Monday, November 9, 2015

Simplifying Sunday


Sunday shenanigans - a parent-of-infants form of delighting - in our London garden
[The following was my talk in church yesterday.]

"If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:


"Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." (Isaiah 58:13-14)
How do we call and make the Sabbath a delight? 
Exactly three months prior to his becoming president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), then Elder Russell M. Nelson posed this question.  Since assuming his leadership role, making the Sabbath a Delight has been a center point for the church.
But how is it done?  
As with most commandments, obeying them with any degree of success begins with loving the Lord.  To obey Him, we must first want to follow Him. This desire is a gift from God and begins with feeling the love of the Lord. 
If you have not yet or do not now feel the overwhelming love of the Lord in your life, if you do not feel "to sing the song of redeeming love," and Sabbath-keeping seems a drudgery or duty, I would ask for your particular attention.  
Put aside lists of to-dos and thou-shalt-nots for Sunday as you listen today.  There are two principles I want to emphasize that have helped me to look forward to Sundays and delight in the Sabbath. 
Let's begin at the beginning which, as Maria Von Trap says, is a very good place to start. 
I. The Sabbath is synonymous with rest and is an eternal principle 
Creation Story - 
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 
"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 
"And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."
A little note on resting.  The LDS edition of the KJV notes that the Hebrew term translated here to "rest" is the verb shavat; the noun shabbat (or the English Sabbath) means a stopping or cessation.  So a seventh resting period is synonymous with "Sabbath."
And resting every seventh period is an eternal principle.    
Although in Abraham (5:1-3) we learn that the design of resting on a seventh day was the counseled decision by the Gods and "noble and great ones" who formed the earth,  I believe we can conjecture from the pattern identified here and elsewhere throughout scripture that the observance of a Sabbath, or one in every seven time periods, is an eternal principle:
-  In Old Testament Times, the seventh month and year were sanctified to the Lord, debts forgiven, and the land allowed to rest. (Bible Dictionary).
- The earth will rest and receive its paradisical glory in the 7th thousand year (Doctrine & Covenants 77:12
Gods observe a Sabbath, the land of the ancients was permitted Sabbath rotations, and the earth itself will receive a Sabbath.  An eternal principle if ever there was one.  
To me, this means that in this life and the next, no matter how hard the work gets, I will always be able to rest on the seventh day or time period.  
This became meaningful to me when, as a student at Brigham Young University and serving in student government, we were visited by then Elder Eyring, recently called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and still Commissioner of Church Education.  I had a heavy credit load, was volunteering roughly 30-40 hours a week, and maintaining an active social life.  I often slept on a 3-3-6 hours of sleep rotation over three days (this ruined my health).  He said if you think you are busy now, just wait: it only gets worse.  
This was staggering to me, and I looked forward to an ever-increasingly busy life.  I also knew that work for the faithful doesn't end with death: there is so much to do on the other side of the veil!  But I clung to this principle: if I could rest every seventh day for the rest of eternity, perhaps I could do it. 
G and E in their Sunday best in Wisconsin
II.  The Sabbath Was Made for Man
In the New Testament, we learn that Christ is continually breaking the Sabbath, or, more specifically, the rules established for Sabbath-keeping by church leadership.  He heals a 38-year-old infirmity at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath -- and urges him who was made whole to break the Sabbath by taking up his bed and walking (John 5), makes clay to heal the blind (John 9), and "harvests" corn with his disciples on the Sabbath (Mark 2).  
When criticized for the latter offense, Christ's response was to recite an accepted historical example of rule-breaking of King David to meet necessities.  He the King of all, was also meeting a basic need and summated by saying, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath."  
In explicating the meaning of the verse, Elder Nelson related, "I believe [the Savior] wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal." 
This concept - that the Sabbath was made for our benefit - and Christ's example of breaking lower laws to live a higher - can be coupled with the scripture in Isaiah to help complete the concept of delighting in the Sabbath.  
Let us stop seeing the Sabbath as a lower-order list of "thou shalt nots" and start to see its higher, divine purpose: a period set aside for us to rest from our labors and be rejuvenated by the Lord.  We are called, as Martha, to stop being busy and troubled about many things, and instead, focus on the needful, better things that will give us rest: sitting at the feet of the Lord with our family and feeling of His love.
That's all that the Sabbath means - creating space in our lives to partake of the emblems of the Lord's suffering - to feast upon them and get them inside of us as we literally do with the bread and water - so that we have rest for our souls and prepared for the coming week.
Elder Nelson related that as a young man, he made lists of Sabbath shalt nots, which he abandoned in maturing and instead focused on experiencing the Lord's joy and the symbol his conduct demonstrated.  He also looked forward to the physical rest for his hands, constantly being scrubbed in preparation for surgery, and his mind in a demanding surgeon's position.  
I once this taught this as a work principle to a young, brilliant but overworked and exhausted, often sick employee - resting every seventh day from work would rejuvenate her.  She lived it and learned of its value, opening the way for greater health and career success.  
When Lance and I briefly lived in Libya, it was wonderful to see work colleagues and others observing the Sabbath on Friday.  I loved witnessing the gathering for meals, religious services, and calls to prayers on that day.  
In London, we had to get creative in creating space to feel of the Lord.  Lance was bishop and our church experience began at 7:00 and involved packing up our handcart (family cargo bike), kids, multiple meals, church books for the kids, and anything Lance had been sent during the week that needed to go to the church.  Meetings, naps, and eating for the day was all done at the church, which we left at about 3:00 when the kids woke from naps.  Although I used Saturday and other days to prepare for this Sunday adventure and make it as calm as possible, it was always a hectic day.  To create quiet Sabbath time, one of us rode the bike the five uphill miles to church (usually Lance) while the other took the bus.  We switched in the other direction.  What this permitted was a sacred 30 minute window on the bus for each of us, when we had moments of calm all to ourselves.  I used the time to prepare for the Sacrament, plan my week, and do a little Sunday scripture reading.   We also used help to clean up the house while we were gone.
When I miss the Sacrament and sacred Sunday time, whether from traveling or motherhood or life, I miss it.  If I have not spent at least some of my Sunday "wrapt in the arms of the Savior's love" as the Primary song goes, I miss it.  My soul is not as grounded and my week much more hectic.  I need the quietude of Sunday; I need my rest.  It was designed for me- a gift for me to "be still, and know that I am God."  If I miss it, the Lord understands, but I miss out.  I am grateful that I have an eternity of Sundays to look forward to.  If I can rest every seven days, I can continue to work with a happy heart.
I challenge all who are consumed and put off by Sunday thou-shalt-nots to create space in your lives to sit at the feet of the Savior and partake of his emblems and love on Sunday.  I know your life will be blessed and enriched because of it, and you will find rest.  I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  
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Small Wonders

