Our faith story tells us that God makes us lie down in green pastures, that through rest and renewal we will find salvation, that sometimes when we are feeling as if we don’t have our feet underneath us the best thing we can do is go have a little snack and take a nap.
October 9, 2022
“This Here Flesh”
Psalm 23: 4b-6
Luke 8: 22-25
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Psalm 23: 4b-6
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Luke 8: 22-25
One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And waking up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. Then he said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were terrified and amazed and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water and they obey him?”
Rest Psalm 23: 4b-6 Luke 8: 22-25
The great irony this morning is that I am standing before you getting ready to preach about the spiritual practice of rest when I am absolutely completely awful at the practice. Even when I take “time off” my mind is still going through the lists of all that needs to get done. Even when I am on vacation, it takes me a couple of days to relax. I am envious of those people who almost as if they can flip a switch can transition to “vacation mode”, that they don’t have to complete the List before they can relax. The great irony this morning and the Spirit’s sense of humor coming through is that I am standing before you getting ready to talk about rest as a spiritual practice when I absolutely am atrocious at practicing it in my own life.
So like any person who knows this about themselves, I tried to avoid this sermon as best as I could. That is until my body decided it had had enough. At the beginning of the week, my body felt run down and tired but of course, I didn’t listen. So my body took matters into its own hands and forced me to rest.
Now it was just a bit of cold, nothing major, something connected to the changing of the weather but in that moment, I had a moment of clarity. I finally asked myself “What am I doing?” Why am I feeling guilty because I am not being productive? Why am I feeling like I am letting everyone down if I simply say no, if I say no, I’m taking a break? Why do I feel guilty if I step away for a few days so that I can rest.
There’s a lot to process in those sentences which is another sermon for another day but guess what… guess what happened when I stepped away for a few days so that I could rest? Nothing. The world didn’t come to an end. The church didn’t implode. Everything I worried or feared would happen never occurred. Sure I didn’t get my to do list done but I wasn’t thrown out into the streets. I wasn’t berated by society. I didn’t destroy anyone’s expectations because they had to wait a few days for that thing I was supposed to complete.
As I stepped away for a few days so that I could rest, I was able to feel the tension flow out of my body. I was able to enjoy being with my family. I was able to simply be still and know that God is God.
I know that this may not sound like I changed the world or made a huge difference like if I had solved world hunger in my free time but with that letting go, with my stepping away so that I could rest, with my realization that everything didn’t depend on me being productive, I changed my world by reclaiming who I am and whose I am.
Before anything else, I am a Beloved Child of God. I am not a cog in the machine. I am not a brick in the wall. I am not some unnamed, faceless piece which was created solely for what it can produce.
I know that these words which I am sharing this morning are but they have radical implications. Everything about our world, our culture, our society is based on what we can produce, what we can bring to the table, what we can do, pay or make which will enhance the financial situation, whether that be ours or another person’s. Nothing about how our world appreciates the invitation to simply be, to be in relationship with one another, to be in community with one another. It is all about what you can do for me or what I can do for you to prove how productive we are. As humans, our world tells us that our worth is literally about what is in our bank accounts or how many degrees we have or how business our schedule is.
But our faith story, the story which transforms us into the people God created and calls us to be, tells us the complete opposite. It tells us that our worth is grounded in the unchangeable, life giving fact that we are all created in the image of God, that we are all loved more than we will ever know. Our faith story tells us that after creating the world, God rested and called it good. Our faith story tells us that God makes us lie down in green pastures. Our faith story tells us through rest and renewal we will find salvation. Our faith story tells us that sometimes when we are feeling as if we don’t have our feet underneath us the best thing we can do is go have a little snack and take a nap.
And here is the best part…we don’t have to feel guilty for doing so because our faith narrative reminds us that it is not about production. It is about grace. It is about love. It is about community. It is about justice making. It is about becoming the people God created and calls us to be. We can’t do any of that “if we’re not healthy and healed ourselves. As the people of God, first and foremost, [Our faith story] is about respecting our own createdness. As the people of God, we are told over and over again that we are valued by God.” Our faith story, our faith tradition even gives us the tools to remember this, to practice this so it becomes a part of our very being. Our faith story, our faith traditions invites to practice Sabbath rest.
For this morning, we are going to practice Sabbath rest through centering prayer. “The word heart in the Jewish-Christian tradition refers to the source of all physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and moral energies. … It is this heart that is the place of prayer.” This heart is the place where God dwells—the place of the divine—within each of us. It is our inmost being. As part of an ancient contemplative tradition, centering prayer allows individuals to turn within and rest in God’s presence. The practice can be particularly rewarding for individuals caught up in the demanding details of daily life or caring for others. Through centering prayer we can connect with the inner peace of God and experience renewal.
Choose a word. This word, called a sacred word, should represent your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within you. Choose a word in prayer by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A word of one or two syllables is best, such as God, Jesus, Abba, Father, love, listen, peace, mercy, let go, faith, or trust. Instead of using a word, you may prefer to notice your breath or to glance inwardly toward God’s presence. Whatever you select, don’t change it during the time of prayer because that would be engaging thoughts.
Introduce the word. Sit comfortably and with your eyes closed. Briefly take the time to settle yourself. Then silently, inwardly, introduce the sacred word.
Settle deeply into prayer. Continue to sit quietly, simply resting in God’s presence. As you sit, you may notice sensations in your body, feelings, images, reflections, or other thoughts. As you become aware of these things, gently return to the sacred word.
Gently conclude the time of prayer. At the end of the time of prayer, remain in silence with your eyes closed. Once the prayer is over, gently return to the room by opening your eyes.
I invite us to come back to this moment and space. I also invite all of us to incorporate this practice within our daily devotions.
May it serve as a reminder of who we are and whose we are. May it serve as a reminder to respect our createdness. May it serve as a reminder that often times when the world feels as if it is falling apart, the best thing we can do is go have a snack and take a nap.
Previous sermons are available in the Sermon Library.
Rest Psalm 23: 4b-6; Luke 8: 22-25
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