Reading for Class

This is a part of my reading for tomorrow’s class. It’s after the author describes how the world adapted economic models post World War II so that everything that was done essentially contributed to a nation’s economic strength. Wealth was measured in terms of goods and services, but not quite immaterial things. Services like creating weapons or being a soldier or a law enforcement officer counted while cooking dinner for your kids or cleaning up after your kids or working in your garden didn’t.

In short, we have converted destruction into an economic good. But anything that grows without money changing hands–parents who care for their children, people who voluntarily care for the sick, the dying, or the homeless, people who pray or meditate or walk in the woods–these, at best, have no value. At worst, they take away precious time and energy that could be used to grow the G.D.P.

…During Sabbath we stop counting…During Sabbath, things that grow in time are honored at least as much as those things we would buy and sell. At rest, we can take deeper measure of our true wealth. If we do not rest, if we do not taste and eat and serve and teach and pray and give thanks and do all those things that grow only in time, we will become more impoverished than we will ever know.

From “Why Time Is Not Money” in Wayne Muller’s Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest

Defining Acts

This is from Hauerwas and Willimon’s book on the Ten Commandments.  It’s one of the things I’m turning over for tomorrow.  Before this quote, the chapter (on the third command regarding Sabbath) takes the reader through how, for the Christian, Sabbath is a reordering of time.  Sabbath observance is about actively remembering God.

One of us was raised in Texas, where there is a wonderful institution known as “Juneteenth.”  On June 19, news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas.  June 19 became the day on which African Americans, with no legal recourse, simply refused to show up for work.  Whites might not have liked it, but there was nothing they could do about it.  They simply accepted “Juneteenth” as a holiday.

The Christian Sabbath is Juneteenth.  It is when Christians perform one of our most radical, countercultural, peculiarly defining acts—we simply refuse to show up for work.  It is how we put the world in its place.  It is how we take over the world’s time and help to make it God’s time.  It is how we get over our amnesia and recover our memory of how we got here, who we are, and in whose service we are called.


Monday Considerations, Pastoral Routines, & Soul Junk

Monday has been my off day for years, ever since I started working in a church, with the long exception of having to be on-call at Sweet Holy Spirit for administrative matters.  Back then, it wasn’t strange to get a minutes long call from our accountant or from a co-worker that changed the direction of the week.  Those Mondays are distant, though I hardly forget them.

Usually by Monday, since Sunday is traditionally a longer work day for pastors, I’ve lived through the equivalent of a work week with the compressed emotions of half a second one.  There has been the previous week itself.  It will bring with it conversations that stop me, meetings that unsettle me, group chats where someone is inevitably struggling with faith, offered counsel that helps or hurts people, conflicts left open for too long.  There are projections about the future of the church, potential partnerships or courses of action.  Quiet is seldom found without effort.  There is the loneliness that feels like a heavy blanket in summer.  There is the balancing of my own soul.

By Monday, my sleep has been disturbed for a few days in a row, dealing both with the expectation of Sunday and all that it brings and the throbbing exhaustion that comes afterward.  Sleep will catch up to me by the next day usually, but when Monday comes, I’m somewhere in the middle of looking at the day for the deep breath it will bring and planning for the week, even though I’m trying not to plan.  The busy tapping of my phone tells me that there is an email or a text.  I check it, only to see if it’s from someone whose text I actually read on Mondays, a tiny list of loved ones whose requests are of a slightly different order.

On Mondays I do much less.  Sometimes I fall into the mode of catching up with things at my address.  There are errands to run for myself.  Things Dawn has asked me to do.  There is laundry and dishes and remnants from the previous night’s dinner, and all the things in everyone else’s home.  There is the smell of urine that comes from the place where my son tossed his pajamas that morning, and the sneaky feeling that I’ll never stop cleaning the tile and washing the sheets, that I’ll go to work smelling of my boy’s liquids.  I remember the conversation about reintroducing pull ups for the overnight shift, and I feel that aching familiar feeling of failure that never totally leaves.  It’s one of those reminders in my life that I need grace.

For a long time I think about meaningful moments from the previous week.  And I try to think about nothing at all.  But I’m not successful.  There is the crammed calendar and the list of things.  This week there is one more sermon in the current series.  There are the big anchors of the upcoming message rolling around in my head and falling to my feet.  There is the nagging persistence that what I preach matters and doesn’t.  There is the slow, night-time work of an assignment due before the end of next week.  There is the upward and onward motion of not wanting to stop and the competing better desire to quit for a bit.

Quitting for a bit is the point of Monday.  But it is hard to do.  Leaving my moleskin at home and walking.  Picking up a book of poems and heading to the Point.  Exercising with no thought or nobody’s question or open conversation rattling for resolution.  Eating a recreative-for-me meal that someone has prepared.  Laughing with my friends or someone who for a moment is in my life for that sole purpose.

The anticipation of tomorrow is brutal on the soul.  Not just mine.  Not just a minister’s.  But everyone’s soul.  Thinking ahead into the next day, into the next post-Sabbath, into the second day of the week, is theft.  Planning ahead is robbery.  It’s sinister because we both believe it must be done and are so good at it.  Good at leaving now for later.  Good at staying nowhere for long.  Never being present.  Never reaching future.

It seems to me that it’s underneath most of the layers of our junk.  Yet it’s also over the basic simplicity of our souls this movement ahead.  But there are springs that come up through the layers.  Springs: those people who ask a simple question and wait for a response.  Springs are those messages that come from the lips of angels, the ones that stop your breath for a moment and help you appreciate the moment because it almost took you.  These are the things I need to consider on Mondays.  God, help me, especially since it’s Tuesday and the next Monday feels like a year away.

When I Stepped Away

Last week, Monday, you came to my neighborhood, took me to eat, and to do whatever I thought was nourishing to my soul, which happened to be seeing Man of Steel.  That was your recommendation and I’m grateful you made it.  The meal and the movie, the conversation, and the entire gesture you made, was, together, a fitting day off for me, a wonderful way to feel, through you, that the church I serve cares that I (and certainly not I alone) recuperate after the pile of offerings I give.  When I stepped away from serving for a Day, I felt like I was served.  Thank you, Tim, and thanks to the church that you represent in your acts of care to me.  You join a gracious circle of others who love well, care well, and give well.  I’m glad to be one of your pastors.

Something of Worth

I find that intentionally easing the fast pace of my days is indispensable if a spirit of hope is to be sustained in tough times.  Being overly active and involved in the constant bombardment of social media or other stress-induced activities whittles away my ability to go to the deeper places of life.  Without daily attention to what lies beyond the outer world I can easily get mired in the non-essentials and miss the hidden movement leading to future maturity.

…There awaits something of worth even though I may feel emptied and forsaken, beaten or humbled by loss.

From Joyce Rupp’s My Soul Feels Lean (pg. 87).