Sunday, July 9, 2017

Slow Down Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

"Slow Down" Lyrics
by Chuck Girard | from the album All Those Years
 In the midst of my confusion
In the time of desperate need
When I am thinking not too clearly
A gentle voice does intercede

Slow down, slow down, be still
Be still and wait, on the Spirit of.... the Lord
Slow down and hear His
And know that

In the time of tribulation
When I'm feeling so unsure
When things are pressing in about me
Comes a gentle voice so still, so pure

Slow down, slow down, be still
Be still and wait, on the Spirit of.......the Lord
Slow down and hear His
And know that God
And know that

©1974 Dunamis Music[1]

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you will learn to live freely and lightly”[2] – The message
Recover your life! What a warm and welcoming invitation. This is an invitation many need to hear and yet few, very few, take the time to heed.  Even on this day, this day of rest we continue to worship at the altar of Busyness.  Not only do we not heed the message to slow down and breathe but I fear if our bodies didn’t tell us to just stop now and then many of us would run our selves right into the ground until we are facing the wrong side of the grass.
Now this call, I wish it were a commandment, but it is a call, an invitation an open door to a space in the spirit where she says; to come sit, breathe, be in my presence. This call isn’t just for the weary worker or the tired traveler.  This is an invitation to all and especially those who have been so burdened by society they are nearly broken.
This invitation is one to each one of us and to those who are not here and have not heard the invitation.  This is for those worn down by a strict religious creed.  This call is for those who have been excluded from their home communities where they are beaten down and told repeatedly that they are going to hell unless they repent and change.  This invitation is for those who are marginalized in their worship spaces to a point that they are exhausted by attending what should be a prayerful service.
This is a call of practice.  This a way of being of Christ, that one must develop.  There is the practice of an honest and sincere welcome.  This is a practice of community. This is a practice that takes work.  It takes work because not everyone wants to be welcoming at the same time.  Right?  There are days when we can do the welcoming into sacred still space and there are days when we really need to be in that still quiet space for ourselves.
We are blessed that in 2000 this congregation went through an intentional process and wrote and adopted an open and affirming covenant.  Now many of us think of that ONA is just for the LGBTQ community but the way it is written we are proclaiming our self a safe welcoming space for all people.
The congregation of the united Church of Christ in Petaluma declares itself to be open and affirming of all God’s people. We commit ourselves to nurturing a faith community where all the people who seek love and grace of God are welcomed and loved, regardless of race, ethnic or national origin,  (in this part of the statement we may consider being an immigrant welcoming and/or a sanctuary church or a Black Lives Matter congregation) we welcome regardless of age ( there is a new curriculum to be an age- friendly congregation),we welcome regardless of gender( there is a call to be careful around our use of pronouns and to be aware that some people do not identify on a gender binary scale), we welcome all no matter their sexual orientation, physical or mental abilities ( is there a group who may want to study what it means to be a wise church which is a program offered by the UCC mental health network), we welcome no matter your economic condition ( perhaps we need to make a stronger connection with cots) we welcome no matter to your marital status ( we need to be aware that sometimes being the single person in a congregation that often focuses on families may be difficult).
We openly welcome and invite all to join in the worship, fellowship, membership, employment and leadership of our congregation, and to participate fully in the life of the church (Perhaps someone has not done so in a long time but always wanted to participate in service, offer companionship to some of our shut-in community or work on our board?  This is your invitation who knew it  has been here all this time).
In affirming the value of ALL God’s people, we;
·      Recognize that we are all created by, loved and accepted as God’s children;
·      Believe God’s children are gifted by God with unique talents and attributes;
·      Believe we are born with God-given dignity, and that all people share the worth that comes from being unique individuals created by God;
·      Respect the dignity and self-worth of all persons.
We believe we are called by Jesus’ teachings to love our neighbors as ourselves. We commit ourselves to reach out (anyone have any ideas on how we may reach out more to our community) we are committed to reach out to all who wish to worship and affirm their faith in God. We commit ourselves to respond to the needs of those who have experienced exclusion, prejudice and discrimination in Christian Churches as well as in society.
Now that I have read all that I am exhausted.  Being Church, Being the United Church of Christ, we are called to hard work sometimes.  That is why we need to take rest, spiritual rest in the Lord.      
Kaji Dousa writes this in Rise up spirituality for resistance
There is a moment in the middle of the night. I gasp; I audibly take in so much air that anyone nearby will hear it.
I know God most closely in my sleep. For me, the overnight hours are the longest stretches of prayer I know. God and I talk in my dreams. Not exclusively—other voices work their way in as well.  But God’s most transformative healing work happens on my way to or in my sleep.  Which is why an interruption can feel so…disruptive to my soul.
What disrupts my God relationship?  The apostle Paul has a few ideas:
All of These work their way into my gasp points of my God-time. As well they should. The spirit of the lord is upon me to proclaim liberty to the captive, and this Jesus-following posture places those of us who do advocacy work at personal risk for any of Paul’s list. And then some.
Here’s the truth: Nothing can separate us from God. But things can interrupt our experience of God. When we are breathing in Goodness- even in a snore- any disruption can make us Gasp for air.
Maybe that gasp is good. Maybe it is helpful to know that, in these moments of interruption, we are in peril if we cannot breathe God in first and foremost.
Your call to follow Jesus may put you at risk. It may make you naked, vulnerable. It may make you the target of trolls with nothing better to do than interrupt your relationship with the Lord.
Amidst all of the Peril: Get your rest. Love your God. Follow Jesus. Know ye that the Lord is good and the Lord is God. And She will always show up, always on time. Even in the still of the night.
And Kaji concludes with this Prayer
I give thanks for your ability to break through it all, o God. Even in my Slumber. Even in my unrest. In Jesus’ name.[3]

