Monday, August 29, 2016

The Pathway to Success

The Pathway to Success
Luke 14:7-14 Upper Rogue/Gold Hill UMC Picnic August 28,2016

O Lord it's hard to be, humble when you're perfect in every way. I can't wait to look in the mirror, Cause I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me, I must be a wonderful man.
Oh Lord it's hard to be humble, But I'm doing the best that I can.

Of all the Christian virtues, none are as misunderstood or unpopular in our world as Humility. Humility is often used as a synonym for weakness and self-deprecation. It is believed that being humble means groveling in front of others or thinking we're no good and others are better. That's not what the Bible says. God says when you are humble, you are free from pride and arrogance. You know that in your flesh you are inadequate, yet you also know who you are in Christ. Humility recognizes that our own strength is not enough, we need, and give thanks for, God's help and give God credit for the gifts and graces that bring us success. Godly humility is being strong enough in our faith to put others first. The picture of humility in the Bible is one of a strong person who loves others, not someone who is a wimp. Perhaps the best description of humility I ever heard was from the top sensei of the Tong So Do school of Karate who wrote that true humility is the ability to lift up others without pulling yourself down.

The old joke says: "In Sunday School I got a ribbon for humility; but when I wore it they took it back."  Which brings us to the flip side of humility, arrogance. The definition of arrogant is someone who is full of self-worth or self-importance and who tells and shows that they have a feeling of superiority over others. An example of arrogant is when a guy on a date brags about himself all night, acting like he is the best thing to ever happen to a woman.

In today's lesson from Luke, Jesus engages the arrogance of his fellow guests at a dinner party. In that society, where you sat at the table was a sign of your status in the group. Kind of like when I was in Zaire (Now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). In a culture where almost everyone walked everywhere, to be seen riding in a car was a sign of importance. Consequently, we had several local teachers who would walk past the school to our quarters so they could be seen riding to school in our car. So it was that Jesus, noticing the guests elbowing one another in a mad rush to the best seat, said to them: “When someone invites you to dinner, don't take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he'll come and call out in front of everybody, 'you're in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.' Red faced, you'll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.
When you're invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then, when the host comes, he may very well say, 'friend, come up to the front.' That will give the guests something to talk about! What I'm saying is, if you walk about with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face. But if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” (The Message)

When God says to be humble, he lets us know we must examine our motives and attitudes. We also must examine how we respond to others. Shortly after assuming the presidency of the prestigious Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Booker T Washington, the renowned African American Educator, was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady.

The next morning the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. "It's perfectly all right, Madam," he replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it's always a delight to do something for a friend." She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute.

Being humble means you can speak with the right attitude. Henry Augustus Rowland, professor of physics at Johns Hopkins University, was once called as an expert witness at a trial. During cross-examination a lawyer demanded, "What are your qualifications as an expert witness in this case?"

The normally modest and retiring professor replied quietly, "I am the greatest living expert on the subject under discussion." Later a friend well acquainted with Rowland's disposition expressed surprise at the professor's uncharacteristic answer. Rowland answered, "Well, what did you expect me to do? I was under oath."

Humility makes it easier to have courage. Humility frees you from worrying about how others perceive you. You have less of a need to make a good impression on people, so you are more open to learn new things. You don't mind if people see you as imperfect, or that you are not as skilled or talented as you would like to be.
An arrogant or conceited person always needs to appear to be perfect, to be highly skilled and talented. This creates tension and anxiety. The truly humble person is calmer and more relaxed.” (From Rabbi Pliskin's book, "Courage")

Thus it is, that You will usually be more successful if you practice what the Bible says about God and humility than if you are pushy or arrogant. (When you are humble, you are likely to have more influence than when you fight abrasively.) Even if you don't achieve the results you hoped for, you have the joy and pleasure of having acted in a godly manner. When you understand the meaning of humility in the Bible and put it into practice, you are a winner—even if you do not "win.
"David Hess writes for Forbes: Highly innovative and consistently successful businesses like IDEO, Google, Intuit, Bridgewater Associates, W.L. Gore & Associates, and Pixar Animated Studios have cultures and processes that encourage and enable people to unlock their chains so they can imagine, explore, experiment, and think critically. These companies encourage childlike curiosity and taking ownership of challenges with the mindset of a scientist who is good at not knowing. All are idea meritocracies that devalue hierarchy and value candor.
Along the way to adulthood, however, most of us lost our childlike curiosity and our candor because we became consumed with being liked, being “smart”—which to us meant being right and not making mistakes—and protecting our self-image so as not to lose face. Innovators, however, can’t be consumed with always being right and can’t avoid mistakes and failures. Innovation, as a process, requires failure. Exploration into the unknown, by definition, produces surprises. To become innovators, we have to develop a different mental model of “smart.” That requires us to accept the science of learning, which illuminates the cognitive and emotional proclivities that can inhibit our learning.” In short, innovation, courage, and humility go hand in hand.

