8“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.9You have six days each week for your ordinary work,10but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to thelordyour God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.11For in six days thelordmade the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why thelordblessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
You can do mission through recreation!
I told you, this mission wok is simple. It’s not extracurricular activity. It is doing what you already do with attention and intention. Attention to what God is doing, Intention to love.
But simple doesn’t mean it is simplistic. Often the simple are the most profound. Recreation is a profound practice.
What is recreation?
The first thing I think of is playing soccer. That’s recreation, something I love to do in my downtime. Recreation is where I am not working. But it’s more than that. When stop to think about it. Especially when we stop to think about it in the light of world created by God.
Today we are doing Christian theology of recreation. Sounds big. But simply thinking this activity through in the worldview of God revealed in Christ.
And though I am fond of narratives today we are switching gears, and going to go through propositions, statements. As such I am going to give you markers ahead of time.
Rest gives meaning to work.
Recreation is rest from work. Because of this recreation embraces the whole rhythm of rest and work. It embraces that rhythm because work depends on rest. Because work is meaningless unless there is rest because rest gives meaning to work.
If one works without rest, then what does one become? A slave. A slave’s work doesn’t have any meaning to the slave. That is the very definition of slave. The slave performs meaningless labor. The means of work is not his to determine and the product of work is not for him to claim. Without rest, there is only work. When one must work, when work becomes a necessity, then it loses all meaning.
Rest creates the freedom to work. Rest creates space for choice, and choice is what makes work meaningful. Necessity kills meaning.
My 5 year old Dylan pushes off from the dinner table says, “I don’t want to eat this oatmeal.”
For a while I tried to force my will on him. “Come back to the table and eat.” This command made him even more adamant against eating and he would pull farther away from the table.
Then I found the magic formula. I said to him, “Pull away from the table and don’t eat that oatmeal.” This created a space to claim his freedom. He did the opposite, went back to the table eating his oatmeal, smiling, which was exactly what I wanted him to do in the first place. Yeah, it’s a bit of manipulation but it is how our human spirit works. It is not a matter of obedience and disobedience. It is a matter of freedom that gives meaning to our action.
This is why the Sabbath rule is one of the ten commandments, it is a commandment that actually gives freedom to God’s people. This is why the Sabbath is the hinge commandment that connects our love for God of the first four commandments, and the love for our neighbors the last six commandments. We love God well and love our neighbors well when we can do this rest, this recreation well.
This commandment freed the Jews because Jews to this point, for 400 years were slaves. They could never rest. And because they never rested a day in their life, they weren’t about to rest on their own. So God creates that space to give them rest.
The royal battle between Pharaoh and Moses was about rest. Moses said give us days to rest from labor and worship God. What is Pharaoh’s ranting reply?
4Pharaoh replied, “Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work! 5Look, there are many of your people in the land, and you are stopping them from their work.”
Making Bricks without Straw
6That same day Pharaoh sent this order to the Egyptian slave drivers and the Israelite foremen: 7“Do not supply any more straw for making bricks. Make the people get it themselves! 8But still require them to make the same number of bricks as before. Don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy. That’s why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifices to our God.’ 9Load them down with more work. Make them sweat! That will teach them to listen to lies!”
Rest breaks their old identity as slave.
Their freedom to rest gives meaning to work.
This rest is connected to God. Rest because I rested. Our right to rest is founded on God’s act of rest. Our rest is connected to God and not to any society, not even the new Jewish nation that is forming. Thus rest is now a gift to humanity and not a reward of a society or a company. So neither a society nor a company can take rest away. Rest is inherently our human right because it is what God did.
Rest gives meaning to work.
This is why the Hebrew writer talks about the day when Christ returns and restores everything, when heaven weds earth, as the true day of Sabbath.
8Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come.9So there is a special reststill waiting for the people of God.10For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world.11So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.
The weekly rest is only an anecdote, a pointer, for the whole rest-work dynamic of our life. The perfect rest that waits us when Christ returns is what makes our life-labor, the work that is our life, meaningful.
If this life is all there is, then life has no meaning.
So the famous Epicurean aphorism goes, “Eat, drink, be merry for tomorrow we will die.”
But there is rest. There is a life of rest after this life of labor. And that life of rest will throw a new light to our life of labor, and we only get hints of it, but we will be floored by how meaningful all of our labor, especially the labor that no one saw, no one took heed of, is sparkling with meaning.
So learn to rest, knowing that everything you do will be meaningful.