* Gideon has begun to ask us in the mornings, "How'd you sleep?"
* When he is frustrated, Gideon will say "Man, man, man!"
* On the few cold mornings we have had this fall, Gideon will say, "It's too cold.  Warm it up, mommy!"
* One of his stall tactics at night is to ask for songs about various favored things: "How 'bout a jeep song?"
* The other morning when Lance wasn't well, Gideon told him, "I need a hug.  Ok, daddy, go to sleep!"
* We finally saw a specialist for Esther's GI problems.  The morning of the appointment, she woke up hurling, the first time in four weeks (she did it again yesterday).  Seems it is a milk problem - American dairy has an added protein that has made her sensitive to all milk.  We've gotten her off of it now - Goats included - and will build up her probiotics/internal environment for the next couple of months and see how she is does.  Hoping to get an always-happy baby back.  It is so hard to watch her struggle and to witness a shift in her personality.  Let's hope this clears up all her issues, which do all seem to be related.
* Esther's vocabulary now embraces "Amen" (as of last night - so cute!), and "Gideon," which unfortunately sounds more like "Gid."
* Esther easily will go to any happy face.  She is trusting and is delighted to get attention from any who will love on her.  The doctor said she is much more engaged than her contemporaries.  I'm guessing it won't be such a good thing in her teens!

The last little beauty of fall splendor







That's a sad face.  G hasn't been feeling well this week.







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