John the Baptist had the crowd following him before Jesus came to the scene. His followers saw Jesus and quickly left him and went to follow Jesus. Some disgruntled ones went to John and reported to him. They thought John would flare up and curse his disciples but to their surprise replied, “He must increase and I must decrease.” John 3:26-30. It was John’s joy to promote Jesus above himself. That’s the mark of true humility.

Do you have the strength of faith to be humble. Do you have what it takes to sit at the lower spot? Even when it means you may not be called up? Do you have the faith to fail? Do you have what it takes to recognize and honor the gifts and successes of others without downplaying your own. Are you ready to try true humility? To quote one of the presidential candidates: “What have you got to loose?” Other than pride (which goes before defeat), and arrogance (which precedes a fall)? [Proverbs 16:18]

The odd truth is that humility is the pathway to success. Take it. AMEN.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

God Rested; Shouldn't You? Part 2

Upper Rogue United Methodist Church
August 21, 2016
Luke 13:10-17
Two weeks ago I spoke of the importance of a Sabbath, of devoting one day in seven to rest and to God.
Last week I spoke of the prophets, and how they were, and are, disliked because their words often collide with our deeply held ideas, prejudices, and traditions. That's exactly what happened in today's gospel lesson. It was the Sabbath and Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. Among the worshipers was crippled woman, she was bent over and had been unable to stand up straight for 18 years.

I cannot imagine what that poor woman's life was like: not being able to see anything but your feet and the ground. It would be bad enough to be like that for a few weeks while awaiting surgery, but 18 years! That''s enough to drive you past hopelessness. Like the country-western song, she'd been down so long it looked like up to her.
The anthropologist and philosopher Loren Eiseley told of a man he saw on a train traveling from New York to Pittsburgh . He had that down and out look we see so often. His clothes were old and ragged, and he sat, eyes closed with a paper bag balanced on his knees. It seemed to contain all his earthly possessions. All eyes were on the man as the conductor entered the car. “Ticket please.” he said to the man. Pulling out a wad of cash, the despondent man said: “Give me a ticket to wherever.” The conductor chose Pittsburgh for his destination, and returned the man's change.
This must have been how the crippled woman in Luke's story felt. So hopeless she didn't care where she was or where she was going. She had given up hope, and faced a future without promise. Oh, she'd probably heard of Jesus, and his power to heal, but she was so depressed she didn't even ask for help, probably thinking it wouldn't do any good anyhow. No, she didn't come to Jesus, Jesus came to her.
When Jesus saw the woman, he called her over and said, "You are now well." He placed his hands on her, and right away she stood up straight and praised God.
(Luk 13:12-13)

Now I don't know about you, but I wouldn't call placing my hands on someone hard work; but then, I'm not the leader of that Jewish congregation. He was upset. “How dare you heal on the Sabbath! Don't you know there are six days to do your work? She should come on one of those days to be healed. This is the Sabbath, the day of rest, not work.

The Jewish leaders, especially the Pharisees of Jesus' time took Sabbath seriously. The Pharisees were the ultimate religious people among the Jews during Christ’s life on earth. Determined not to break any of God’s laws, they had, over time, devised an intricate system of oral tradition to keep them from breaking the Mosaic law. There were 39 specific activities that were forbidden on the Sabbath The 39 categories of activity prohibited on Shabbat can be divided into four groups.

The first 11 categories are activities required to bake bread.
The next 13 categories are activities required to make a garment.
The next 9 categories are activities required to make leather.
The final 6 categories are activities required to build a structure or building.
None of them deal with mercy, kindness, or healing.

