Soil, Spirit, and Permission to Leave the Hum

sabbath restShonda Rhimes has one of the most phenomenal TED talks I’ve heard in a long time. In it, she talks about “the hum.” This is that churning force that drives our constant attention to our work. It’s the energy that wakes me up at 2:00am because “THAT’S WHAT I SHOULD’VE PREACHED ON EASTER!” It’s the constant flow of always having to do, make, produce, write, plan, schedule, be better, do better, visit more, check, double check, triple check, be here, now be over there, now be both places simultaneously — anyone know what I’m talking about?

I got stressed out just writing that last sentence.

What if we stopped doing this? What if we refused to participate in the madness of the hustle — even just for a day? What if we put the iPhone down, closed the laptop, shut off the television, and talked with your spouse, your kids, a friend, your mom or dad, your brother(s) or sister(s), the mail carrier, whoever? What if for just a small period of time each week, we pretended like the work was done and we sat back to relax?

Rob Bell has a wonderful podcast about a command from the book of Leviticus, early on in the Hebrew scriptures where there was a command for farmers to work their land for six years and, on the seventh year, to “let the land lie fallow” — to let the land rest for a year. This year of not farming allows the soil to rebuild essential nutrients so that it can be fruitful and productive the next six years. The idea is that even the earth has a rhythm of work, then rest, work, then rest.

In the creation story in the book of Genesis it says that when God created human beings, we were formed out of the soil and dirt and clay. Then God breathed life into us.

We are a combination of soil and breath — soil and Spirit. So if the command from Leviticus is to let the land lie fallow every so often, then the same would hold true for us, as creatures made from soil and breath. It’s the reason that one of the 10 Commandments is about honoring the Sabbath, because by honoring the Sabbath, we’re honoring the gift of our life. We’re honoring the gift of our existence as creatures of soil and Spirit.

This can be a hard thing to initiate, to start from scratch. How do we do this? How do we let ourselves rest in a way that allows us to re-build essential nutrients in our body and soul?

It starts with giving yourself permission to do whatever you have to do to take yourself out of the hum, to let the soil and Spirit that make you who you are lie fallow for a time.

For those of you who would still like a little structure to this rest time, feel free to print out the follow permission slip, or copy/paste to a Word document and use whenever you can feel the hum start to overwhelm you.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Permission Slip

Name: _________________
Date: __________________

In defiant affirmation that my worth is not found in what I produce or accomplish, in
remembering that I am a human being, not a human doing, do hereby give myself
permission to __________________________________________.

Signed: ________________________
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

You can do this. It’s okay. Everything will be here when you get back.

Step out of the hum. Step out of the flow.

And rejoice that God created you to be a human being, not a human doing.

Cheers,
Eric

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Seeing Easter in a New Way

risen-indeed11I’ve spent this last week doing some reading and found something that one of my favorite theologians wrote about Easter that is completely blowing my mind. N.T. Wright talks about Easter in a way that I have never heard before and I feel like it’s common courtesy that whenever we find cool things that shake our worldview, we share them.

N.T. Wright begins to talk about Easter by going aaaaaall the way back to the creation story in Genesis 1. Here we are told the story of a God who speaks the earth into being, then separates light from darkness, sky from land, creates the land, sea, and all creatures in them. Then on the end of the sixth day, he calls it good. And on the seventh day, he rests. 

From there, creation continues to unfold. Creation is unfolding when Moses leads the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Creation is unfolding when David slayed Goliath and became king. Creation is unfolding through the Hebrew prophets. Creation is still unfolding when an angel comes to Mary and says she will bear a child. It continues to unfold as Jesus heals lepers, frees the oppressed, gives sight to the blind, and proclaims the year of God’s favor. 

It continues to unfold even when Jesus is nailed to a cross — cast out. abandoned. forsaken. Until one of the very last things Jesus says: “It is finished.”

The ‘it’ here is creation. This time of creation is finished. Then on Holy Saturday — the Sabbath — Jesus rested in the tomb.

Notice how Luke starts the Easter story. It’s the same for many Easter accounts. “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn…”

Did you catch that? Did you see what Luke did?

