Berkshire sabbath time...

For some strange reason the sun is out, the temperature is heading towards 65 and the day is totally beautiful. My garden is calling to me on this Berkshire sabbath and I plan to honor it... a little putzing with the garden fence, maybe planting some vegetable seeds but no work. God knows there is work to be done, yes?

+ Musicians to be interviewed and hired
+ Congregation members and friends to be visited and prayed with
+ Kitchens to be cleaned, phone calls to be returned... let's not even mention emails!
+ Theological articles to be written
+ Planning for a "virtue worship gig" with my friends in Tucson (and learning the technology to make it happen)
+ Worrying about Di and her mother as they take her into hospice this weekend

You have your own list, too, yes? But Rabbi Heschel keeps calling to me from beyond his grave: if you make time to rest on your sabbath then you will come to know that God is truly God. So, I try... and often realize that it will take my entire lifetime to really honor sabbath time. What a paradox: it will take my entire life to learn how to rest enough to know deep in my soul that God is God - and that I am not!

Maybe that is one of the reasons I have been drawn to some of the words of Frederick Buechner who tells me over and over again that Jesus shows us what God's kingdom is like with a Zen-like sense of humor: What is the kingdom of God? Jesus does not speak of a reorganization of society as a political possibility or of the doctrine of salvation as a doctrine. He speaks of what it is like to find a diamond ring that your thought you'd lost forever. He speaks of what it is like to win the Irish Sweepstakes. He suggests rather than spells out. He evokes rather than explains. He catches by surprise... Indeed, I suspect that Jesus spoke (his parables about the kingdom) as a kind of sad and holy joke and that that may be part of why he seemed reluctant to explain them because if you have to explain a joke... well, you might as well save your breath.

That rings true for me: like a poem by Billy Collins or a Joni Mitchell song, there is nothing heavy handed about this kingdom/sabbath stuff: it is a lovely surprise - a way of living that is restful and profound at the same time - the unforced rhythm of grace as Eugene Peterson has observed. Yesterday, sitting in Dottie's Coffehouse discussing life and death and music and God, Joni Mitchell was playing underneath our words - and her tender sadness and deep joy brought the whole place a little serenity. A man just new to town threw himself into an overstuffed chair with a massive sigh and said, "she just puts me at rest."

Perhaps these words of counsel from the Wisdom literature of Israel deserve another hearing for this 21st century new testament guy: Dear friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life; don't for a minute lose sight of them. They'll keep your soul alive and well, they'll keep you fit and attractive. You'll travel safely, you'll neither tire nor trip. You'll take afternoon naps without a worry, you'll enjoy a good night's sleep. No need to panic over alarms or surprises, or predictions that doomsday's just around the corner, because God will be right there with you and will keep you safe and sound. (Proverbs 3: 21 in The Message).

The Teacher in Ecclesiastes says: "we work to feed our appetites, meanwhile our souls go hungry." (6:7) So... it is off to the garden, a few insightful films and some Billy Collins poetry - soul food - for Berkshire sabbath time.


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