given on Sunday, June 1, 2014
The Word from the NIV . . .
Old Testament: Exodus 20:8-10—Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord our God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
New Testament: Mark 2:23-28—One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath? He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for the priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath”
. . . and Thoughts: How do Christians vacation?
Summer vacation is here! The schools are closed for the year, the sun shines, the bags are packed, and everybody is ready to leave town.
Just the words ‘summer vacation’ creates those pre-packaged images in our mind. In our culture summer and vacation are almost synonymous; but that really is not the case. Just how does that phrase develop as a paradigm in a community or a culture that has long been based on agriculture?
One would expect that summer vacation would translate into images: sweat running down the face, staining shirts, sun-tanned arms and foreheads (remember the farmer’s cap line), hay bales piled up, tractors pushing through the fields, and that cold, sweating glass of ice tea while standing outside for the one break in the afternoon—anywhere from 2-6 pm. Supper would not be ready until the chores were done.
Nowhere in those images of summer vacation on the farm is the picture of light-heartedness families with suitcases swinging beside them, sunglasses on their face, swimsuits on, and fancy drinks with little umbrellas in them. Summer vacation is an idea, a marketing creation to bring a society together and believe that summer vacation is the common thread among all members of a society.
What a fallacy! And as a Christian, these images should be alarming as there is no reminder of God or even the lifestyle we develop that shows our relationship with God or the selfless side of service. The mental pictures we create of summer vacation are painted by the media rather than by our Christian principles. So . . . how do Christians vacation?
The starting point is God. With God beside us, everything we do should reflect the Christian lifestyle that we say we follow. There should be no difference in how you live out your faith on any one day of the year. The Christian lifestyle is the very core of who you are. Loving one another whether within your immediate family or whether a stranger met along the road, a Christian operates on unconditional love for all first and foremost.
Granted the decisions of others concerning un-Christian behaviors or decisions forces us to use common sense and caution today. The warnings are everywhere: do not pick up hitchhikers; do not feed the bears; do not stop to help someone along side the road; do not share your drink or food with others; do not share information. The list seems to grow out of control to the point that living a Christian lifestyle seems impossible.
Another point to consider is timing. Christians are expected to maintain a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally. For the faithful, even during Moses’ time, that means maintaining healthy diet, healthy practices from hygiene to monogamy, and to observe a time of rest. The ancient Jewish traditions around the Sabbath forced all to take a break and to make a priority of worshiping God. That same structure is expected today from all Christians even though some adjustments have been made.
During the earlier agrarian cultures, Sabbath—now our Sundays—meant that the tools of farming were put down and not picked up until Monday morning. The only exception was for the care of the livestock. Cows still had to be milked, chickens fed, pigs watered. The principle of being good stewards of God’s world did force some flexibility on Sundays.
Still, the question is how do Christians vacation? The habits we live 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year should reflect God at all times. There is no vacation from being Christian, the question is what choices do we make as we vacation. Remember that our behaviors should always reflect our beliefs. The activities we choose for vacation do not excuse us from our Christian principles. The amount of food and types of drinks do not excuse us from what we believe. Our relationships must preserve the very commitments we made in our marriage vows, our children’s baptism, and even the friendships we maintain.
Vacation should not be a break any of our Christian principles—ever! Vacation is a form of Sabbath away from our work world and a time of rest for our bodies and minds. Vacations allow us to step away from our own environment and explore what else is available in God’s world. We can meet new people, we can taste different foods, and we can see sites unfamiliar around our own communities.
And what does one do come Sunday morning? A vacation does not mean step away from God. Vacation offers opportunities that are not typically available in our hometown. If vacation time includes that typical time you are attending worship, why not look for different worship options. Maybe you take time to read a devotional privately at the ocean’s side with sand between your toes and waves creating the music for your ears.
Look around you and consider what worship opportunities are available. Maybe there is a Methodist church close by you could attend. Vacation may offer an opportunity to visit a different denomination, maybe even experience a Catholic or Greek Orthodox service. Even visiting a Jewish synagogue on Saturday evening would be worship. Check out different styles of worship or different times even. Vacation does not mean vacate church on vacation Sundays.
During John Wesley’s lifetime, he worked hard to establish solid Christian lifestyles in his parishes. He asked for commitment and accountability. He would insist that members be part of a covenant group that had rigid practices of studying scripture, sharing concerns, and holding each other accountable to God.
From Wesley’s class meetings, a covenant format was established that has returned in many Methodist churches over the past 20 years. Some churches even hold an annual covenant Sunday to reconnect members with their commitment to God and to the church while asking members to be accountable. From this practice, the church’s discipline has outlined the standard that a church member in good standing would honor their commitment of attendance by not being absent more than four Sundays a year.
Four Sundays a year! Just how many of us could honestly report that our Sunday attendance—or worship attendance—is that good or better. One of the ways to maintain that commitment over summer vacation is to visit other churches. Share in the worship of other Christians wherever you may be. Maybe even try visiting a different church during the summer while at home. Bring back new ideas to your home church. Share your worship experiences with your family and friends.
Summer vacation is all about renewal. Certainly we love the sunshine, the warm temperatures, and the fun times that accompany vacations, but as Christians we never, never must step away from our God-based principles. Christians can vacation and do all that they can for renewing their own lives, but vacation with God, not away from God.
Our summer has arrived and we are ready for vacation time.
Sometimes temptation creeps in,
and we give in to the world’s decadence.
Sometimes we make decisions
that demonstrate our human weaknesses.
Sometimes we fail,
and our Christian foundations shake.
Thank you for your grace
when we splurge with food and drink.
Thank you for your forgiveness
when we make mistakes.
Thank you for Christians’ unconditional love
welcoming us home.
May we learn from our mistakes,
from our harmful indulgences,
from our poor performances.
Let us vacation as you would have us vacation,
whether it be for personal renewal,
for new experiences,
for learning new ideas, or
for strengthening our faith foundations.
Guide us as summer begins,
vacations are taken,
and we follow Jesus’ example
wherever we are. –Amen