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On Sabbath and giving

September 03, 2013

GROWING IN GRACE
BEN GOSDEN

There was a wonderful article that recently ran on NPR written by Diedre Sullivan entitled, “Always Go to the Funeral.” Sullivan writes about how her parents taught her as a teenager that you make time for someone's funeral when they die. She takes the lesson a step further and says, “I have to do the right thing when I really, really don't feel like it.” 

Her parents were the kind of parents I want to be. They taught their child that no matter what, you don't get to be the center of your own universe. Other people matter. Sometimes you will be inconvenienced for the sake of someone else. And that’s okay. 

This week I preached a sermon about how Jesus had the audacity to heal a woman on the Sabbath. It was custom that rest be the theme of the day on the Sabbath. But Jesus reminds us that rest is just a part of the response of praise to the God who has created us, redeemed us, and who continues to bless us every day of our lives. 

We live in a world where working too much is a way of life. Our schedules are so full we never take the time to stop and consider why we’re working so hard. Is it to provide the means for our families to live? Is it to make a difference in the community? Or is it secretly because we find our meaning in the work we do and the successes we achieve? 

Benedictine monks adopt as a motto the phrase, Laborare est orare, “To work is to pray.” This doesn’t mean we spend our work day asking God for one thing after another on a never-ending wish list. It means we approach our work the same way we approach our worship – in reverence and with a spirit of thanksgiving for the God who so abundantly blesses us. 

And when we see our work and our rest from this perspective, a funny thing happens. It becomes harder and harder to see ourselves as self-made people who are the authors of our success. It becomes more and more important to set time apart for praise and worship to the God who so extravagantly gives. And it becomes more and more evident that we must extend the hand of generosity and compassion to others even when we don’t always feel like it. 

Sullivan later writes in her article, “In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn't been good versus evil. It's hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.” How true she is!

May we find opportunity to serve God and others through our daily work. May we take a day of rest and reflect on the abundance we enjoy as a gift from the God whose grace knows no end. May we find more ways to share our abundance with others in our giving and our service. And may we learn the grace to do all of this whether we feel like it not.

The Rev. Ben Gosden is an associate pastor at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church in Macon. He can be reached at bgosden@mulberrymethodist.org.

 

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