Truly rest in your rest. Rest is important. Let yourself rest. Let your kids rest. Rest from your soul.
Now rest gives meaning to work in at least these two ways.
It sets boundaries to work and it set our identity outside of work.
Rest sets boundaries
Rest sets boundaries. Boundaries is what creates meaning for us. A story is a story because it has a beginning and an end, a page one, and the end. Would you read a story that doesn’t have an end? Would you listen to this sermon if it didn’t end? You know it’s going to end, and you are counting the minutes. A story, a sermon, because there is an end, we can ask, so what was the point of the story.
What is the difference between paint spill on a wall and a powerful work of art. Canvas. Boundary.
What is the difference between what you see every day and a prize winning photo? What is not in the viewfinder. The focus around which everything else is cropped, makes that picture of a moment a moment worth talking about.
Limitation is essential to meaning.
We need to set boundaries. Not hard boundaries but clear boundaries to work. Some of you might be struggling with this. Then this is gospel for you.
Our rest is tied to God’s rest. God didn’t have to rest. But God did. By it, God gave boundary to creation and creator. It was always at the end of the day that he could say “It is good.” Until he finished, he could not say it. God sets boundaries too. That points to the holiness of God.
Practice setting boundaries. After certain hour, don’t return emails. On certain days, don’t check facebook. Because for some of us facebook is 24/7 work. We are coming to a time when the social media world is our social world.
A friend, told me that one day her co-worker came to her and asked, “so are you coming to my wedding?”
She answered, “I didn’t get an invite.”
Her co-worker answered, “But I posted in on facebook.”
If it happens in facebook, then it has happened in the real world.
I wonder how many of us have to post what happens in our world or it feels like it didn’t happen at all?
We need to set boundaries. Rest.
Rest frees our identity from work.
This is a great danger because it is a great temptation, to root our identity in work. This is how our modern society works. It’s embedded in our language. “I am an engineer.” I don’t work as an engineer. I am an engineer. Work becomes our existential necessity because it has become our identity.
There are two ways in which work can become a necessity in our lives. Economic necessity and existential necessity.
Economic necessity and existential necessity
Economic necessity, I must work to eat. Existential necessity. I must work to have significance.
Most of us don’t suffer from economic necessity. The fact that we can switch jobs means we are free from economic necessity. There are many who are stuck in economic necessity. They are the slaves of today. There are 3.5 million of them. We are going to do our part to free them, because that is what God did for Israelites. Our ancestors were slaves once and they were freed, and until every slave is freed, we shall not rest.
But we can be free of economic necessity but still not free of existential necessity.
Rio 2016 ended two weeks ago, to great fanfare and colors and celebration. What awaits every Olympian back home is depression. Not simply to those who tried and did not get a medal and face the disappointing result of their work, but especially if they had their national anthem sung. They face major depression. Atlantic had an article on this titled, “The Dark Side of Going for Gold.”
Michael Phelps took an emotional dive after winning a record eight gold medals in Beijing, in 2008. In an interview with Bob Costas he confessed, “I took some wrong turns and found myself in the darkest place you could ever imagine.” He purposefully drove drunk, hoping he would crash and die.
Why does anyone think of killing oneself being the most celebrated athlete of the century?
Mark Spitz, the Michael Phelps of the 1970s, won seven gold medals and set seven world records in the ’72 Munich Games. Mark said to ABC’s Donna de Varona before the start of the seventh race: “I know I say I don’t want to swim before every event, but this time, I’m serious. If I swim six and win six, I’ll be a hero. If I swim seven and win six, I’ll be a failure.”
Depression is a result of an identity completely welded to work and its result.
In that article, Kristin Keim, a clinical sports psychologist says that the key is in an athlete’s readiness to build an identity off the playing field.
“The result is not who you are,” she says, “You have to separate the individual from the result.”
God says to us, rest because you deserve it? Rest because you accomplished your goals? Rest because you did your part. No. God says rest because I rested. Rest is not the fruit of work. Rest is a gift of God.
Now it is not that God needed rest. But by tying rest to the rest of God, it roots our identity to the free God, one who himself is not defined by work. It is a gift of identity, of significance, free of all judgment and circumstance.
This is why the Jews believe the keeping of Sabbath so essential to their identity as a Jew. So much so that when Jesus starts ministry, Sabbath will be the main field of conflict, and it will be for breaking Sabbath that Jesus will make mortal enemies of the Pharisees.
