Proper 15A20
16 August 2020
Isaiah 56.1,6-8
St. Lukes Episcopal Church
Facebook Live North Little Rock
The Rev. Carey Stone

Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. -from Exodus 20

One hot Sunday afternoon, as a newly ordained priest I thought I would stop in at a grocery store and pick up a nice cool six pack of a certain beer that comes from Holland and is bottled in green bottles. Having lived in Virginia for three years I thought nothing of it until I was in the check-out line and the young 17year old cashier said, “I can’t sell that to you Father, today is Sunday!” Three things: First, I was reminded that I was back home in Arkansas, and two, not allowing alcohol sales on Sunday was one of the last vestiges of the period where “Blue Laws” were common. Three, a unique shade of green that only a priest can turn when absolutely embarrassed!

If you are old enough, you probably remember going into a Walgreens, or a Skaggs/Albertsons and seeing that certain aisles were inaccessible and tied off with ropes. These aisles were strictly off limits – only essential items that were primarily health related were allowed to be sold on Sunday, OTC and prescription drugs primarily, and certain grocery items, like milk, bread, and toilet paper. Today, only the refrigerated alcohol section remains off limits with the lights dimmed or turned off.  These blue laws hearken back to day in America where just a few decades ago, Sundays were sacred. Even if you did not observe the Christian Sabbath, most stores and businesses were closed. There was a communal effort if not to observe the Sabbath, to at least respect it. But of course, we have gradually moved to an existence that runs “24/7/365” 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and most stores, shops and businesses have expanded their hours, in an effort to keep up with our demands for more. 


Wayne Muller, the author of the book we are reading together as a Parish on the Sabbath wrote: “the more our lives speed up, the more they feel hurt, frightened, and isolated…our work in the world rarely feels light, pleasant, or healing…[and] the whole experience of being alive begins to melt into one enormous obligation. We say “I am so busy” to each other as if our exhaustion were a trophy…the busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others.”[1] But this way of living eventually catches up with us.

Like living as if gravity does not apply to us, we forget the Sabbath day, and live as if the Sabbath is one of God’s Ten suggestions rather than one of God’s Ten Commandments. Forgetting and neglecting Sabbath time can be a killer. The Chinese cryptogram for “busy” consists of two characters, one means heart, the other means killing. So being overly busy can literally give us a heart attack, and while it might not be as quick as ignoring gravity and jumping from a 10-story building, chronic busyness and exhaustion of body, mind, and soul can be just as effective. Some folks end up having an ‘imposed Sabbath’ by having a serious health concern or an accident that forces them to lay down and rest.

From a practical standpoint, going without Sabbath just doesn’t make any sense. Like a lumberjack who never stops to sharpen their saw, the blade becomes dull, and they end up working more hours but accomplishing less. Even those who are retired are some of the busiest people I have ever met, they’re busy with grandchildren, doctor’s appointments, with volunteering, and travelling.

Many traditionally go on vacation this time of year, and while these times are enjoyable, and worthwhile, we often return home only to find a level of tiredness that even vacations can’t relieve – soul tiredness. We can sit on a beach but our souls can still be working overtime with preoccupations, and worries about what’s not getting done back at the office, and the pile of stuff that will be waiting when we get back.

I don’t believe for a minute that God wants to blame us and shame us, all God asks is that we remember: “Remember the sabbath day, and to keep it holy..,”[2]

The sabbath is not: a law to Lord over our heads, but a lease for renewal,
another burden to bear, but a blessing to receive, not a license to laziness but a permission to pause and find rest for our bodies, our souls, and our spirits. To forget the Sabbath is like leaving one of the best gifts under the Christmas tree and forgetting to unwrap it.

Well then what should we do, those of us who have learned to live without a Sabbath? I would say we need to start where we are. We know all too well the quick path to defeat is to go too big too soon. Like the ‘couch potato’ who has decided to begin an exercise program by running five miles a day, and their program ends after two days. How can we start where we are and build in some Sabbath time? I can say right now the first tool we are going to need is our “No button!” [Show and Press No button] We will need to say “no” to some things, so that we can say “yes” to something else.

And what is it we are saying “yes” too? The author, Wayne Muller again points the way:

“Sabbath, is designed specifically to restore us, a gift of time in which we allow the cares and concerns of the marketplace to fall away. We set aside time to delight in being alive, to savor the gifts of creation, and to give thanks for the blessings we may have missed in our necessary preoccupation with our work [or projects]. Ancient texts suggest we light candles, sing songs, pray, tell stories, worship, eat, nap, and make love. It is a day of delight, a sanctuary in time. Within this sanctuary, we make ourselves available to the insights and blessings that arise only in stillness and time.”[3]

I close with two invitations for you:

  • 1) The first invitation is from us at St. Luke’s: You can get and study Wayne Muller’s book on the Sabbath, and join fellow parishioners by Zoom for a discussion of the book these next three weeks.
  • 2) The second invitation is from Jesus Christ:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t say anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” [and find rest for your souls.] [4]







[1] Muller, Wayne, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (Bantam Books: New York, 1999) p.2

[2] From Exodus 20

[3] Ibid, Muller, Wayne, p.20

[4] Matthew 11.28 The Message translated by Eugene Petersen