Cheers! We need to ‘take a break.’

by jacobjuncker

This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, January 27, 2013.

READINGS: Genesis 1:31-2:3, Exodus 20:8-11, Mark 2:27

Cheers was one of the most successful television sitcoms of all time.  All ten of its “regular” actors received an Emmy nomination for their part in the show with over half winning an award.  The show was so popular that it’s theme song, written by Gary Portnoy, has become one of the most recognized television themes of all time.  It speaks, I believe, of the plight and need of every human being:

“Making your way in the world today, takes everything you’ve got.”  Last week, we talked about our need for each other.  We were never meant to be alone.  We were created to be in community.  And when we forgot what that was supposed to look like, Jesus gave us a new commandment that we might love one another and in so doing provide life, flavor, and light to an otherwise dead, dull, dark, and draining world.

This week, we’re going to be looking at the next few lines of the song: “Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.  Wouldn’t you like to get away?”  My guess is yes.  Let’s pray…

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Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear, that together we might learn and be inspired to live your Word in the world starting today.  Amen.

˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚˜˚

We live in an era that has more leisure time than any other generation before us.  Unlike generations before us we do not have to spend much time gathering, preserving, and storing food.  We have the luxury of going to a grocery store, restaurant, or shop online for food.  This convenience has led many people to forget where their food comes from.  We have the fastest lines of transportation and communication the world has ever seen.  Our technology is advancing at record pace.  And yet, we seem to have less and less time for leisure activity.  Shoot, we even convince ourselves that we’re too busy to spend two hours a week in church on Sunday.  We live in an era that has more leisure time than any other generation before—the world is literally at our fingertips—and yet, we seem to have less and less time to “take a break from all our worries.”

The words Jesus spoke in our Gospel reading for today are just as true now as they were 2000 years ago when he first said them, “…humankind was not made for the Sabbath.”[1]

“The sabbath was made for humankind…”[2]

We tend to live our lives like the Energizer Bunny.[3]  We believe the lie that to keep moving forward in life we just have to “keep going, and going, and going.”  The unfortunate reality is that when we buy into this lie we find ourselves perpetually tired, stressed, and anxious.  The prophet Isaiah, writing some 2600 years ago, said it this way:

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted…[4]

Everyone gets tired which is exactly why we all need a break.  …which is exactly why God created the Sabbath for

31 …those who wait for the Lord [those who take a break from all their worries] shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.[5]

The sabbath was made for humankind…

God instituted the Sabbath—or, day of rest—at the beginning when God began to create.  In six days God created all that is.

Heaven and Earth were finished,
down to the last detail.

2-4 By the seventh day
God had finished his work.
On the seventh day
he rested from all his work.
God blessed the seventh day.
He made it a Holy Day
Because on that day he rested from his work,
all the creating God had done.

This is the story of how it all started,
of Heaven and Earth when they were created.[6]

Within the first week, at the beginning of creation, God set aside time for us to recharge—to take a break from all our worries.  But, it didn’t take long for us to forget what God had done.  So, God issued a commandment.  This commandment is the fourth of the infamous Ten Commandments.  It is, I think, the most ignored commandment even though God made it the wordiest commandment (Exodus 20:8-11, New Revised Standard Version).

8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Why is it that we have no problem holding one another accountable to the other nine commandments? but have a hard time helping each other follow this one?  We have no problem teaching our children that they should love and honor their parents.  We have no problem teaching them not to use God’s name in vain or set up idols for themselves.  We’re great at teaching them not to steal, murder, commit adultery, lie (“bear false witness against your neighbor”), or be jealous (“covet”) of other people’s stuff.  But, when it comes to resting—taking a break from all our worries—we’re horrible at it.  We forget that this commandment—“remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”—is just as important as the other nine.

God created the Sabbath for humankind so that our minds, bodies, and souls might be renewed.  Life ain’t easy.  Work can consume us.  Therefore, we need to take a break.  We need to make time to do the things that renew our strength.  We need to make time to do the things that recharge our minds and inspire our souls.  We need to carve “out one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, get outdoors, and get [together] with loved one.”[7]

I know how hard it is to set aside time to rest.  To be honest, I have workaholic tendencies, too.  I’d like to encourage you to create a list of things you’ll do or not do on your Sabbath—whenever you choose to take it during the week.  Maybe your Sabbath is on Monday, Tuesday, Saturday, or Sunday—whenever it is, I encourage you to take a moment and outline the things you think are important to do (or not do) on your day of rest: things that will renew your strength, and inspire your mind and soul.

This idea of creating a “Sabbath Manifesto” was actually thought up by a group of young Jewish artists in search of a modern way to observe a weekly day of rest.  They have a great website: www.sabbathmanifesto.org.  The 10 principles they suggest starting with in creating your own Sabbath manifesto are:

    1. Avoid technology.
    2. Connect with loved ones.
    3. Nurture your health.
    4. Get outside.
    5. Avoid commerce.
    6. Light candles.
    7. Drink wine.
    8. Eat bread.
    9. Find silence.
    10. Give back.

I think this is a great place to start in thinking about what your day of rest might look like.  If you don’t like some of these principles, change them.  My manifesto states that on my Sabbath (which I take most Saturdays) I will strive to:

    1. Avoid technology (especially, Social Media)
    2. Connect with loved ones.
    3. Nurture my health.
    4. Get outside.
    5. Avoid commerce.
    6. Light candles.
    7. Drink my favorite beverage (in moderation)
    8. (Prepare or learn to prepare and then) eat my favorite food.
    9. Find silence.
    10. Give back.

Again, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m horrible at taking time away for rest and renewal.  I am always checking email or thinking about the sermon or other work that needs to be done.  I’m hopeful that you’ll help me stay true to my Sabbath (which I typically take on Saturdays).  I’m hopeful that by writing my own manifesto, I’ll do a better job of keeping the fourth commandment.  My plan is to post it on my refrigerator…and, if you don’t see it when you’re at the parsonage—which you have an open invite every Tuesday morning for the Pastor’s Bible Study–then ask me where in the heck it is.

I know, from my experience, that “taking a break a break from all your worries sure would help a lot” which is exactly why you and I need to plan some time for rest and renewal.  It’s what God established within the first week of creation.  It’s what God commanded.  I know it’s not easy to set a whole day aside, but it’s exactly what God knows we need.  We need it to renew our minds, bodies, and souls.  We need “to take a break” so that on the other six days of the week we will be sharp, focused, healthy, and productive.

Don’t forget the Sabbath, God created it for each and every one of us.  Amen.


[1] Mark 2:27b, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

[2] Mark 2:27a, NRSV.

[3] Learn more about the Energizer Bunny here: http://www.energizer.com/energizer-bunny/Pages/bunny-center.aspx.

[4] Isaiah 40:28-30, NRSV.

[5] Isaiah 40:31, NRSV.

[6] Genesis 2:1-4, The Message.

[7] “About this Project,” The Sabbath Manifesto <http://www.sabbathmanifesto.org/about> Accessed January 23, 2013.

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