Sermon “From where comes the harvest?”
Rev. Stacy Swain
June 17, 2012
Mark 4: 26-32
Will you pray with me: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.
In the beginning, all that is was a formless void, a swirl of possibility. Energy moving without form. And from all of this God creates. God creates the heavens and the earth. We know how that opening creation story unfolds with a sense of beauty and blessing. First God separates light from darkness, and water from solid ground, and populates it with the most incredibly diverse textured array of life — with creeping things and winged things and then brings human into this mix.
And after all of this has unfolded, after all this incredibly textured expression of life and living, of giving form to possibility — God then steps back and rests. Reflecting over the six days of creation, God sees that it is good. Very good. And on the 7th day, God rests.
Now I cannot quite believe that the need for the seventh day stems from the Creator of the universe needing rest because the God of creation is exhausted. Or that God somehow needs diversion from the work of creation. Instead, I tend to think that scripture is trying to inform us that rest, in the divine sensibility, is as purposeful as creating. Rest is not simply a timeout, a break from the work God has been doing. Rest is instead purposeful in and of itself.
In the beginning of this church year, in September, all that was going to be was a swirl of possibility — ideas and energy yet without form. And we have spent this last year creating, bringing form from the swirl of potential. We have given form to our desire to love God and to each other by gathering together in this Sanctuary for 48 Sundays where we have listened carefully and critically to word, where we have been transported by music and lifted up in prayer. And we have worshiped monthly with the residents of the Waban Health center. We birthed new services into our life together . We have cared for all among us and seen baptismal waters flow from three foreheads.
We have given form to our desire to serve God and serve God’s people by putting our faith into action as Partners in God’s service by traveling to Zambia and Nicaragua, picking apples for the Newton food pantry, sorting clothes for cradles to crayons, planting bulbs for the residents of the Waban Health Center. By serving Turkey on Thanksgiving to those who may not have had any. We have given form to the possibility of growth by welcoming so many new people into our life together, by gathering as well spring our women’s group and Java gents, that esteemed men’s breakfast time.
We have scratched our heads through bible study and wept more than once in our living waters prayer group. And starting tomorrow morning, we will welcome 22 children into the first day of Church camp! We spent this last year creating and adding to this beautiful textured array of the expression of love and life and living. We have given form to possibility here at the Union Church in Waban. And it is good. It is very good.
And now we are at the end of our church year, the end of our six days of creating, so to speak, and we are now moving into the summer. We are entering our seventh day. Our Sabbath, our time of rest.
And if we are to take our cues from God, if we are to hear God’s wish for us in the commandment given on Mt. Sinai that we are to keep the Sabbath and honor it as holy, then we need to take a moment to think about what that means for us. If the Sabbath is more than a time out. More than strictly a time of distraction and entertainment, but instead it is to be as fecund as creation itself than what does that mean for us?
In our scripture reading for today, I think we get a clue of what our summer Sabbath could mean. Agricultural images seem to be favorites of Jesus. There is something about the seed resting in the soil that speaks to what Sabbath time is to be. The seed resting in the soil is not passive. It is in a time of germination. A fecund time of integrating, of preparing itself for new growth. Preparing itself for the potential seeded inside it.
And this is not something we do by ourselves. To germinate is to participate in something larger. To be acted on by grace, beauty, holiness. To feel the radiance of God’s love warming us. To be held by the peace of Jesus’ presence, to feel the sweet breath of the Spirit whispering grace and watering us with hope.
Abraham Heschel, Rabbi and Jewish theologian talks about Sabbath being not so much a time or a place but an atmosphere. Going to the vacation home does not necessarily bring Sabbath if the activity there leaves us more depleted than when we began. Sabbath is not a place or a time. It is an atmosphere of rest. Of letting down our guard. To borrow some words from poet Wendell Berry, Sabbath is “Breathing with unconditional breath the unconditioned air. Of making a place to be quiet and then being quiet. Of walking and driving slowly. Of making a wish that does not disturb the silence from which it came.”
So I ask you to think about this Sabbath summer that stretches out before us. Before we gather together again in the fall. May it be a time of rest, but may it not be a vacuous time simply waiting for the activity to begin again. May it be a time of purpose where all that we have experienced this past year. All that we have do ne and learned. All of the good work is to be integrated and germinated inside of us. And it is a time to create the atmosphere of Sabbath where we feel the thread of our lives are woven into that great creation story. When we look up at the full moon rising over buzzards bay, or the first of the rosy sun touching the granite summit of Cadillac Mountain — when we feel ourselves to be a textured part of all that is.
Sabbath is a time of rest, yes, but it is a time of deep communion where we are fed. So let it be that for us. And when we return in the fall, may the seed that is germinating within us give first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain of the head. And when the grain is ripe, let us go with our sickle for the harvest in September will be at hand.
So may Sabbath be ours this summer and when we return in the fall let us share our Sabbath moments with each other. On our way out you will see a basket with full of bookmarks which I encourage you take one. On one side is a poem from Wendell Berry which will be our benediction that Tom and I will speak together at the end of the service and on the other side are some questions to help you look for and sink down into the atmosphere of Sabbath that I pray will be yours this summer.
Thanks be to God for the seed, for the soil, for the germination, for possibility that is yet to give form, and for the harvest that is to come. May God bless our summer Sabbath. Amen.