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9:30AM Sunday School
11AM & 7PM Worship

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Austin, TX 78705

Let There Be Light

The Reverend Krystal Leedy

June 26, 2016
Genesis 2:1-3

A reading from Genesis:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that God had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that God had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that God had done in creation.

LEEDY, KRYSTAL; (Staff)68It is with great joy that I announce the continuation of our summer series into a look at the Sabbath. While a mightily important aspect of the Jewish faith, Christian Sabbath practices have been, well let’s just say, a struggle, in our culture. Now before you think that this series is simply going to be berating us all for not practicing the Sabbath or talking about how much we stink at taking a Sabbath day of rest and that is somehow a measure of what great people we are, we hope instead to reveal to you that Sabbath is a gift. You can do with it what you will, but a day of rest is a gift from God, and one that God blessed.

Back in my day, when we attended Sunday school, we had flip chart books that helped us learn the stories of faith. There would be a picture for us to see and the teacher would read the story printed on the back of the picture. The image on the page was colored beautifully, cut out and placed upon sheets of construction paper and then laminated. They were put together with the binder rings so that each page was in order. And I remember the one for the seven days of creation. The first picture was two pieces of paper, one black and one white, that were placed beside one another. Light and darkness. The second was the sky with clouds and a little ripple of water below. The third was land with those little lollipop trees with full blooms of leaves. The fourth was the same picture from day 1 but this time with a sun and a moon depicted. The fifth was the same picture from day two but with birds and fish, flying and swimming. The sixth day was the same picture from day three but with lots of animals and Adam and Eve with strategically placed leaves. God built the foundation of the earth and then filled it. And the seventh page was just a blank sheet of white paper. And the teacher would say, “and on the seventh day, God rested.” And that was the end of the story. It always seemed like a sad ending to me. All of this great stuff was happening, and then God just took a nap. But what was God doing? I understand that the Sunday school answer to that question is invariably, “Nothing.” God did nothing for a day, so we should also do nothing for a day. I’m not very fond of that blank piece of paper that hung from those binder rings just like every other day, as though I am not supposed to feel anything on the seventh day, as though I am not supposed to hardly breathe. That white piece of paper hung there judging me and not inviting me. It said, you can’t do anything today. And now I look at that piece of paper that is supposed to represent my Sunday, and I laugh. Because I fill that paper with sermon words and it is stained with wine and covered in bread crumbs. It has finger prints all over it from the hands I shake and imprints of the cobblestones in the courtyard, where we fellowship. And during the school year, my paper has Longhorn hoof-prints all covering the page! On Sunday, I come home and crash on the couch and usually watch Netflix before I drift off to sleep. My Sunday paper is not a crisp, clean white piece of paper that is laminated. It is hugged and loved and messy and fun. It is my busiest day. It is a creative day.

And I know I stand in a small group of people for whom Sunday is a work day. A day filled with things to do and conversations to have, which is why I tend to rest on Saturdays. Nonetheless, the first day of the week which serves as our Christian Sabbath, and for you all is not a crisp, clean white piece of paper, laminated to hold in all of the silent minimalism. And I contend that this was not the way it was for God either…

For God spent God’s time creating a creation that God loves, and did not sleep in order that the whole creation would fall apart. It was not on the seventh day that Adam and Eve sinned just because God wasn’t looking. I can’t imagine that God turned away from creation on that seventh day. But God rested. And I don’t know what God’s rest looks like. I have to rest because my energy level goes down, but I don’t think that happens with God. I think God made a choice to rest. God did not get super sick after his Creation Final Exam and crash on the couch, God made a conscious choice to rest in some way.

In the Jewish Shabbat tradition, there is an act after the sun has gone down on Friday evening to light two candles, one to remember and one to observe. Spoiler alert for next week’s sermon: these two words appear in the passages about Sabbath in Exodus and Deuteronomy, Remember the Sabbath. Observe the Sabbath. And a remembrance is not certainly a scientific explanation of the seven days of creation and how evolution plays a role in how human beings came into being. It is done with story. And we do not observe the Sabbath with watching the clock for the  24 hours until it is over. It is observed with ritual, which has a way of transcending time.  The woman who lights these who candles, says a prayer to our Creator, and takes her hands, with the palms facing toward her, and covers her eyes. Darkness flows over her, just like the darkness appearing outside as the sun is descending. And after a moment, she pulls away her hands and she is to look upon the two lights… as though she has never seen them before. It is almost as if we are going back to the beginning, when God covered God’s own eyes and then opened them, saying those four creative words: Let there be light!

So perhaps our paper to represent the Sabbath should be dark, as though our eyes are covered, as though we have forgotten all of the created beauty that stands around us, but the covering of our eyes is not that image. The image of Sabbath is the pulling away of our hands and seeing the world as though it were the very first time, as though we were playing peek-a-boo with creation, and just when we thought that all hope was lost, we pull back our palms and see the light. We are enacting the creation story again. We are re-creating.

I imagine that God did not simply take a nap but was excited to enjoy creation, to recreate. God rustled the leaves on a tree and laid in a hammock of stars. God moved across the water and churned the sand on a beach. God ate an ice cream cone and danced with all the persons of the Trinity. God rested beautifully, but God did not try to fix every problem or rack God’s brain for a new idea. God did not worry or fear tomorrow. And God was not procrastinating or ignoring the things God has just made. God was enjoying creation. God is moving in and among it and is present. God was just there. Being. Existing.

And so when I am just existing, I am not a blank canvas. I’m not sitting in a white room with nothing to distract me. We exist in a world that we enjoy. Just as God interacted with creation, so we do, too, take a break from the concerns that cause the light to be pulled from our eyes. As we say in Bridge to Worship here, we move a little more slowly, we talk with great care, we listen carefully, and we play. And we start off our Sundays, our Sabbath days remembering God and all that God has done. We observe, we confess, we heard the words of Scripture read and proclaimed, we eat, we pray, we sing. We listen for a call from God. We remember that we are not in charge of the world, but we have a small part to play in a new Kingdom… but maybe just not today. The world will keep spinning. The sun will rise again. Because God set this world in motion and we get to watch, we get to observe the beauty that is all around us in nature and animals and people that we love. And honestly, it matters very little what we do with today, just as long we are present for it. Because in the beginning God just was, and God spoke us into existence just like light. And so whatever we do with this Sabbath day, we should be there wholeheartedly, just like God is with us. We observe with ritual. We remember with story.

So as we the church teach our children about the seventh day of the creation story, let us all put on the page: the hikes we take, the lake we swim, the lightening bugs we count. The children we play kickball with, the adults we converse with, the food we that savor. The cats we pet, the trees we climb, the turtledove that we match in pitch. The church that gathers, the songs that we sing, the people we remember. The candles we light, the prayers we plead, the opening of our palms. For it is on this Sabbath day, this Lord’s Day, that the darkness falls from our eyes. Let there be light once again.

Amen.