Rev. Kit Billings
January 11, 2004
I continue to be so utterly moved at God's ability to bring us back to life once we feel blue, perhaps beaten up by life, lost, or just plain exhausted if not dead. It's easy for us to not heed God's great advice in the Bible to return our thoughts and spirits to Him for regular spiritual nourishment, renewal and guidance. Yet if we choose such a dangerous path in life, we run the risk of spiritual “dis-ease” and loss of conscious connection to the Lord, our Infinite Spirit of hope, inspiration and opportunity.
A few years ago a young girl by the name of Sofi was born in Siberia, a bitterly cold and desolate area of Russia. A difficult place to be a child but Sofi's life was going to be even rougher than most. She was an orphan. Then suddenly at the age of 2 she was adopted, sight unseen, by Laurie Collis a single mother in Scottsdale, Arizona.
She is now in the third grade and doing well. So well that she entered an essay contest last year and out of 10,000 applicants, she won! Toy maker Lego and The Planetary Society sponsored the event. As a result of winning her family received an all expense paid trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch the lift off of the Mars Rover. While there she was asked to read an excerpt from her winning essay. Here is part of it: "I used to live in an orphanage. It was dark and cold and lonely. At night, I looked up at the sparkly sky and felt better. I dreamed I could fly there. In America, I can make all my dreams come true. Thank you for giving me the 'Spirit' and the 'Opportunity'."
Today on Mars a little robot named Spirit and next week another named Opportunity will be exploring opposite sides of that world. By now you have figured out that the contest Sofi entered and won was to name these two Martian vehicles. But what you don't know is that "Spirit" and "Opportunity" are not just the names of the rovers. They are also the two feelings she said she experienced 6 years ago, in a cold Siberian orphanage, when she learned she was coming to America.
My friends, I invite you to think back upon a recent time when God and His Kingdom felt very, very distant and unreachable to you. Now, recall what it felt like when the awesome, marvelous “typical Sunday Sabbath miracle” happened when God found you again, and/or when you found the Lord? Did you feel a whole new “spirit” come over you, bringing your once dead bones back to life, which reconnects us with the powerful story and vision in Ezekiel of when the Lord healed the spiritual life and hope of the Hebrews, when God caused new life and breath to manifest making those dry, lifeless spiritual bones come to life, and new flesh and sinews to form? As we read in Ezekiel 37, God said, “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live.” While honoring the Lord's Sabbath—in worship, in reading and meditating upon God's Word, in doing charity toward your neighbor—have you ever experienced an inner doorway opening to discover so many more new opportunities to participate in the glorious New Jerusalem of the descent of God's Holy City coming down out of heaven?! I sure have. And I believe that you have too.
Perhaps this week, however, your spirit may have at some point felt lost, cold, alone and in deep need as little Sofi's once did. If so, then I'm glad you are here tolet our Heavenly Father bring your spiritual bones, lungs and sinews back to life!
Yes you see, the Lord is not a God of depletion, but rather one of inspiration; He's not a God who desires exhaustion but rather consistent work coupled with renewal time and rest; He's not a God who's ever allowed natural death to be the final word, but rather resurrection and everlasting life! The Holy One is indeed an expert at resurrection in all its forms.
The Lord has built into existence the Sabbath Day due to our vital need for rest, reflection, meditation, prayer and worship. And we can glean from this that He's therefore a Master of BALANCE in life. It was God who engineered the balance of work and play, running and resting, doing and NOT doing. And this, you see, is why He bids us all to Remember the Sabbath Day as a day of rest, and keep it holy.
Thus we hear within every major religious tradition on earth the great calling for we, God's children, to be sure to put down our tools, tasks and work for at least one day a week, and instead hearken unto God for a more CONSCIOUS re-connection, spiritual learning and meditation upon God's holy Word. Within all of the holy writings of the world the Lord welcomes us to rest from constantly churning and grinding and therefore getting lost and overwhelmed within the many passions and worldly interests which can totally exhaust us. In the Bhagavad Gita 12:8 we read: “Still your mind in Me, still yourself in Me, and without doubt you will be united with Me, Lord of love, dwelling in your heart.”