The clash between Jesus and the Pharisees lay in their differing understanding of the nature of God. For the Pharisees, God is primarily one who makes demands. For them, the Scriptures of the Old Testament were a set of rules that must be kept at all costs. For Jesus, as well as the Old Testament believers, God is primarily “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Ps. 145:8). What really got the Pharisees upset with Jesus was the way he ignored their trivial and burdensome rules for keeping the Sabbath. In Matthew 12 verses 1–8, the Pharisees objected to the disciples of Jesus plucking and eating heads of grain as they walked through the grain fields on a Sabbath. According to their oral tradition, plucking the heads of grain and eating them was work — a violation of the Sabbath. Almost immediately afterward, on that same Sabbath day, Jesus entered their synagogue where there was a man with a withered hand. Now, eager to again accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (vv. 9–14). Before healing the man, Jesus answers their question by asking which of them, if his sheep falls into a pit on the Sabbath, would not lift it out. If, then, it is lawful to relieve the misery of a sheep on the Sabbath, how much more is it lawful to relieve the misery of a fellow human being who is more valuable than a sheep? And in today's lesson from Luke, Jesus says: "Are you trying to fool someone? Won't any one of you untie your ox or donkey and lead it out to drink on a Sabbath? This woman belongs to the family of Abraham, but Satan has kept her bound for eighteen years. Isn't it right to set her free on the Sabbath?" (Luk 13:15-16)

In all three instances — that of the disciples eating the grain and of Jesus healing the man’s withered hand and the crippled woman, the scriptural principle that Jesus applies is God’s Word that “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”

What we call John Wesley's Rule reiterates this thought:
Do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can,
at all the times you can,
to all the people you can,
for as long as ever you can.
And yes, that includes on the Sabbath

Now don't misunderstand me. Sabbath is important. We need that time to rest. We need a day away from the toil and occupation. A day to spend relaxing, resting, and praising God. Jesus, himself told us: "People were not made for the good of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for the good of people.” (Mar 2:27) I don't think most of us need 39 rules to tell us what we should and shouldn't do. We know; that's why we are here today. We know that acts of mercy are always appropriate. We know we shouldn't work: but, then, sometimes we, like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, wonder what work is.

The truth is, it is, sometimes, hard to determine if something is work or leisure. Webster defines work as: effort exerted to do or make something; labor, toil. Employment or occupation. While Sir James Barrie claims that “Nothing is really work unless you'd rather be doing something else.”. Then there's Milton Berle's assertion that 'hard work never killed anybody: But then, did you ever hear of anyone dieing from rest?” So where do we draw the line?

I would suggest that one way is to look at what you do the rest of the week, either for pay or as a volunteer. Are you a farmer? Then gardening of the Sabbath is probably work for you. Do you deliver meals on wheels? Maybe you should think about staying home on the Sabbath Are you in sales? Listing stuff on Craig's List or holding a garage sale is probably work. No matter how much you enjoy your paid or volunteer job, it is important to spend a day doing something else. That's what Sabbath is about: time to relax, recharge, and give thanks. Practice compassion and mercy? Yes. Prepare for the week ahead? No. Respond to an emergency; yes. Do your housework or prepare a report for the boss?No. You get the picture. If it feels like work, if it looks like work, if it sounds like work it probably is work. And if it is work, you should avoid it at least one day a week. After all: By the seventh day God had finished his work, and so he rested. God blessed the seventh day and made it special because on that day he rested from his work.
(Gen 2:2-3)
God rested. Shouldn't you? AMEN.

Everybody Hates a Prophet

Upper Rogue United Methodist Church
August 14, 2016          Isaiah 5:1-7 

Can anyone here tell me the three branches of biblical ministry? They are pastor, priest, and prophet. The pastor’s purpose is to help people grow and mature spiritually. Paul explains that God gave some to be pastors “for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-13). He or she accomplishes this through the Teaching/preaching of traditional doctrine and Care giving, such as visitation, counseling, comforting, and taking care of the needs of people. The role of the priest is to restore people to God: every time we break the bread, pour the baptismal waters, or anoint the sick it is a priestly act. The Prophet has, 2016 the thankless task of speaking the hard, but necessary word of God: words that challenge our deeply held values, prejudices, and priorities. They point out our sins and call us to repentance and the return to righteous living. Maybe that's why everyone hates prophets.

