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Sabbath: The Sequel -- Patrick O'Connor preaching -- Mark 2:23-28

If you were with us the last time I preached here at First Pres San Anselmo a few weeks ago, I promise you are not experiencing déjà vu. Three weeks ago, we visited part of our morning’s Scripture text with us exploring the need of a personal Sabbath, but today I want us to expand our idea of Sabbath rest as we consider what Jesus had to say. As a refresher, Genesis 2:1-2 says this:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that God had done, and rested on the seventh day from all the work that God had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work that God had done in creation.

If part one was a look at the spiritual discipline and practice of personal Sabbath rest, today we’ll look at the ways in which we can embrace the concept and theme of Sabbath in our world, and how this concept of Sabbath rest has influenced our planning for Family Ministries this Fall.

In our text from Mark, we find the Pharisees once again trying to poke at Jesus and his disciples, which certainly seems to be their schtick. In this instance, the religious rulers of the day do not understand why the disciples are breaking the most basic of Sabbath law: working. “But Jesus,” they said, “how dare your disciples break another one of our many laws! What say you?” I understand why Jesus is an example of grace, because I’m sure my answer would have been to just yell back in response “BECAUSE THEY ARE HUNGRY, YALL!” but that is why Jesus is Jesus and I am not. No, instead, Jesus sees the opportunity to teach, and recalls for them the story of David visiting the town of Nob on a secret mission from the king. David asks the high priest for some bread (which for our biblical scholars listening was in fact the priest Ahimelek and not Abiathar according to 1 Samuel 21:1-7, which could complicate a different sermon in a different time). David asks for bread but the priest only has consecrated bread on hand, which was not supposed to be shared with anyone but the clergy at the temple in Nob, and yet the priest agrees to share the consecrated bread with David and his companions, breaking the rule. Jesus then connects this story back to Sabbath with the idea that human need transcends law, and that perhaps Sabbath was about something more than what the Pharisees saw.

Walter Bruggeman sees Jesus’ understanding of the Sabbath as resistance and alternative. For Bruggeman, the gift of Sabbath to Jesus lives “outside the domain of empire and its colluding empire systems”. That Sabbath is for those who are “’weary and heavy laden,’ made so by the insatiable requirements of our society- in its taxation for the sake of imperialism, in its social conformity that urges doing more and having more, in its frightened intent that there should be no “free lunch” for anyone, in its assumptions that there is a technological resolution of every human problem, in its pathologies of greed and control.”

Both the story of Jesus and his disciples and the story within the story of David and his companions are stories of satisfying hunger- the need for bread and sustenance to carry on and do the work to be valued over the law of empire. I find it interesting that Jesus connects the idea hunger back to the Sabbath. Jesus reminds the Pharisees that Sabbath is not about a list of do’s and don’ts, rather it’s about addressing and honoring the act of rest and restoration. For the disciples in that moment, Sabbath was about being fed, because they were physically hungry.

What is it that you are hungry for? What is it that your soul craves in this moment?

Being an expat of the South, I am always craving something Southern. Whether it’s my great grandmother’s banana pudding, some fresh fried chicken or fried okra, sweet tea, the list is quite exhaustive and never ending. Earlier this week, I had a conversation with my great grandmother on her 96th birthday, and of course food was brought up. We talked extensively about all the memories she has of feeding me grits as a toddler, the time I snuck into the fridge and secretly ate half the pepperonis off a pizza she had prepared for lunch that day, and our family’s staple Thanksgiving and Christmas dish: cornbread dressing. I told her that I’ve been craving her dressing for some time, but I was too afraid to make it. I realized in that moment that I was afraid of messing it up and ruining and dishonoring the memory of Grandmama’s dressing. But her response to that fear stopped me in my tracks: “Patrick, my child, make the dressing. Make it with love, and it will feed you well.”

Pausing to ask the question “what is it that my soul craves in this moment?” is an act of Sabbath.

Back at the beginning of the pandemic, local minister and poet Lynn Ungar was wrestling with the idea of how to embrace community and emotional connection when physical connection was no longer viable or safe. On March 11 of this year, Lynn sat down and penned the poem she titled “Pandemic”:

What if you thought of it

as the Jews consider the Sabbath —

the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel.

