How to Keep the Sabbath Holy: Appreciate, Celebrate and Re-create
This sermon on Exodus 20:8-11, shows us how to keep the sabbath holy and maintain balance by taking time to appreciate, celebrate and re-create.
Today we conclude our sermon series on creativity. We’ve seen how we are made in God’s image and we all create. It might be a meal, or decorating, or figuring out solutions to problems, or organizing your garage. Re-igniting our passions for creativity helps us connect with God, lifts our spirits, centering us so that we can create full and meaningful lives.
Just a quick recap. We’ve examined what Rev. Troy Bronsink identifies as the “six waves” of God’s creative process as revealed in scripture. There is the dreaming or imagining stage and we were challenged to intentionally align our dreams with God’s dreams for the world and our lives. Then we looked at the hovering wave—setting aside time to ask the big questions of our lives, where we are going, what we love, and how we want to focus our energies.
The third wave is about taking risks. Creativity is inherently an act of vulnerability. We saw that if we get into a habit of always playing it safe, how that can be riskier than following our dreams. Pastor Susie talked about the fourth wave of listening to the many ways God speaks to us today. And last week we talked about the need to integrate our passions so that we will know when to breathe and when to push forward.
The Sixth Wave: Rest
The sixth wave of God’s creative process is rest. We find in the creation story that God rests on the seventh day—rest is woven into the fabric of creation itself. God steps back to see the world and plants and animals and people, and God called it good. Not just good, the text says, “very good.”
The fourth commandment in the Ten Commandments tells us to keep the sabbath holy. Keeping the sabbath holy is about weaving periods of restorative rest into the rhythms of our lives. The command is for our benefit to set aside one day a week to stop producing and appreciate God’s creation, the things we have, the people around us. It is designed to be a day of gratitude and rejoicing because we need that in our lives.
Don’t Denigrate, Appreciate
Let us learn from God to step back and appreciate our creative endeavors—God’s, others, and your own. You paint a wall in your house and look it over. Savor the meal you prepared. Notice what’s good about what you have done.
Taking time to appreciate is a great motivator to keep putting yourself out there and giving life your best shot. But if you are like me, it’s hard to give yourself permission to do that. After every sermon, I go through a system of self-recrimination. I was too vague here, could have chosen a better illustration there, spent less time on that point. Yes, we have to analyze and correct mistakes, but there is great value in recognizing what is good about what we did. Letting the inner critic have the only say is not only demoralizing, but it also keeps us from risking and fully investing in our creations.
Learn from God to take time to appreciate your accomplishments. Not in a braggy way. Even if it didn’t turn out exactly the way you hoped, appreciate your progress, your efforts in trying, putting yourself out there. When we get into the habit of letting the inner critic have the loudest voice, eventually we wind up unleashing that inner critic on others, judgmental, finding fault, minimizing. Try instead to elevate people around you by showing appreciation.
Let it Show
Did you know that many artists, including Picasso, whitewashed many of the canvases of their paintings to make new paintings? Masterpieces they just obliterated to paint something different. I once heard about a famous artist who when he grew old kept going to museums with his paintbrush to try to improve his artworks. It was a terrible problem. He refused to leave it alone and ruined classic pieces.
There are things we create, that we should leave it alone. Appreciate them for what they are. When you feel self-recriminations coming on, learn to recognize what you are doing and stop yourself from going back in your mind over what you should have done better.
Keeping the Sabbath Holy Builds Appreciation Muscles
A great way to rediscover your sense of appreciation is easy. Go outside. Appreciate God’s world and its infinite. Focus on the positive. Count your blessings, then take another step. Find someone in your life and notice the things you appreciate about them and find it in yourself, also.
Don’t denigrate, when you can appreciate. Think more about what is great instead of perseverating on what you hate. As the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4, “ Beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Psalm 145 talks about meditating on God’s goodness in our lives to the point that we are moved to an authentic celebration. Verse seven says, “They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.”
Keep the Sabbath Holy by Celebrating
Appreciation is the first vital element in keeping the sabbath holy. The second element is celebration.
From the Bible, we see that keeping the sabbath holy wasn’t about languishing in stuffiness. It meant celebrating God, life, everything good. Now I know we all celebrate in different ways. How are you celebrating your anniversary? O we’ll have a quiet dinner and maybe a glass of wine.
Do you ever cut loose in your celebrations? For me, birthdays and anniversaries keep coming around. The celebration is subdued. But when the Cleveland Browns score a touchdown, I turn into a wildman. Jumping, pumping my fists, dancing, taunting the other team through the television. See, it doesn’t happen that often like birthdays. No. I also cut loose when my grandson does something especially noteworthy. I need that in life. I feel better when I do it. And now I realize that God not only gives permission for it. We’re built for it.
I like seeing people who are less subdued in their celebrations. I drive around and see parks filled with partiers. Bounce houses, pinatas, games, tables lined with food, dance, joy, clapping, shouting, high-fiving, laughter. It’s okay to get out of yourself, let down and party, and celebrate living. Every worship service should have that element. Holy can be sedate, but it can also be the celebration of the fulness of life.
Celebrate has a communal connotation to it. The commandment says to honor the sabbath with your family. Let your workers have the day off. Even the animals get a break.
Celebrate Coming through a Pandemic
So right now is a time to celebrate. You did it! You’ve made it this far through a pandemic. Next week we are opening the church for live, in-person worship. We will live stream and expand our online ministries. Pat yourself on the back and those around you. You’ve overcome the loneliness, the extra demands, the frustrations, the protocols, the anxieties and grief, and loss and made it to this moment.
Although we aren’t totally in the clear, yet. Let’s just take a moment and celebrate. Type in a yahoo, a yippee in the chatbox. Smile. Give a fist pump and a little dance. You did what you needed to do the best you could to get here to today. And God is good. We celebrate the way we’ve come through as a church.
Next week we will party and celebrate again. And every time we get together again, there will be an element of celebration. For we will understand on a deeper level and have more appreciation for each other and imagine a sense of what each one had to go through to get here.
Recreate to Re-create
The church has always said that worship is a celebration. Christ arose on a Sunday morning, so we praise and celebrate the Sabbath on Sundays. We call the resurrection the first day of a new creation. God’s work in the world continues to unfold. And we are called to be part of it.
The last step of the artist’s process is to create something new. I remember the first time I sang Morning has Broken from a hymnal. From hearing it on the radio, I was familiar with most of the words, but I still stumbled. It talks about God’s re-creation like the first morn. But in the hymnal, it looked like God’s recreation. For some reason, I imagined God playing on a playground with slides and swings and dodgeballs.
If we are made in the image of God and we have such a playful side to us, why shouldn’t we think of God as having one, too. That God enjoys and plays in the creation. God recreates—rests, and tells us it’s good for us to do the same. Recreate to re-create.
Although it comes across as a commandment, Jesus reminds us that sabbath was made for human beings. For us. It probably got expressed as a commandment otherwise we wouldn’t take the importance of having fun and appreciating and celebrating life as seriously as we should. For us. It restores our soul. Make a play date.
We recreate so we can get on with re-creating as in begin creating again. Dreaming, aligning our dreams with God, taking time to hover and ask the big questions. Risking to bring things into being that have never happened before. Listening to how God may be speaking to us. Then we can integrate faith into our lives in a way that helps us rise to the next levels. Then we take time to appreciate, celebrate and start the cycle again recreating and re-creating.
When you surf these waves of the creative process, I believe you will find yourself more creative, closer to God, and accomplishing the things in life that bring joy and raise those around you to new levels. Catch the wave. Amen.