He named that Easter morning is the start of a new week of creation. Resurrection is the instigating act that ushers in a time of new creation. We are no longer playing by the old rules and power structures that govern the world up until that first Easter. In new creation, life can come from death, hope can come from despair, and love can come from fear. In new creation, the worst thing to happen to you will never be the last thing that happens to you.1

There is always a word after despair, loneliness, and death. And it is always a word of mercy and love. This is the story of Easter. This is new creation.

Have you ever felt like brokenness and pain are the defining story of your life?

This story sets a new course.

Have you ever felt like every step is a mistake or a failure?

The empty tomb of Easter morning says, “No!”

Today is the day to remember that you are a child of resurrection. You have been given life in new creation. This is the good gift for you today.

So as we go on our way this morning, out into a world yearning to experience new creation and resurrection, may we be blessed to remember this story. May we be blessed to live as the freed and forgiven children that we are. And may we bless others, as we have been blessed, to be children of resurrection –children of light, hope, and grace. Amen.

I hope you had a blessed Easter!

Cheers,
Eric

1 – From Frederick Buechner’s ‘The Final Beast’

The Dangers of Coming Home: A Sermon on the Prodigal Son

return-of-the-prodigal-son-forain

Jesus is gathered with his disciples and all around him are tax collectors and Pharisees, sinners and scribes and he uses the opportunity to tell them three stories of grace. He talks about a shepherd who has 100 sheep, but he notices that one is missing. So he leaves the 99 in the wilderness to search for the one. Anyone looking at this situation thinks the shepherd completely foolish!

Then Jesus tells of a woman who has ten coins and loses one. She sweeps the house, tears her house apart until she finds her lost coin. Then, when she finds her lost coin, she rejoices and throws a party that costs her far more than the one coin. Again, foolish to many onlookers. So when Jesus wants to hammer the point home, he tells the story of a father who has two sons.

We know this story as the Prodigal Son, the one where the younger son tells his father he wishes he was dead and wants his inheritance. The father grants his wish and the son sets off for a faraway land. Eventually he squanders everything he has and finds himself feeding pigs food that he, himself, would willingly eat. Not a good situation. Especially the good, law-abiding Jewish people hearing Jesus tell this story. So he decides he’s going to come home.

But this is an incredibly dangerous and risky idea. In the book of Deuteronomy, it talks about rebellious sons. In Deuteronomy 21, we hear this:

 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him,then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death.

According to the law — which the Pharisees listening would know better than anyone — upon returning home, the son could be punished by death.

So the son rehearses his apology over and over again as he’s walking home. And we hear that “while the son was still far off” his father saw him and began running to him. Now, think about this. A dad who had been so scorned by his son years earlier, a dad who had every right to be upset and hold this act of rebellion against him — even so far as to be legally permitted to kill him — sees his son coming up the road and he takes. off. running.

He meets his son on the road and before the son can get his rehearsed apology out, the father embraces him and kisses him, tells the servants to kill the fatted calf and prepare a celebration because his son was dead and is alive again.

But I wonder…

I wonder if the father running out to meet the son was not only out of deep love and compassion, but also out of an instinct to protect him. The father would certainly know the punishment for the son as well. So when he runs to him and the first thing he does is to embrace him, to physically wrap his own body around his son’s, I wonder if this isn’t where we hear the story of grace most clearly.

It’s almost as if the father is saying, “If you’re going to kill my child, you’re going to have to kill me too. That’s how deep my love is.”

The father joins himself to the fate of the son in the same way God joins our fate to Christ in his life, death, and resurrection. In just a few weeks, on Good Friday, we’ll hear the story of just how far God’s love will reach to be with us and for us in our suffering and brokenness. 

Then God sends us out to share this good news with a hurting world. We are the body of Christ here in this world to run out of our houses, run out of our places of comfort safety to embrace those who are lost and forsaken.

I wonder what it would look like if everyone hearing this story in churches around the world this morning ran out of church to embrace and be with those who are lost and in need? How would that change our community? How would that change us? To join people in their worry and suffering, not so that we can fix them, but simply to be with them, embrace them, re-assure them that they too are loved children of a gracious God, this is our call as the body of Christ. 

So as we go on our way today, may we be blessed with eyes to see and ears to hear where God is calling us to embrace our hurting world. May we be blessed to realize that this whole thing is a gift from God to love and care for each other. And may we continue to give thanks for all of the ways that God’s love is transforming us and our world into a more loving and gracious shape.

Amen.

 

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