Pharisees were wrong in what they did with rest. In their zeal, they made rest into work. But before we get to that point, we have to empathize with the fervency of the Pharisees because that day of rest gave the Jewish identity. When they were exiles in Babylon. It was Sabbath that guarded their identity. They didn’t have Hebrew scriptures to carry around. They had tablets, but not our tablets. They had stone tablets, terribly cumbersome. They did not have a church to worship and claim their identity, the way we do today, we are Christians because we go to Christian worship. They no longer had land, and nations are no longer nations without land. Yet they remained Jews without the Jerusalem. How? Sabbath. So if you look at Ezekiel, a prophet for the Jews during exile, he constantly encourages his people to practice Sabbath. Practice rest, you are without land, you live in Babylon, you speak Babylonian, you work for the Babylonian economy, but you are not Babylonians, you are people of God, and the way you are going to remember that identity is by rest because God gave you that freedom.
Rest Is Not Another Work
1Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. 2Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.
3Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.”4Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.
5He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! 6At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.
Such is the power of rest that there is a danger to turn rest into a god. We do that, make idols out of gifts of God.
Pharisees made rest into work, didn’t they. Stop simply meant stop working, stop trying to make everything work out for you. Rest meant you are going to trust that God is still working for you when you stop working . Stopping was a simple thing to do.
But they went on and made stopping a work. How? By listing it. I think lists are good. Lists are effective for what they do, make sure things get done, make sure important things get done first. Making lists are good. But one you list things it becomes a to do.
Pharisees made a list of things to stop. It was a way to protect resting. It was a form of boundary but a boundary without openness and adaptability. Boundaries are supposed to distinguish but not separate. Air tight boundaries will kill.
All cells have boundaries. This is what gives a cell enough distinction from environment to be an organism. But a cell’s boundary is porous. That porousness allows it to interact with the environment. A dead cell’s boundary is absolute. There is no longer interaction between the cell and the environment. And then it disintegrates. Then the cell becomes part of the environment. The irony of death is that it is absolute separation that dissolves into lack of distinction.
The human body in the first moments of death. It stops interacting. We don’t take I oxygen. We don’t give our carbon dioxide. We don’t feel heat, cold, no interaction. And then the absolute division between our body and the environment breaks down. Our body becomes dust. We are the environment.
When you separate rest from work completely, rest becomes work and everything is work.
Don’t turn on the lamp, don’t turn on the light. Get a clap-on light. Hmm.. . is clapping work? What about hospitals? Well you have to make a case for that one. What about opening a refrigerator. Well the light is on in the refrigerator so it’s not officially work. What about elevator? You can ride it as long as someone else presses the buttons.
Absolute separation leads you down some strange roads.
Like the Pharisees in our story, seeing if Jesus heal a person, seeing it as work that dishonors God, making him public enemy #1, so much so that they are willing to work with Herod who they hated because he killed lot of Jews.
-Jesus is that dangerous! What has he done?
-Can you believe it! He took a man’s withered hand that kept him from working the ground and feeding his family, and healed it on Sabbath?
-He did what? Help someone? Save a family? On Sabbath? He is dangerous.
We moderns who are not orthodox Jew don’t do it, right?
When we had our first son, and my wife told me to help clean up the house on Monday, the Sabbath day for pastors, I said, “No, honey, it’s my Sabbath” and I never try to pull that one again.
We also have our lists. We are even more obsessed with list. We have another name for it. We call it efficiency. We are enamored by efficiency. Efficiency is a good thing in the right context. We want efficient cars. We don’t want to waste gas. Bad for the environment and for our own budget.
In work we want to be efficient. But efficiency becomes an end, then it loses its usefulness even becomes dangerous.
We want our rest to be efficient. We want to maximize our downtime. So we do all sorts of things. Make a list of what we are going to do during our rest time. Make sure every minutes is well spent.
We have apps to track our rest time. Apps to measure our meditation. Heck, we even have apps to help us sleep more efficiently!
Sleep. That is rest rest, and we have an app to make it more efficient! Now there is an app to help you sleep better, as if we do not know how to sleep which is the most natural thing to do, and wake up which is the most natural thing to do.
There is sleeping app that tracks your sleep by measuring how your body moves and it will wake you up.
I knows because I bought the app. And the first time you supposed to rest it face down and sleep with it on.
After you wake up, and you hit the button and it would have measured the movement of bed and make a guess when your REM is and when is the best time to wake up.
