a preacher who was admiringly regarded for always finishing his services right at noon. Then one Sunday, the impossible happened. He preached until 12:30. On the way out, one of his elders angrily inquired, "What happened to you?"
The preacher answered, "For years I have always put a candy mint in my mouth as the service started, and I would tuck it away. It was always gone at exactly noon. That way, I never had to look at the clock or worry about what time it was. But this Sunday it didn't go away, and I finally realized I had put a button in my mouth."
Time is important
Joan Chittister refers to the 2 truths of time: that time teaches and that time disappears.
She says the purpose of time rings unfailingly clear -
It is not accumulation - the purpose of time is to alert ourselves so that we can become, ….as Ecclesiastes implies - the only thing that is worth our time to become:
A truly human, deeply spiritual human being.
Ecclesiastes is wisdom literature and guides us into a deeper understanding of life, ourselves and God. Wisdom stands apart and observes And wisdom shows us that we live our life in time, in minutes, hours, season - times
Today's text catalogs various seasons of life, 28 of them arranged in sharp contrast to one another and yet each an undeniable part of human existence.
This list rings so true. It begins with what is most fundamentally true--that one day, we are born into this world, then, just as inevitably, our life in this world comes to an end.
The recognition of the times of life - the seasons of life gives us balance. . Only God knows why existence is set up the way it is. In the face of an inscrutable world created by an inscrutable God, one should not waste energy railing against life;
There are times to plant and later there are times to pluck up
There are times to weep and later there are times to laugh.
And the wisdom is to recognize that.
Culturally, we often want to short change some of the seasons and extend others.
Knowing what time it is differentiates the foolish from the wise. Some hold on for dear life to that which is actually finished and done.
Or refuse to let go of a relationship that has ceased to be nourishing.
The wise parent learns that there is a time to protect our children and then there is a time to let them go and allow them to experience pain.
There are times to build the nest and accumulate possessions and then there are times to let go of them as we no longer need them
There is balance to understanding the times, the seasons of our lives
And more than understanding them - it is important to experience them. At the time - whether it is the very real grief at the loss of a loved one or the tremendous joy at the wedding of a child.
Or all those mixed emotions at the birth of a baby - the love, the awe, the terror!
but more than that - to experience God in all of it.
God in our planting and in our harvesting,, God in our mourning, God in our dancing, God in our war and God in our peace
Wisdom understands that every season is important and every season has God in it.
Which means that we can live in it, experience it and trust that there is more than this. Life is not all sunshine and life is not all darkness. Life is not all laughter and it is not all tear.. Wisdom - holds both - both and. None of it lasts forever - not the good times or the bad times
But we trust God in it all. That is wisdom
Do you remember the book - Why Do Bad things Happen to Good people? Even that title is foolish. Wisdom tells you that every life gets both - bad things and good things.
In our Immaturity -we complain “ why does everything bad happen to me.” In our maturity we know about the seasons and we also know that there are blessings all around us - We hold it all lightly - because we know that it is part a parcel of this mystery called life - that is a gift from God
But let me move to the second part of this sermon which is about the gift that God has for us - the gift of Sabbath and a great gift for me - - and the gift of sabbatical. Which is an extension of that idea. Root of the word - Sabbath - to cease, to abstain for the work, the toil, the busyness
Sabbath is the day of rest and reflection and renewal and worship for every six. Sabbatical traditionally is a year of rest, renewal and worship for every seven. I am not going to have a year - but 3 months
Somebody described this - a Sabbatical (but it also may be what Sabbath should be ) “ a time to receive rather than give, to get input rather than give output, to carefully nurture and cultivate our lives so that the soul of our spirits might be rid of weeds and have an opportunity to receive nourishment “
Sabbath is a gift from God and a commandment from God in the midst of the season. And we all have a choice in Sabbath - And the gift of Sabbath - and Sabbatical - does three things for us
It gives us the gift of balance - restores our souls - rests, renewal,
It allows us to experience God in it and experience our lives. A lot goes on during a week - joy, struggle, pain, confusion, and we need a day to stop, to reflect, to experience
And we are able to trust that God is at work even when we are not!.
A Sabbatical comes to remind me that I don’t have to be in control of everything - I can take time off and life will go on here without me.
Sabbatical reminds all of us that Karl Road Christian Church is God’s church and that God will continue God’s work and that this church will flourish in my absence.
But sabbatical has one more gift for me - as Sabbath does for you
It is the gift of contemplation A time of pondering the presence of God in all times and all places. A time of not doing, but being. Richard Rohr calls contemplation the tree of life
A time of observing and allowing God’s spirit to restore my soul. It was exactly 25 years ago that hands were laid on me in ordination at Northwest Christian Church
And have been through a lot of change, joy and sorrow, sin and grace, planting and harvesting over these years. In these years I have experienced divorce and remarriage, the death of both parents and a sister, the marriage of two daughters, the ordination of a third, the birth of 4 grandchildren - that is just in my personal life.
I have also done scores of weddings, funerals, baptisms, and probably close to 1000 sermons. (300 of them here at Karl Road!)
There is no doubt that in my 25th year of ministry and by 61st year of life, I am tired. And “Weedy.” And at the same time very aware that I am I blessed beyond all deserving.
I thank you for this gift of Sabbatical and my hope is that I will return with vision and vitality. And ready to lead us into the next years together as we are Ignited By God and called to change this world. As people with passionate spirituality
I have lots of plans -for renewal, to explore and remember my past, to spend time with Chuck, to prepare myself for our future. lots of plans and some of them will happen - mostly I trust God’s leading in all of this.
A Sabbatical is a gift - and I know it. But I want you to understand that Sabbath is a gift - just as much with all of the same blessings for you. The truth is that we - especially as Americans - are uncomfortable with Sabbath. We know about vacation , a day off, and weekend, but Sabbath - a time of not doing work, a time of reflection and soul restoration - not quite as comfortable
So I want to leave you with this thought - for my Sabbatical and for your Sabbath - it is a gift and we need to receive it.
May we all be present -people of contemplation to all that God offers us.
I close with an ancient story told by Joan Chittister:
"Where shall I look for enlightenment?" the disciple asked.
"Here," the wise one said.
"When will it happen?" the disciple asked.
"It is happening right now," the wise one answered.
"Then why don't I experience it?"
"Because you don't look."
"What should I look for?"
"Nothing. Just look."
"Look at what?"
"At anything your eyes light on."
"But must I look in a special way?"
"No, the ordinary way will do."
"But don't I always look the ordinary way?"
"No, you don't."
"But why ever not?"
"Because to look, you must be here. And you are mostly somewhere else."(5)
May we be present in the gift of Sabbath and Sabbatical
May we spend time with God and reflect on the blessings, the times of our lives, the seasons in which we live
And may we ask of our God - with all that you have done for me
What is it that you want from me - today,
"For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven
Today well-lived makes every yesterday a memory of happiness, and every tomorrow, a vision of hope."

2 comments:

Kathleen B. said...

Susan F. sent me a link to your sermon. I love it! I write too and try to find sabbatical moments when I write as well as in the early morning. Thank you for another reminder!

www.kathleenbuckstaff.com

Kacey said...

Great sermon! I read the whole thing...which is saying something. :)