We may love our pastor. Many people admire the priest. But just about everyone hates a prophet. Indeed, prophets have a long history of being hated, persecuted, and even killed. In his lament over Jerusalem, Jesus says: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Your people have killed the prophets and have stoned the messengers who were sent to you...” (Matt. 23:37a). The prophet Jeremiah was cursed, beaten and even jailed by his own kin. Elisha was under a death sentence from Joram. When Elijah was in a cave, hiding from Jezebel's wrath, he called out to God: "LORD God All-Powerful, I've always done my best to obey you. But your people have broken their solemn promise to you. They have torn down your altars and killed all your prophets, except me. And now they are even trying to kill me!" (1Ki 19:10) Jeremiah was tossed into a dry well. The list goes on.

Pastor's and priests are nice to have around. But prophets? When Ahab saw Elijah, he said, "Have you caught up with me, my enemy?" My enemy. A fitting title for those whose word is so bothersome, and who will not be silenced. The words of a prophet like Isaiah are often bitter medicine, without a spoonful of sugar. The don't go down easily. But Isaiah was also an artist; an artist whose paint was words. He painted word pictures that drew you in, making you want to listen. Such is today's passage. A song of love betrayed

The song describes a farmer who carefully and lovingly planted a vineyard. He dug the soil and cleared it of stones; he planted the finest vines. He even built a tower to guard them, and dug a pit for treading the grapes. But then something went terribly wrong. All of the grapes, though coming from the best stock, were sour. In spite of his loving care, his beloved, his vineyard, betrayed him.

At this point the whole tone of the song changes as the prophet calls upon the people of Jerusalem to judge between his friend and the vineyard. Is there anything I failed to do for it? Then why did it produce sour grapes and not the good grapes I expected?
(Isa 5:4) And then Isaiah swings the ax.
"Here is what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge around it, break down the wall that protects it, and let wild animals eat it and trample it down. I will let it be overgrown with weeds. I will not trim the vines or hoe the ground; instead, I will let briers and thorns cover it. I will even forbid the clouds to let rain fall on it."
(Isa 5:5-6) And just in case there is any doubt, the prophet makes it clear he is not speaking of grapes and vineyards at all, but of his listeners. Israel is the vineyard of the LORD Almighty; the people of Judah are the vines he planted. He expected them to do what was good, but instead they committed murder. He expected them to do what was right, but their victims cried out for justice. (Isa 5:7).

Everyone hates prophets. Maybe because it isn't easy to hear your sins enumerated. It's almost like sitting in a courtroom listening to the reading, point by point, of the charges against you. And the charges were many, and ugly. You are in for trouble! You take over house after house and field after field, until there is no room left for anyone else in all the land.
(Isa 5:8)You are in for trouble! You get up early to start drinking, and you keep it up late into the night. At your drinking parties you have the music of stringed instruments, tambourines, and flutes. But you never even think about all the LORD has done,
(Isa 5:11-1 At this point Isaiah has left preaching and gone to meddling.

Everyone hates prophets. It's an election year, and just about anything can and will be done or said. 8 years ago, in another election year, you may recall the fuss over the preaching of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who enumerated some of the sins of American culture; racism, violence, injustice, and war-mongering among them. Preaching that probably would have never been reported had not one of the candidates' Barrak Obama, been a part of his congregation. There were those who opined that Mr. Obama should condemn his pastor for those remarks. But the truth is, Rev. Wright stood in a long line of those whose prophetic pronouncements make their listeners uncomfortable.

As much as everyone hates prophets, they are necessary. Their words call us back to God, back to righteousness. Prophets won't let us settle down to the easy work of mercy when Justice remains to be embraced. There is a difference. A missionary once described mercy as being kind. When we offer a meal to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked and our presence to the lonely, that's mercy. And mercy is important. Last week, as you left the communion rail, I urged you to do mercy. We do works of mercy in the name of Jesus, who also did works of mercy.

But mercy is often not enough. H.L. Mencken,wrote: “ Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.” There is an old story about two neighbors, a baker and a farmer. The baker began to be suspicious of the farmer, wondering if he wasn't getting his money's worth when he paid for a pound of butter. He weighed the farmer's butter on several occasions, and the butter consistently weighed less than a full pound. Enraged, he had him arrested for fraud.

The judge asked the farmer at the trial, "I presume you have scales?"
"Yes, of course, Your Honor," the farmer replied.
"And I presume you use standard weights to measure your goods?” the judge asked.

