Come and find the quiet centre
in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter,
find the space where we are freed:
clear the chaos and the clutter,
clear our eyes, that we can see
all the things that really matter,
be at peace, and simply be.
I used this hymn today in my service just before the address and as we finished singing I faced the congregation and said: "Well that hymn just about says everything I want to say today so maybe instead of giving you my sermon we should just sing it again." It produced a smile, but I don't suppose they would have been happyif I had just left it there.
My service today was all about taking time to rest and reinvoking a Sabbath practice in our lives. So often I find I preach the sermon I need to hear and today was no exception, but it was also that I wanted my congregation to know that I needed to hear the message too.
The main meat of my service was inspired and informed by Wayne Muller and his book Sabbath - Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives. I was introduced to this book in a workshop at Summer School but it was months later before I realised that I really needed to read this book. I said in my address today:
After Summer School members of our workshop agreed to report on their Sabbath Practice. Each month someone sends a reminder and we all say what we have done that month. At first everyone was keen and made an effort but as the months have gone people have dropped out or have found it increasingly difficult to create Sabbath time and I know the feeling – I have found it very difficult and have found myself becoming increasingly more tired and irritable and at odds with life. It came as a jolt just prior to Christmas that I realised that I had not had a holiday since Summer School and maybe this was why I was feeling depressed and low. When I got a cold before Christmas and find it is still with me 3 weeks later I know that it is time to stop. I need to find that quiet centre that we have just sung about and that I have been reading about in Wayne Muller’s book.
In this book Muller says:
"Sabbath time can be a revolutionary challenge to the violence of overwork, mindless accumulation, and the endless multiplication of desires, responsibilities, and accomplishments. Sabbath is a way of being in time where we remember who we are, remember what we know, and taste the gifts of spirit and eternity."
"Sabbath is more than the absence of work; it is not just a day off, when we catch up on television or errands. It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true. It is time, consecrated with our attention, our mindfulness, honouring those quiet forces of grace or spirit that sustain and heal us."
"While many of us are terribly weary, we have come to associate tremendous guilt and shame with taking time to rest. Sabbath gives us permission; it commands us to stop."
And of course that is just what I need to do - I need to stop!!
Unitarian Universalist Minister Krista Taves says: " A good Sabbath has four principles: The cessation of work. Rest. Fellowship. Worship."
Looking at these principles they realistically tell me what I need.
1.) Stop Work - no matter how much work is enjoyable we all need to step aside from it at times (and four months is enough time without a proper break for anyone.)
2.) Rest - this means just slowing down and taking things easy not doing something that is just another form of work in a different guise.
3.) Fellowship - how important it is that we spend time with people, especially people who we love and not just time but quality time.
4.) Worship - doing something that makes the time special, honouring the Divine by nourishing the spirit.
It is not always easy to engage in these things. Finding time can be difficult but it doesn't have to be a full day - it could just be an afternoon, or even an hour when we can set aside time to be.
I know I am not very good at doing these things. I find it hard to switch off the computer and walk away from it for any great length of time. I also find it difficult to just relax. I am not even very good about going away when I am supposed to be on holiday.
But this week I am going away – I am not taking my laptop and I am going to spend some catch up time with my Mum in a hotel. For me it will be a much needed Sabbath.
Wayne Muller says:
'The Sabbath is a patch of ground secured by a tiny fence, when we withdraw from the endless choices afforded us and listen, uncover what is ultimately important, remember what is quietly sacred. Sabbath restrictions on work and activity actually create a space of great freedom; without these self-imposed restrictions, we may never be truly free.'
Maybe, just maybe, this week I shall at last find the time to be free.