Mon·day morn·ing quar·ter·back: “a person who passes judgment on and criticizes something after the event,” according to Oxford. Well, what I’d like to do here, as a Monday Morning Preacher, is simply review the event – which in this case is Pastor Albert Tate’s wonderful sermon at the fabulous Fellowship Monrovia Church. (I don’t even watch pro football anymore, and not just because my ex-team the New York Giants made it so painful for me for so long).
I have no judgment or criticism to offer about the sermon. Rather I have some thoughts, lots and lots of thoughts. And one thought is that others might be interested in these thoughts. Also, if you want to hear the original message, then go to Fellowship Monrovia’s site and listen for yourself. You’ll be glad you did, because this man preeeches!
So I hope these thoughts speak to a variety of people, no matter where upon the spiritual path – or which spiritual path – you might be on.
My Church is reviewing the idea of the sabbath right now, or as I always think about it, shabbat – because, you know, my Jewish past and the ways in which that observance is very much proscribed in Jewish tradition. Last week’s sermon was about stopping; this week we looked at resting. Pastor Tate used the term “cultural current,” as in we tend to be carried away by our cultural currents. I imagine us as attractive pieces of driftwood, just floating downstream. Resting is not a part of that current, so we need to grab hold of a spiritual branch, if you will, if we’d like to stay in one place for a minute. In the French language, the infinitive verb rester means to stay. As in, Je reste ici, I’m staying here. So to me, to rest is to stay. Kind of like when we demand that our dog – or kid – stay by our side on a walk.
So, some reasons offered yesterday for staying include the fact that we miss things when we “disobey.” Again, think of the dog and the kid; they will miss the treat (bribe) they would have received if only they had remained in place long enough. And, just as when a parent tells a child what to do, the sabbath is not a suggestion, according to Pastor Tate. We need to not take it as such. He argues that having six days “on” and one day “off” is actually a natural human rhythm. God started that rhythm after all.
But why did God rest, asks the Pastor. God rested because He was done working. Like He drew a line in the sand – or put a bow on it, or whatever visual helps you – and then said, I did what I planned to do. As in, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). God’s like, That’s enough for now, I’m gonna chill. This is a model we are asked to follow: finish up your work and then rest – every week. Rest needs to become “more than a response to being tired,” exhorts Tate. “Work from rest, not for it,” he advises. The latter is so very American, isn’t it? Those of us who have traveled overseas know that not every other culture believes in powering though the day just so that one can get home – or to happy hour – and collapse. #siesta
But our culture does little to support or match that natural rhythm of six-on, one-off. We know we have things to do, and work gets in the way of those things, so we have to do more work, even after working. Yesterday we were encouraged to make a To-Be list as opposed to a To-Do list. Like, what will your self-assigned tasks help you be. That’s a hard one for me because I loooove my to-do lists. I feel oh-so productive as I make my way through them. I was raised that way, by an ex-Navy lieutenant who called the places you missed when waxing the car, “holidays.” So, I knew from an early age that holidays, rest, vacation, checking out – all that – was not good!
The hardest part for some of us in this resting is that we might just find out that the world will go on without us. Whether we are telling our employer we can’t answer emails on the weekend, or a friend that we don’t go out Sunday nights, it might just be that our organization does not shut down, nor does our friend perish due to a night without us. But the biggest point of rest, in terms of spiritual growth, is to connect with God – a Higher Power for some folks. There we are faced with our thoughts and our feelings. We may even be asked to “give an account,” as Pastor says, reminding us that accounts come with a cost. (Which is why some of us shy away from being at rest in order to avoid paying that price of solitude).
For many Christians, we have to remind ourselves that we are worthy of approaching God (through prayer, reflection, what have you), because it’s not about what we have/haven’t done, it’s about God. We are mandated to surrender, which is actually a very strong position to take in the big picture. It’s a position of humility, and an acknowledgement that “we’ll have more to bring next week,” as Tate reminds us. We had better unload while we can before getting back on the to-do hamster wheel that our culture encourages in so very many ways. So, if possible, on Sunday – or another day that works better with your particular schedule – stay. “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10). Or at least, for now, just try to be still.