Spiritual development through the Third Commandment reminds us of the beautiful and renewing choice we are given to stop the rat-race for a while and rest. The literal meaning of this Commandment comes from the Old Testament, which was interpreted by the Israelite priests of old, and then later by first century Rabbis, to mean ceasing from doing all physical work and rest, in order to focus one's mind and heart upon God and reconnect with the Divine and divine truth living within the holy Word. This ancient wisdom was given by our loving Creator to teach us to be able to develop spiritually so that we learn to “wait on the Lord. Be of good courage. And He shall strengthen your heart.” (Ps 27:14)
The deep and powerful wisdom of God, which flows into and through the Third Commandment given to Moses for us to enjoy, contains more than a literal degree of truth. As you know, from deep within the external sense of God's Word lives the ever so glorious spiritual sense that bursts with the spiritual sunshine of God's Kingdom of Heaven itself! In the spiritual sense of resting on the Sabbath Day and honoring the Lord we learn how important it is to have at least one day a week, as well as certain times of the day throughout the week of activity we have on the other six days, where we cease from being so caught up in worldly goals and investments and focus entirely upon Jesus Christ and the Divine love and wisdom He has given us within His holy Word.
The Sabbath Day you see is the time we need to rest from both physical and spiritual laboring, and find rest. No wonder the Incarnate Lord did say, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” In the spiritual or internal depth of truth here God is reminding us of how vital it is that we have time away from the spiritual labors of temptation battles and struggles wherein we allow God Himself to draw our spirits away from always laboring, instead to be at rest from such inner work and conflict. Our theology of course reminds us that the spiritual sense of the six days of creation in Genesis helps us to understand that doing a lot of spiritual inner work and laboring much of the time is useful for our development. However, such spiritual work can overwhelm and exhaust us if we forget to let the Lord surround us in His Divine Love and protection and keep the hells and our love of them at bay at times. Indeed, it's vital that we rest and renew within the great spiritual peace, which only God can provide.
In other parts of the Bible we learn that the Hebrews were forbidden to even pick up sticks on the Sabbath Day, nor even start a fire. Such imagery reminds us of the kinds of internal or spiritual fires we need to control, which can only happen as we reach out to the Lord in prayer and ask for Divine help. For certainly, there are the inner fires of lust and greed, as well as the obsessions with thinking about our work or worries or concerns on Sundays, which can both burn us up and burn us out if we're not really careful. How important it is that we keep our minds from thinking about our typical weekly concerns on the Lord's Sabbath Day. It is these spiritual burdens that the Lord came to relieve us of. There are deep and important spiritual truths within the literal sense of God's concerns for the Israelites not to work on the Sabbath Day. Keeping watch for the unhealthy fires of the spirit are but one of them.
The Sabbath is a day for hearing and meditating upon God's Word, and it is also a day for “doing good” as Jesus revealed in His ministry. He turned the Jewish perspective, in some ways, on its ear in regard to what is lawful and not lawful on the Sabbath. Our teachings reveal that the deeper issue here is the attitude and spirit in which doing good deeds happen on Sunday, or which day of the week one embraces for resting in Jesus Christ. For example, there are many, many forms of “work” per se we could do today, which would be alright according to the Lord. We could go and help out at a homeless shelter, or help some stranger to fix a blown out tire, or help in some way with activities at church, or perhaps help out with things around the house. The issue is really whether we have the spiritual presence of mind to be interconnected in spirit with the Lord, and know consciously that it is Him that we're serving. Also, whether we're willing to prayerfully open ourselves up to the spirit of Christian charity and love, which the Lord made sure to use when He did His loving kindnesses on the Sabbath way back when. Thus we remember our Lord educating His listeners about the loving wisdom of doing the good work it takes to go and help one of the lost sheep, who had fallen into a ravine on the Sabbath Day.
The Sabbath, to be sure, is a day of deep love, deep study, worship, discussion and also fellowship with one's neighbors. It's a day, as one man once recalled, to have good, long visits with those we love and with family and meander in what is most warm and deeply nourishing in Jesus Christ. The Sabbath is a time to get RE-CONNECTED with God, and through God with others. For a branch will wither and die if it becomes disconnected with the tree it grew from. The word “religion” in fact means “to tie together or to bind.” Thus, just as the Lord in Ezekiel's vision was able to reconnect an entire field of human skeletons, rejoining the ligaments and flesh of the spiritual lives of the Israelites, so to through good religion and worship is God able to help every one of us to RE-CONNECT with Him and also the glory of His Kingdom, which lives mysteriously within.
The inward power of this Commandment reminds us whenever we feel disconnected from the Lord and Heaven to be willing to pray for feeling rejoined with the Lord, to take a moment and meditate on God's holy Word. And then after you pray, to then “wait on the Lord. Be of good courage. And He shall strengthen your heart.”
“Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work.” Amen.