TEXTS for PREACHING: Emily Dickonson’s, “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52138/some-keep-the-sabbath-going-to-church-236
Remember “blue laws?”
Consumerism wins, Sabbath loses.
But Sabbath lost
a long time before capitalism.
The connotation of Emily Dickenson’s poem
is the liberation of sabbath
from the confines of church or synagogue or mosque.
True sabbath isrestnot necessarily religious worship.
Resting in the beauty of Creation
or rest in the loveliness of slumber
or rest in the sloth of nothingness.
Just plain rest.
Imagine, if you can,
Electronics put away,
no “thing” to accomplish or complete:
no “doing” that isn’t restful in and of itself.
How un-21stcentury, don’t you think?
I want us to consider the heart sabbath for a moment.
We cannot be certain of the unique contributions
of any historical moment
or any particular culture –
mostly because ideas
percolate in more than one place
and among more than one people
and at more than one time in history.
Ideas and inventions
and ways of doing things
bubble up from the collective human endeavor.
Ancient versions of democracy
can be found in many places, not just Greece.
Electricity, the telephone, airplane, and car
were not singular inventions
but a race
to be the first to completion
and then the first to production
So it is all the more startling to claim
that the notion of Sabbath –
a day of rest
bestowed upon all people by a God who loves them –
is a gift from escaped slaves
who came to be known as Hebrews.
It makes perfect sense.
A society with its origins in slavery
would yearn for a day of rest
and understand the toll
that uninterrupted labor takes
on the body
but also the mind,
but also, the spirit.
We have forgotten the context
in which sabbath was created
and when we forget its origins
we may become blind to its purpose.
It is useful then, to ask why
we resist rest?
We need to know why we resist
being at rest
because it is a countervailing force
that prohibits true sabbath.
Remember the law of inertia
or Newton’s first law of motion?
Don’t freak out
but it is really interesting to think about this,
because we simply assume
our contemporary notions of physics
as a kind of obvious background truth
when there was a time
in which Newton’s laws of motion
were not believed or known.
Before Galileo and Newton,
the general assumption was not motion,
but rather, that objects had a built-in brake
or inclination to slow down.
They believed it was the nature of anything that moved
to also slow down and stop.
Slowing down and coming to a halt,
the way that gravity causes objects in motion to do,
was assumed to be a natural capacity
rather an outside of it.
But we know
that friction, gravity, and resistance
are external forces that change velocity.
Or to put it in the terms of Newton’s law of motion –
the only description of reality you and I have ever known –
“An object at rest remains at rest,
or if in motion, remains in motion
at a constant velocity
unless acted on by a net external force.”
Now, lest you think this stuff
loops on demand in my brain,
I had to go online to a teacher website,
to help me out.
And I am so glad I did.
It had the most potent example
of Newton’s law I’ve ever seen:
A two minute video
of astronauts on the space station
Yep, eating tacos.
One of them has a drink in one hand
and a taco in the other,
and when he wants to reach for some sauce
to add to his taco,
he just lets the taco go.
The taco just stays there
in the air
waiting for him to hold it again.
It is like some cartoon –
an impossible reality for us
because of gravity.
But as Newton told us,
out in interstellar space
an object in motion staysin motion
unless something comes along to slow it or stop it.
And likewise, an object with no velocity
simply does not move – like a taco –
unless something comes along to move it.
So, apply Newton to our resistance to sabbath:
what is it
that keeps us from resting –
what is it
that keeps us moving and
and unable to simply…rest?
I suspect, but do not know for sure
and there is no Newtonian law
to proclaim it,
but I believe the force
that prevents us from stopping
and truly resting, is an anxiety or fear
lodged in the raw tissue
of an old wound or wounds.
We fear, instinctively,
that if we stop and rest
that stuff we have been running from
will catch up to us.
And you know, our instinct is probably correct.
To stop and rest
means that we hear what we’ve been missing,
we see what we were moving too fast to see,
and we feel what we might rather not feel.
All of us have old wounds,
and storage ponds of sorrow and grief.
Such wounds are different for each of us, of course,
but we all have them.
No one gets out of childhood alive
without some woundedness.
And no one anywhere in the world
walks this planet
without some painful wound
that broke the skin inside us
during adolescence or adulthood.
The power of our wounds
and the velocity of the motion they fuel for us to escape,
is different for all of us –
and different at different times in our lives.
But if we find ourselves
unable to stop
to truly be at rest
for a nice long time of sabbath,
then it is wound-management
we might want to consider.
is accomplished by gazing upon
that time and place
and those people, with whom the wound was formed.
It is accomplished by listening to the wound.
It can be done with introspection
If we give attention to that which is keeping us in motion,
we may be able to slow down enough
to truly rest – to enter a real sabbath.
But resting is harder that it seems like it should be.
I remember my first training in meditation
and the man who taught me said,
“Don’t worry about it if you fall asleep.”
I did both – I fell asleep and worried about it.
When I asked him what it meant,
he said, “You were tired.
If you are tired when you meditate,
you will probably fall asleep,
and that just means you needed some sleep.”
Tiredness can be one of the things
that keeps us from true rest.
If we have a backlog of sleep deprivation,
we will fall asleep when we allow ourselves
to arrive at sabbath.
But we are all different
and different personalities have to work their way
toward rest in their own unique or odd ways.
One-size does not fit all
whether we are talking about clothing or spirituality.
When our kids were young
and we were on vacation,
Katy and I had mandatory “FOB Time“ after lunch.
FOB: “Flat on back.”
The four kids didn’t have to nap
but they could not leave their bed
and they could not disturb anyone else.
It was amazing how differently
they managed their half hour of FOB.
One would read,
another one would play without a sound
with little soldiers and tanks and things.
Another one could not be still
and practically climbed around the sides of the mattress
like a salamander or Spider Man,
keeping within the confines of the rule
but just barely.
One of them could be still
and often fell asleep.
All of them would fall asleep
if they would be still for any length of time,
but that was what they were resisting.
Motion kept them from sleeping,
and for whatever reason,
sleeping seems like a giant failure to a lot of kids.
But whatever is keeping you and me in motion
so that we have difficulty stopping,
and resting, and
it needs our attention.
Strengthening and deepening our capacity
to enter sabbath
and take long drinks from that well,
is a singularly important spiritual skill.
I offer it as a solid piece of wisdom
from the depths of our spiritual tradition.