THIS MONTH'S LESSONS FOCUS on the created world: sabbath, so that we might live in harmony with the created world; physical bodies, with which we experience the created world; creation as the locus of redemption, where the reign of God roots into the earth; and creation as the locus of revelation, where the majesty and mystery of God are made manifest.
In North America we are heading into what is traditionally the hottest part of the summer. The church, meanwhile, is going through the long green season, signifying the growth of the church after the explosion of Pentecost. While we care for the institutions of the church and the souls that make up the church, let us not neglect the earth that bears all of us and our institutions.
What might it mean to read each text with a keen awareness of the ways in which earth, land, and creation appear as characters and setting for the passage? What might it mean to attend to how human characters interact with earth, land, and creation? It may be possible for the church to get beyond the binaries that exalt spirit over body and church over earth/world. It may be that we are able to hear a call to tend the earth as part and parcel of caring for the souls that are on it—not as a competing agenda.
[ June 3 ]
Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Psalm 81:1-10; 2 Corinithians 4:5-12; Mark 2:23-3:6
IN MARK 2:27, the Sabbath is God’s gift to humanity, but first it was God’s resting space or place in Genesis 2:2. In resting, God sets a holy example for us that would be elevated to a command (Exodus 20:8; 31:14,16). Deuteronomy is a reiteration of the Torah and chapter 5 nearly duplicates the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20. In Mark, keeping the Sabbath is articulated as divine requirement. It’s almost as if we hadn’t figured out that sabbath was a good gift, good for us, and that we were required by our heavenly parent to take that rest, like a toddler being put down for a nap.
I find it useful when teaching Christians to distinguish between keeping the Sabbath and keeping a sabbath. My translation of our Deuteronomy passage is: “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Holy One your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Holy One your God; you shall not do any work ...” Christian celebration of the resurrection on Sunday is not the same thing as Sabbath-keeping—particularly for those of us who are clergy. The Sabbath is the seventh day; it is not a moveable feast. “Sabbath” and “seven” are forms from the same root word.