Greetings and welcome to Corona Sabbath. This is one of the ways the church is endeavoring to offer spiritual support during these challenging days of COVID-19. We will continue to post these weekly until we are able to meet again in person for worship. We appreciate your feedback and suggestions. This week we are remembering the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
We’ll start by listening to the poem The Creation by James Weldon Johnson.
In the book of Genesis, there is a bit more to the story. We listen to Genesis 1:31-2: 3
God looked at all of this creation, and proclaimed that this was good – very good. Evening came, and morning followed – the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. On the seventh day God had finished all the work of creation, and so, on the seventh day, God rested. God blessed the seventh day and called it sacred because on it God rested from all the work of creation.
It is from this last day of the story of creation that we are given the concept of Sabbath. A day of rest. A day of renewal. A day of appreciation and wonder.
Some of us may remember when things were different on Sundays. Yes, you couldn’t buy alcohol. But you also couldn’t buy much of anything. Stores were closed. Yes, closed. No going to the grocery store on Sunday. Or the clothes store. Or the hardware store. There were no ATMs and banks were closed. Gas stations were closed except on the interstate.
What did people do on Sundays? Some rested. There were family meals and gatherings. People went to the lake and went swimming. Or they went to the beach. They went on hikes. They went to an art museum. They took Sunday drives out into the country. They had a cookout. They went on bike rides. And they went to church. Sometimes for most of the day.
Sunday was not just another Saturday as it is now. Saturday was for shopping and errands. Saturday was for getting supplies and materials and food. Saturday was market day. That was the day for commerce but not Sunday.
As society has developed, we were told to think that having stores open on Sunday would help people. It would make things more convenient for people, especially people who worked on Saturday. And people who were working in sectors like healthcare which involved working on Saturday and Sunday. We were told that shopping on Sunday would make life easier especially for those for whom life was hard. So things started to be open on Sunday afternoons. And then Sunday all day. And sports events and school events and other events began to be scheduled on Sunday mornings. And now Sunday is just another Saturday. And who benefits most from this? Not the people at the bottom. But the people at the top. There is another day of the week for people to be out spending their money and making someone else rich.
And where is our day of rest? Where is the day to recover and reflect? Where is the time to be out in nature because you can’t be in the mall or the market? Where is the day to devote to leisure and family and friends? Where is the time to soothe the soul? Where is the respect for the rhythms of life?
We may have gained something with our seven day a week open market economy, but we have lost something, too. Something that is embedded into the health and well-being of creation. Sabbath. Rest. Time spent not working. For job. Or home. Time invested in renewal, relationships, and refreshment. Re-creation.
The creation story tells of God resting; spending time glorying in all that was made. Taking delight in the flourishing of life. Not working on a project. Not dreaming up another universe. Not planning for the next eon. In the Genesis story, God sets an example for humanity. Surely if God can take a day off, so can we. Our strivings cannot be more important than God’s. The intent of Sabbath is to convey the need for building down time into our weekly routine for our well-being and the wellbeing of creation. In the Bible, the obligation to observe the Sabbath is reinforced again and again. To be in right relationship with God, with the Earth, with ourselves, and with others, we need Sabbath.
The need for this kind of time set aside for renewal and refreshment is built into nature – darkness and light, circadian rhythms, the seasons – the long cold months of dormancy, fields fallow to rest and rejuvenate before replanting. It seems that only humans have abandoned attention to our need for these rhythms which keep us healthy, our relationships healthy, and the earth healthy.
Interestingly, this corona time of safer-at-home and shelter-in-place, has helped us to become aware of what we were lacking and how needed and renewing it is for us as human beings and for the planet. People are getting needed rest. They are spending more time outside. We see more people walking on our street than we have seen in the past 30 years. And who knew there were so many dogs! We are told that the earth itself is renewing due to diminished human activity. We have a son who lives in Los Angeles and he says he can’t believe how clean the air is. Earth is getting healthier and animals are thriving with humans on lockdown.
This Corona time is helping us to see what a better balance could look like in our lives and for the life of the planet. We are seeing that what we need is not to go back to business as usual, not to reopen for business. But to create new arrangements based on different values and expectations. Yup, that means, that, well, things might not be open all the time for our supposed convenience. It means that people will be expected to take time off. Rest is needed as is vacation and relaxation. We can learn to place value upon spending time in nature and encouraging each other to do that. We can reclaim a sense of awe and wonder in the face of the spectacular manifestations of the natural world. Did you see the Venus this week? It was so bright. It made me think of the star over the stable in the story of Jesus’ birth!
With more reverence for ourselves, each other, our world, and our God, however we may conceive of God, may we find a new re-set in this corona time. May we cherish Sabbath time. May this experience continue to be healing for us and for the earth. Amen.
As you listen to the music video from Hilton which follows, you are invited to pay attention to the thoughts and feelings and reflections that arise for you. The music video features photos of nature taken by members of the Lakewood Church family offered in honor of Earth Day.
(Click HERE if you wish to see the post containing the video of this text.)