Yes, generally,” said the farmer. “But I don’t use them when serving the baker,” replied the farmer.
"Then how do you hope to weigh accurately the butter you sell to your neighbor?" the judge asked.
"That's easy," the farmer said. "When the baker began to buy butter from me, I decided to buy my bread from him. I've been using his one-pound loaves to balance my scales when I portion out his butter.”

A pastor asked her congregation what they would do if they saw a baby floating down a river. Almost to a person they replied they would jump into the river and pull out the child. “What if there were two babies?” she asked and received the same answer. What if there were 4, or 8, or 16, or 32? Finally one of those listening said: “I think I'd head upstream and find out who was throwing those babies in the water, and stop them.”
And that, said the pastor, would be an act of justice.” And justice is one of the things the prophets call us to. Jesus berates the pharisees saying: “You Pharisees and teachers are show-offs, and you're in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your garden, such as mint, dill, and cumin. Yet you neglect the more important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are the important things you should have done, though you should not have left the others undone either.”(Mat 23:23)

Micah exhorts us: The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands: "See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God."
(Mic 6:8) And how does our society respond? Much like Jerusalem to whom Micah preached. You store up stolen treasures and use dishonest scales. But I, the LORD, will punish you for cheating with weights and with measures. You rich people are violent, and everyone tells lies. Because of your sins, I will wound you and leave you ruined and defenseless. You will eat, but still be hungry; you will store up goods, but lose everything-- I, the LORD, will let it all be captured in war. You won't harvest what you plant or use the oil from your olive trees or drink the wine from grapes you grow.
(Mic 6:10-15)

Everyone hates prophets: but as unpleasant as their messages can be, it behooves us to listen. It behooves us to listen when they tell us a garbage heap of plastic the size of Connecticut is floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It behooves us to listen when they tell us we are polluting God's creation to the point it endangers not only our children and grandchildren, but even ourselves. It behooves us to listen when they tell us our activities are changing the climate it ways that endanger life: animal, plant, and human. It behooves us to listen when they tell us the glaciers are melting and the seas are rising. It behooves us to listen when they tell us that the economic gap between the wealthiest and the poorest of earth's people cannot be sustained. It behooves us to listen when they tell us that violence must be restrained. It behooves us to listen when they tell us that before God blesses America, America must bless God.

Everyone hates prophets, but their words are a part of the proclamation of the Gospel. When they call us to justice, they call us to follow Christ. When they call us to care for the earth, they call us to obey God. Our prayer for God's kingdom to come, “On earth as it is in heaven.” cannot, and will not be answered without upsetting a lot of people, people just like us. Justice and righteousness are the agenda of the prophets, let us make them ours. AMEN.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Genesis 2:1-3 August 7,2016

Dr. Matthew Sleeth, former emergency room physician, and author of 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life. remembers, as do many of us, when Sunday was a real day off.
a time when you couldn't buy gas, furniture, cars, or almost anything else on Sunday.
For almost 2,000 years, Western culture stopped -- primarily on Sunday -- for about 24 hours. Even when I was a child, you couldn't buy gasoline, you couldn't buy milk. The drugstores weren't open. The only thing that was open was a hospital. Even in dairy farming country, we would milk cows, but we wouldn't bring in hay.

But somewhere in the last half of the twentieth century, things changed. Today we live in a society that snarls at rest, that sees not working as time wasted. Somewhere in the past few decades, a day off became more about catching up, running errands, and planning for the next week than about actually enjoying the day. How many of these do you do when you take a day off? Grocery shopping, Banking, Cleaning, Laundry, Wash the Car, Catch up on work, mow the lawn, fix that leaky faucet, Plan the next week? We have so much to do, and so little time. And besides, idle hands are the devil's workshop: that's what my mamma always said. So on we go, cell phones and tablets constantly within reach, always busy, always doing something.

