Inspired by Genesis 2:1-3
I hate roses! If I get stuck one more time by a thorn in that rose jungle of a backyard that I just bought, I might buy myself a flame thrower and be done with it! Let me back up a bit. Most of you know that I recently bought a house. With said house, came a, well, I don’t know if you can even call it a back yard. It has no yard, although it is in the back! What it does have are rose bushes, lots of them! Forty-four to be exact! You heard that right, forty-four evil rose bushes. To be clear, it’s not so much the rose that I hate it’s those nasty bushes. It astonishes me how something as beautiful as a rose can come from such an ugly plant!
My wife Sara doesn’t like them either, although she does love to get roses, which she reminds me every chance she gets. I don’t see what makes them so special and I certainly could do without the price tag. Now, you’re probably thinking, Pastor, you could save so much money on roses now! Let me refer back to my opening point: if I get stuck by one more thorn! Worse than that, our poor dog Pearl came in limping the other day with, you guessed it, a thorn stuck in her paw! That happens one more time and it’s flame-thrower time!
Ok, why am I whining about roses? Today, we continue our three week series on Sabbath. Last week we talked about how Sabbath is more than just taking a day off, that it enables us to reidentify us from our past, as well as from our work. This week our reading comes from Genesis, the end of the first creation story, the one that we are most familiar with. God created something different on each day for six days, ending with humans, and then on the seventh day, our translation that we read says that God rested, but who remembers from last week what a better translation is for the Hebrew word shabbat? That’s right! Ceased! You get an extra gold star on your permanent record! It actually reads, on the seventh day God ceased. Ceased from what? Ceased from working.
For me, it’s any kind of activity that commands my complete attention. Any activity that hinders my mind from wandering, especially to things like work! How easy is it for many of us to be thinking about work? And for fields, like being a pastor, wherein much of the work is done up here, in your head, those are the worst, because that means your mind can slip into work at any moment without notice! I catch myself doing that all the time! It’s a good thing you don’t pay me hourly because it’d cost you a fortune!
So finding activities that make it hard for my mind to slip into work is of utmost importance. Such as bike riding. I love bike riding! Not for sport but just for the pure enjoyment. And I think one of the reasons I like it so much is that it commands my full attention. You don’t want to ride a bike and get distracted otherwise you’re gonna find yourself with a flat tire, or in a ditch, or worse! However, riding a bike allows my mind to focus on other things: the road, the sounds, the people, the dogs, the trees, the roses, anything but work is the point!
Another one of my favorite activities for this is playing video games. Trust me, it’s really hard to think about work while you are protecting a farmer from a horde of trolls or trying to catch the Joker after he’s escaped Arkham Asylum yet again! Knowing many of you I imagine you might be thinking of things like woodworking, quilting, gardening, reading, restoring your car, anything that helps to bring you out of the everyday routine of life and into appreciating life’s simple pleasures. And maybe, for some of you, this comes quite naturally.
It doesn’t for me. But maybe you don’t need an activity to help you with this, maybe you just have that skill to be able to turn off work, turn off stress, like a switch, and focus on something enjoyable. For some it just comes naturally, but I’m guessing for many of us it does not. Either way, the point here is to stop working and enjoy the life you’ve been given, stop working and appreciate the world around you, stop working and spend time with loved ones, stop working. Stop and smell the roses.
But here’s the thorn in all of this. There’s always a thorn isn’t there? Why does there always have to be a thorn! Well, the thorn here is this, how hard is it for many of us, to allow ourselves time for Sabbath, time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, time to just be? It’s pretty tough for many of us isn’t it? For lots of reasons. One, many of us just feel downright guilty! We see how hard others have it, the homeless woman you’ve passed enough times to now recognize, the neighbor who works two, maybe three jobs just to feed her family, and we might think to ourselves, how can I enjoy life’s simple pleasures when so many others cannot. Or maybe it’s not guilt, maybe it’s a fear of laziness. Many of us grew up in generations that taught things like, “If you got time to lean, you got time to clean.” Here’s another one for you, “Idle hands are the devil’s tools.”
Or, maybe it’s not guilt, and maybe it’s not a fear of laziness. Maybe it’s something even worse. I think a lot of us shy away from enjoying life’s simple pleasures because we just don’t feel right doing it. And I’m talking about something different than just simple guilt. Many of us have a “I’ll take one for the team” kind of mentality to our work, whether it be our paid work or our volunteer work. Many of us have a hero complex or a martyr complex when it comes to our work.
We run ourselves ragged or we sacrifice for the sake of others leaving little for ourselves. I see this in the church all the time. Why do you think we have so many people suffering from burn out in our churches? Many of us don’t know how to say no when asked to do something because they don’t feel right doing that. I see this in parents as well, like in my own wife. She will spend every last penny she has on her kids but when it comes to her needing something she hesitates and usually goes without.
Look, clearly we have lots of reasons why we have trouble stopping and smelling the roses, more than I can mention in a single sermon. I didn’t even get to things like ego and pride. But stopping to smell the roses, taking a Sabbath, following God’s lead on that seventh day of creation to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, is essential to who we were created to be. When we don’t, we are not being fully human, we are not being fully God’s creation. It’s like buying an action figure and then not opening it because it might be worth more money someday? What?
When I bought Star Wars action figures, “for my kids”, we played with them! That’s what they were made for! I’d probably have a small fortune if I left all my childhood action figures in their packaging but I wouldn’t have the wonderful memories of playing with them, that sparked my young imagination each time, and I probably wouldn’t be a fan today. It’s what they were made for.
We were created to enjoy life. We were created to stop and smell the roses. It’s ok! There’s no need to feel guilty, or lazy, or unworthy, and there’s certainly no need to be a hero or a martyr. And if that sounds a bit self-indulgent, remember, this is part two of a three-part series on Sabbath. Next week, it’s gonna be a whole different story when it comes to Sabbath. But for now, enjoy life’s simple pleasures, stop and smell the roses, take your toys out of their packaging and play with them, that’s what they were created for. It’s what you were created for. Thanks be to God. Amen.