So from then on you have to put it down every evening and press it every morning you wake up and it will give you a fancy graphics, its guess on your REM cycles and in a month you will know your average hours of sleep.
I stopped using it after a week because actually it is a hassle. But I remembered that actually I was doing pretty well sleeping when I was not using it.
There were times when I woke up a bit early and the app didn’t wake me so I tried to go back to sleep so I would wake up at the right cycle.
But now this is what I do. After 9, I limit media. I read books with physical pages. When I get tired, which I don’t need an app for it because my body will start yawning, eyelids will start closing, and I won’t be able to see the letters on the ivory pages. I brush my teeth andgo to bed. I don’t set an alarm. I wake up. My body, by itself, wakes up after around 6 hours of sleep. Sometimes even earlier. Sometimes I am awake and it is 4 am. And I close my eyes and I know my body needs to return to sleep, because it falls back to sleep pretty much immediately. But if it doesn’t I wake up and thank God for this dawn hour and work. I don’t beat myself for making rest time into work. It gives me a great time for quiet hour to pray and work. And usually if I am good then I work out around 6.
Sometimes I wake up at 6, and have slept 7 or even 8 hours. And I don’t beat myself over it. I used to. Think I just wasted my hours. Obviously if my body didn’t wake on its own without the artificial rousing of an annoying beeping sound then my body needed it!
On a rest day don’t make a to-do list. See where it goes.
On a rest day, go to bed when you yawn. Don’t set alarm. When you wake up and your body doesn’t need to go to bed, then enjoy that morning!
Rest leads to creative work.
When we let rest and work fall into a rhythm, what happens is that rest seeps into work and work seeps into rest in fun and creative ways.
So during rest you do things that you love to do, and it is work but it is work as it was supposed to be, freed from economical and existential necessity. Hobbies, doing it because you want to.
When you work you, because you practice rest, you are freed from existential necessity, and the trust you experience in rest grounds you in work and you know that you don’t have economic necessity to work so when you work you work with freedom which actually leads to more diligence.
Those who have to work and feel like they have no choice will not do their work diligently.
Those who work knowing they don’t have to work actually works with greater diligence even if the work might seem repetitive.
The last few weeks, I have been helping the Iranian family with their driver license. You don’t demand a 9 to 5, so it frees me to do such work. We went their twice. And both time I saw the receptionist at work. He is dressed in a security guard suit, crisp and blue. He held his head high, and back straight as if it was the most important work.
He spoke with a clear and full voice, not loud, but it never trailed off with boredom, even though what he said was repetitive. All day, he would say, every 30 minutes, this is the line, if you want to get a license, you have to have registration, if you are looking for renewal, save yourself time and do it online, the next five please.
And he would tell us the expected hour, “expect 2 to 4 hours of wait.” Give advise. Mondays and Fridays are busiest. Come Tuesday at 6:30 you will be in and out in 30 minutes.”
And then his best line, “Ladies and Gentleman, be prepared to wait. Waiting is the name of the game at DMV.”
I was thinking, doesn’t he get bored with the same line. But he says every line with freshness as if he thought of it for the first time the way actors do in a musical. And for him, it wasn’t repetitive. Because his audience, the people who lined up, was different everyday. He brought creativity to his work. I was thinking, if this pastor thing doesn’t work out, DMV receptionist.
Again Kristin Keim’s advise to the Olympians, but it is good for all of us. Olympics, work “is something you do, something you enjoy—it’s a gift, enjoy the process, enjoy this moment. … If you can get a medal, amazing, but look beyond that to a bigger life objective than just being an Olympian.”
Think about one of the greatest contributions our generation has made to the field of knowledge and all done by volunteers. Wikipedia. It is all the work of recreation. It has put all encyclopedias out of business. My word program has a specific tool to reference Wikipedia articles, not Britannica. The work of this recreation is better, more comprehensive, and more trustworthy than other products of paid labor.
The Four Gospels
When you look at the gospel story, it was a whole new genre. So as they wrote the gospel of Jesus they created a genre to match the story called the gospel. C.S.Lewis studied it carefully and said that there wasn’t anything like it in Greek or Aramaic. It wasn’t like Homer’s epics. It wasn’t a legend story although it has elements of it. It was almost like a little novella without the modern interest in the psyche, but focused on drama. And these four authors were not paid to do it. It was part of their recreation.
Church is all work done in recreation. From day 1, to today. This New Life is your recreation!
Ode to Joy
Here is a video of this balance of rest and work, where they enough boundary that there is a rhythm and it creates joy.