Sunday, July 22, 2018

Come Away and Rest

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

The last few weeks, I have preached about justice – God’s justice – and what we can do to have a more just world, community, congregation, even family. It’s not easy to preach, not easy to hear, and not easy to do.

On the way home last week, I was reflecting on this and said, we all need a respite, a rest from this talk, this political atmosphere no matter which “side” we are on. I decided on the way home that this Sunday, I would find something restful, something less justice oriented to talk about.

There are weeks when I look at the Lectionary, the set of assigned readings for the week, and don’t like any of them. But this time, the Lectionary gave me a gift, an easy way for us to take a rest and remember how important it is to take time to be with God.

… Jesus and the disciples have been busy. They have been traveling, healing, teaching, having disputes with the leaders and most likely some “regular folks” who can’t see what Jesus wants them to see. What Jesus is saying is so old, it is new to them, and if it is new, it must be wrong. Jesus and the disciples are exhausted, and the crowds never leave them alone now.

One day, Jesus says, let’s go away to rest and pray. And he takes the disciples with him to a deserted place. Even there, the crowds follow and there is still no rest for them. And they choose to leave the deserted place and take care of the needy folks that surround them.

With work, doctor appointments, home maintenance appointments, regular house cleaning and cooking, and family activities, it may seem like you have to wedge worship into the rest of your week, and some weeks, it just doesn’t fit. You, too, are exhausted and have no time for rest.

Today, I want to offer a few easy suggestions for you to fit prayer into your daily life.

First, I encourage you to find ways to take a few minutes a day for silence, simply sitting with Jesus. I have a couple favorite prayer positions: one is to imagine Jesus sitting next to me on the sofa with his arm around my shoulders. The other is to imagine Jesus in a chair facing me holding my hands.

With the image of Jesus right there, I find it easier to spend a few minutes in prayer. I don’t ask for anything. I don’t complain about anything. I simply spend a few minutes telling God how grateful I am for God’s presence in my life.

Second, as a Franciscan, I am supposed to pray the daily prayers: morning, noon, evening, and night. The old names for these prayers are Matins, Sect, Vespers, and Compline. They are in the hymnals, this cranberry red one, and the older green and red ones. If you speak the words instead of singing them, they only take a few minutes. Most days, I make time to pray the Morning and Night Prayers. These simple prayers are helpful in reminding us that God is present, generous, and forgiving.

Third, I want to share something with you that is very meaningful to me. It was probably 25 years ago that I attended a Women of the ELCA retreat. One of the workshops was on using movement in prayer. The leader taught us some motions to go along with a simple song, “Spirit of the Living God, Fall Afresh on Me”. Over the years, I have used that same song and my own motions as a prayer. I find it calming and reassuring to remember that the Spirit of God is with me, filling me, shaping me, and using me.

How many of you know this song, “Spirit of the Living God, Fall Afresh on Me”?

First, we are going to learn the motions without music, then we’ll add music. You can do the motions standing up or seated. It is easier to do them standing, but I know some of you find standing difficult.

The American Sign Language sign for spirit is a wiggly vertical line, rather like a ghost moving upward.

One sign for God is a flat palm raised up. So, Spirit of the Living God is a wiggly line up to a flat palm.

Rain falls with wiggly fingers down to the shoulders. Fall afresh on me.

Repeat. Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.

The next section is about how God shapes us and uses us. Imagine your body being a candle melting down into a puddle. Melt me.

Now imagine God the potter shaping you into something usable, up from the puddle. Mold me.

Imagine God filling you with all good things. Reach up and make a “Y” or a chalice of your body. Fill me.

Imaging offering yourself to God by reaching out with your hands. Use me.

Return to the beginning: Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

Don’t worry if you are not doing it “right”. Over the years I have revised my motions, so just do what works for you. And I make mistakes, even after all these years of doing it. Let’s put it together.

Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.

Practice it a time or two, then add music. I thank Les for finding the right tune, and Marcia for leading the singing, because you really don’t want to hear me sing over the mic. Sing through 3 times.

Prayer: Gracious God, grant us the time to worship you, to spend time in your presence in many different ways. Amen