Cease from buying and selling.

Give up, just for now,

on trying to make the world

different than it is.

Sing. Pray. Touch only those

to whom you commit your life.

Center down.

And when your body has become still,

reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected

in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

(You could hardly deny it now.)

Know that our lives

are in one another’s hands.

(Surely, that has come clear.)

Do not reach out your hands.

Reach out your heart.

Reach out your words.

Reach out all the tendrils

of compassion that move, invisibly,

where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love —

for better or for worse,

in sickness and in health,

so long as we all shall live.

What is it that your soul craves in this moment?

As I’ve been spending time the past few weeks looking at new ways to connect and reconnect with our children, students, and families, I’ve realized that ultimately I’ve been trying to answer the question, “What is it that our souls are craving in this moment?” Re-reading Lynn’s poem this week affirms a crucial part of what this Sabbath moment is leading us to with Family Ministries: the need for compassion. In a world of hurt, despair, pandemic, we crave compassion. I think that’s part of the reason why “Grace Abounds” has become part of our regular vocabulary! It is an extension of the idea that all are welcome here in the place and space and community. It’s no surprise as to what’s in store for our young ones during the next few weeks as we head to Compassion Camp. Each week, we’ll gather after worship to explore how compassion reminds us we are loved, compels us to be kind, and welcomes us to be ourselves. Today we’ll begin our conversation on compassion with looking at the parable Jesus told of the Father and his two sons, and how compassion empowers us to release any anger and judgment we may hold towards others, ourselves, and the world for not being what we wanted or needed. Compassion inspires seeing, forgiveness, and welcoming. In the weeks ahead, we’ll look at how compassion helps us be brave to see and reach out to our neighbor to restore and make our community whole, how compassion helps us love ourselves by showing gentleness and kindness to ourselves in heart, soul, mind, and strength. We’ll look at how compassion helps us be present with each other through deep trust, an open mind, and a soft heart, and lastly how compassion gives us a fresh start to work with God to care for all and participate in the holy work of renewal so all may joyfully gather at the table together to receive God’s abundance. Our memory verse for Compassion Camp comes from Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

The act of compassion requires a sense of connection, so our students will gather monthly to live out compassion by checking in with one another and building community during our Virtual Home Groups. I am convinced that any time our youth are gathered, whether in person or online, we stand on sacred ground, because of their witness of vulnerability, laughter, and love. Our monthly virtual Home Group starts back tonight, and we’ll be focusing on how to offer compassion to one another by holding space for one another to check in and share what’s happening in their lives.

We’ll also be adding a second Virtual Home Group for our college students to the same as well! As they are spread out across the country, it is our hope that they will be reminded of the love and support our congregation has for them through monthly gatherings to connect with one another.

Lastly, we’ll be offering parents a quarterly gathering to model compassion for each other. As compassion draws us to one another, we will offer a time for parents to gather and connect with one another, with the intent and guide to simply be our church’s unofficial motto: “We’re all in this together”.

Re-orienting our lives around Sabbath helps us stay in touch with our minds, our bodies, our souls. May you spend time in the days ahead to ponder the question: What is it that my soul craves in this moment? May your reflection lead you to compassion, to grace, to love.

May you Reach out all the tendrils

of compassion that move, invisibly,

where we cannot touch.

May you Promise this world your love —

for better or for worse,

in sickness and in health,

so long as we all shall live.

And may it be so for you and for me.

Charge:

May we be filled with compassion

May we be filled up to the top of our hearts

When we have the power to make something right

May we show God’s love.

May we be shown compassion

May we be found in the center of peace

When we have needs that others can meet

May we find God’s love

Poem from Lynn Ungar can be found here:

https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/mary-schmich/ct-met-schmich-pandemic-poem-20200314-yywfy7th2nbc5cufvnbb7qhvfm-story.html

Quotes from Walter Bruggeman’s Sabbath as Resistance: saying no to the culture of now.

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