Even in her rest she gasps breathing in Gods’ goodness.  This is what is meant and what we need to do we need to lay our burdens down, slow down, rest, reflect, and be present to God with all our busyness, with all our humility and with all our pride.  Everything we have we need to take to the lord, lay it down and rest.
If that means pausing in our day for a minute to say I am here Lord be present with me as I breathe.  If that means you are called to meditation for 20 minutes each day.  If it means that at the end of the week you need to come here and lay all your stuff at the door and come inside for an hour to be present to God then welcome and rest.
Now for some of us this quiet rest is hard.  It is hard for us to be still in the lord we need to move our rest needs to be unrestful, if you will. So, for some we need to take a walking meditation. 
Carefully placing one foot in front of the other and paying attention to the feel of the path under our feet. Breathing deep and taking in our surroundings being keenly aware of our surroundings.  Being aware of the God breathe that is always around us just taking in the rhythm of nature as we walk.  For others that may even be too much, too peace filled. 
For some rest in God may express itself in taking in the heart beat and pace of a city. Watching the spirit of God moving quickly about seeing glimpses of the face of Christ in each passing person.
For others still, there is spiritual reading and reflection.  Lectio Divina a sacred praying of the scripture.  For this you simply find a quiet comfortable place.  Choose a text. Read it slowly caressing each word or phrase in your heart listening for a phrase or word that stands out to you. Take the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas.  Just pay attention to where God is leading you in this time of prayer and contemplation.
Some may be more visual in their need to rest with God for t those there is the practice of visio divina this practice invites one to encounter the divine through images. A prayerful consideration of and interaction with a photograph in the magazine, icon, piece of art, or other visual representation allows the viewer to experience the divine in a unique and powerful way.
For others, their time with God may come out through their own artful practices be that in taking time to paint, knit, quilt, bead, take pictures or make music.  Just as we are each one of us the face of Christ in this world so we are each unique in our spiritual rest.  But to have a spiritual practice, a spiritual place that is just for you and God, is essential in empowering us as individuals and as a community to do the work God is calling us to.
So Slow down, be still and rest in the spirit of the lord be still and know God or dance move and find God and make a connection in your unique way.  But always be attentive in your time with God.  Listen for Gods voice in your Life then take up the Yoke, Christs yoke and know whatever it is we are called to do.  We do it not alone, our burdens our not ours alone but shared in and through our relationship with Christ.

[1] Chuck Girard, Chuck Girard (Originally published as North Hollywood, Calif.Dunamis Music, Waco, Tex: seven Thousand recordss, 1975).
[2] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002).
[3] Vince Amlin, Rise Up! (n.p.: United Church of Christ, 2017), 41.

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