Monthly Archives: January 2013
Still work to be done in the city
So it has been awhile since I’ve written a blog entry. I was trying to make sure I wrote at least once a week but I think after writing every day for Advent I went on a bit of an unofficial break. Also I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed with work. I remember going home earlier this week (in which I was getting home just before bedtime so Caroline had to feed, clean-up, and get pj’d all 4 kids by herself, and it wasn’t the first or last time that was going to be true in the week) thinking there were several things I hadn’t gotten done at work. Then I thought to myself that sometimes finding balance between work and home life means disappointing both sides. I have weeks like that… sometimes years like that.
In fact I’ve had a couple conversations with people just this week about feeling overwhelmed about the work they have ahead (clearly I’m not alone). The scope and magnitude of what we have to do can be too much to contemplate. I was reminded of the song from which I pulled my blog title (you can find it here: http://youtu.be/d61LamkXfwk) and that there is always work, great work but lots of it, to be done. And sometimes I need to stop looking at the big vision and just plug away with what needs to be done today (maybe with a heads up moment now and then to make sure I’m on track). This reminds me of one of my favorite inspirations from scripture.
If we read the creation story from Genesis 1 (the first of two back to back stories Genesis offers us) we get the well-known version with six days of creation followed by the seventh day in which God rests – Sabbath. What we often skip over is that God actually sabbathed each day. The story doesn’t give us one hurried continuous act of erupting creative activity. Each day God does one thing (sometimes that one thing is pretty monumental, but still one activity). God creates light, separates it out from darkness (what a wonderful thought to stop and play with but maybe another day) and names them Day and Night. And then God does something amazing. God decides that’s enough for today. God pops God’s head up to make sure that this particular activity lines up with the whole vision, sees that it does and calls it a good day and is done.
What?? You haven’t finished the project? We have a timeline here… there is so much work to be done. You can’t possible decide that is all you are going to do. I mean come on God, let’s. get. serious.
But God is serious, that’s it. Day over, we still have tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Because God has set up God’s working process. Creativity and nurturing new life isn’t work to be rushed. And life is more than work, life is enjoyment, rest, fun, mental health days, and recreation, and yes its trying to bathe four crazy kids, cleaning up throw up, and fixing the paint one of them has decided to peal of the walls of your rental house (not that this happened or anything but seriously I’ve got a challenging job of matching some paint color ahead of it if perhaps it did…), and its having (making) the time to really hear how your family is doing, and share the burdens and joys of your spouse and your friends. Life is more than work, and if our work replaces our living rather than supports it we have lost track of the long term vision – we are using the wrong marker for “on track.”
Life is a whole mix of things beyond simply work. And we can lose perspective on all that. I will tell myself that I love what I do so it’s not work – it’s living my passion. But still. I need to check out from time to time. In fact it appears I need to check out daily. I need to say, yes there is work to be done – but there always will be – and for today, what’s done is good and that is enough.
Does this mean I’ll always make it home for dinner? No. Does this mean that sometimes a basketball game will take precedence over a church meeting? Yes. Will I have weeks where I feel like putting up a cot at work? I will even call it good. But I will also have (and already have had) those weeks I just leave early and go sledding with the kids. And what I will hope is that is all finds some easy sustainable rhythm that sounds a lot like: And I looked at the day and I saw that it was good, and there was evening, and there was morning, another day.
Happy New Year to you all. We have passed from a week of remembering the year past into a time of resolutions about the year to come. Another milestone passed (illusory though it may be) and we begin anew the year to come.
It is then a perfect time to think about something that struck me on last Sunday. On Sunday I was listening to a sermon that mentioned the shift in understanding our day of Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday as Christianity emerged from its Jewish roots. (I won’t go into a history of this switch here… the change is early enough to Christianity’s emergence to have been commonplace by the second century.)
What I’m intrigued by is that Sunday Sabbath is, like New Year’s Day, a sort of weekly line in the sand. It is technically day one in the week (though many people probably actually live more like Monday is the first day) and it sets a tone for the week to come.
I’m intrigued by this because I think sometimes we think of Sunday as like a rest day to recover from the week past. This makes me ask, why do we insist on living in such a way that we need to recover from how we live? How out of control are we? In the day of “sustainability” there is little about our lives that is lived in a way that is sustainable. We run until we drop (I parent that way too sometimes… I even name it the run ‘em till they drop strategy). In this world Sunday is treated like the hospital some people name it (you know you’ve heard it, “hospital for sinners, not a rest home for saints”).
It strikes me that either of these understandings of church, hospital or rest home, make Sundays all about what has past. We are either the king’s horses putting humpty back together… or we are resting on our laurels as we recall all the wonders we have done.
But Sunday isn’t about the week past. Sunday is the start of something new. Sunday is the first… not the last (It might just be both… I have talked elsewhere about the need to be rooted in past, present, and future and you can find that post here: https://akukla.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/people-of-memory-presence-and-hope/ ). Our shift to sabbathing (as well as primary day of worship) on Sunday was intentionally to be the first day… to associate with creation and new creation. We worship on Sunday to make each week a reminder that we live as resurrection people. Thus it is that I the thought hit me, “worship forward.” We don’t worship something in the past. We worship the God who is alive and at work in the world. We may be put back together, but not for the sake of running ourselves ragged again. We participate in resurrection to find a new way forward that doesn’t cause exhaustion, that seeks justice, and is infused with love. Sunday is about setting the tone for the week to come. When we worship forward our Sunday invades the rest of the week. We live each day differently for the sake of beginning in Sunday.
The second understanding of the Sabbath commandment that comes from Deuteronomy 5 contexts it in the reminder that we were slaves in Egypt. Sabbath is an orientation to freeing people from slavery. Our Sunday worship ought to orient us towards a different future, a better, more justice, more whole, more loving future. We do not worship what was, or what is… we worship forward.
This reminds me of two favorite thoughts on the subject. One on what is worship is, from Isaiah 58,
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly.”
When we worship forward our worship enables freedom, justice, healing, and authentic community. Our worship makes us live differently; our living differently BECOMES our worship. The other thought comes from William Faulkner (as quoted by Eugene Peterson),
“They are not monuments but footprints. A monument says, ‘At least I got this far,’ while a footprint says, ‘This is where I was when I moved again.”
Our worship is a footstep. It is not so much a rest stop, but a launching platform. Our worship can easily become monuments. It becomes about us, about what we have done, about what God is doing for us… but ultimately, I believe, our worship ought to serve as a rallying call for the ways we need to join God at work. Its God saying, “Hey, look over here. I’m at work here – why don’t you join me. I need you, and the world needs you too.” And when we do that we fast the fast God chooses, breaking down injustice, removing burdens, offering healing, enabling peace – we worship forward!