Is it any wonder stress is a major killer in our culture? A study reported in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that people who worked in excess of 60 hours a week, but fewer than 70 hours, increased their risk of developing coronary heart disease by 63 percent compared to those who worked lighter schedules.5 Those who worked over 80 hours a week increased their risk by 94 percent. Other research links long hours on the job to increased depression, anxiety, and insomnia, as well as weight gain and higher divorce rates. A Japanese study of 238 clerical workers published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that employees who put in more than 60 hours a week had 15 times the rate of depression one to three years later, compared to their coworkers on more moderate schedules. A Kansas State University study of more than 12,000 participants also found increased depression among those who worked 50 or more hours weekly.
The increase may be due, in part, to skewed eating and sleeping habits. When workers spend so much time in the office, they may not have time to cook at home and so grab meals on the go. Plus, those who work long hours tend to skip exercise. Also, excess working typically is a stressful endeavor, and it's perhaps no coincidence that the US simultaneously is the most overworked nation in the world, and the most anxious. A study by the World Health Organization found that nearly one-third of Americans suffer anxiety symptoms at some point in their lives. More than eight in 10 Americans say that excessive workloads on their jobs are causing them inordinate stress.
The bottom line, according to these and many other studies, is that working too much generally isn't good for body or mind, or productivity. According to a summary report and accompanying charts in The Economist, "…the greater the number of hours worked per year, the greater the likelihood of premature death and poor quality of life. Additionally, studies show that overtime hours are less productive than regular hours.

And no, the answer is not to retire; at least not to the TV and rocking chair. Studies have found that those who worked under 30 hours a week actually had higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels than those who worked between 31-60 hours. Perhaps staying at home puts one too close to the fridge, the snack cupboard, and the easy chair.

But there is good news. God has given us the answer to overwork, stress, and anxiety. It's so simple it . it seems impossible. God's answer to our world of work and stress is Sabbath. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the. seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Sabbath, the word comes from a Hebrew root meaning rest. Rest: ease or inactivity after exertion; relief from anything tiring or distressing.

John Wesley probably worked harder than just about anyone in this room. But he insisted that his followers, and his preachers, take a Sabbath, a day off. “That the solemn observation of one day in seven as a day of holy rest, and holy work, is the indispensable duty of all those to whom God has revealed his holy Sabbath”

We know this. But, somehow the idea of a day or rest gets lost in the clutter of our calendar until it becomes just one more item on our “bucket list:” that list of things we want to do before we die. Aha!
That may well be the root of the problem. We are afraid of death, we are afraid of squandering the little time we have on this earth, and so we stretch out our waking moments and fill them with things we feel we must do. We hold on to our precious seconds of life like a miser holds on to a dollar .But all of us will die: we will leave behind dirty dishes and unfinished projects. We will never get it all done; there will always be something left for others to do; or to leave undone. “I'll rest in the grave” we say: and, indeed, death is another definition of rest. Rest and the passage of time constantly remind us of our own mortality. And so we struggle on:
Gathering rosebuds, while we may,
for Time is still a-flying,
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

We remember that the writer of Proverbs asks:
How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.

And yet, we read that God rested. God, the omnipotent, omnipresent, creator of all things rested.
2 On the seventh day God ended His work which He had done. And He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. [Genesis 2:2 NLV]
God took a day off! Wow! What a concept. I can't help but wonder what God does on a day off. Does God bake cookies? I doubt it. Does God mow the lawn? Not likely. Does God fix a leaky gutter or plan next week's calendar? I don't think so. In fact, I haven''t a clue what God does on a day off, but that's not what's important. What's important is that God took a day off. And that God commands us to take a day off. In fact, it was so important, that those who didn't take a Sabbath could be executed.
14 “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. 15 For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. [Ex. 31:14-15 NIV] I doubt this happened often, but it did at least once.
32 While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 31. 35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.” 36 So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death.” [Numbers 15:31, 35-36]

That's how seriously God takes the idea of Sabbath. Yet, the reality is that Sabbath is not for God,
Sabbath is for humanity. Sabbath is a gift from God to us. For God understands what we do not; God knows we need one day out of seven to rest; one day of seven to recharge; one day of seven to recuperate from our work; one day in seven to just be.

I must confess: there was a time in my ministry when I would have had to preface this sermon with: “This is a do as I say, not as I do sermon.” I was pastoring, serving as a hospital, fire, and police chaplain, a firefighter and an EMT. I also served on the county anti-poverty agency, the “smoke-free 2000 committee in the schools, a camp get the idea. Then one day a colleague asked me: “When was your last day off?”
I couldn't remember. “I'm too busy to take a day off” I said, “too many people depend on me.”
Oh,” my colleague responded, “You're stronger and more important than God?”
Of course not” I answered, “What kind of question is that?”
He then gave me one of the best pieces of advice I ever received: “God took a day off. Shouldn't you?

Celebrate your day off with this feast, the feast our God has prepared for us in the face of a hostile world. The feast provided by God for God's people. Come. Celebrate. Rest. AMEN.