Lectionary Reflection: Mark 2: 21-28: Rules and Regulations Part 2

            So mayor Bloomberg of NYC no sooner finished outlawing soft drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, and he wants to look at movie theater popcorn tubs.  Sheesh!  Will it ever end?  I think not.  Do this, don’t do that.  Be this, don’t be that.  Go here, not there, say this not that, think this and if you don’t then be aware there will be consequences.  And all of this is being done with the best of intentions – for our own good.  Sheesh!

            Who can possibly keep up with all the rules and regulations?  Clearly no one. 

            That is the way it was on the Sabbath.  That is the way it still is in some places.  That is the way it still is in many minds.  Force rest and relaxation, even if it feels like a day in prison.  But Jesus said, in effect, “Don’t be stupid.”  (He would never actually say that, maybe).  But he said the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.  We were not made to keep a bunch of stupid rules.  We were made instead to get a free day off card every week.

            To that end, here is the kind of thing I do on my day off.  I am not sharing this in any way to suggest that this is what you must do.  These are not even “rules” for me – they are more like an outline, or suggestions, so they certainly are not rules for you.

            First, I try to spend the time wisely.

            I spend my time with God, family, friends – with those I love, and on my better Sabbaths I seek out ways to expand that circle of love.  This increases the joy in my heart.  It is one day a week where I don’t have to focus on the troubles, hardships and stresses of life.  Instead, I can focus on what produces happiness – on the joys of life – on the joy of being alive.  And I have discovered that this increases the peace in my heart as well as the joy.  The Sabbath for me is a chance to rest and relax, like when I am on the best vacation.  And I believe it is an incredible gift to be able to cut myself off from the madness of the world and go on vacation one day a week, every week.

            Second, I try to practice what is right, good and true.  This is focusing outwardly, on others. 

            Patience is the practice of active waiting.  It is being content to take one step at a time.  As they say, Rome was not built in a day, so I remind myself once a week that faith, hope and love will not be built in a day, either.  I practice patience, in my own spiritual life, but especially when I practice goodness toward my neighbor.  This helps me reach out to others in a way that is gentle and kind rather than demanding an immediate return.  Gentle-kindness takes a lot of practice, but I believe it is imperative if one ever hopes to be able to speak the truth in love.  I know, most people who talk about speaking the truth in love (perhaps like those who are determined to have rules for everything – for our own good) would not know gentle-kindness if it bit them in the face.  Sad.  But for me, I practice patience, doing what good I can and in as gentle and kind a manner as is in me.

            Third, I don’t leave myself out of my Sabbath equation.  I try to learn, remember or we might say, rediscover life – my life.

            I try to remind myself what is truly important in life so I can strive faithfully after those things as opposed to the daily pressures of work, home and responsibilities.  I humble myself to what matters, and I do so gladly because here is one day a week where I don’t have to be the center of the universe.  And I remember and also practice or more like train myself in self-control.  Though it comes last on my list, it is the thing above all that helps me stay better on track then the Sabbath is over and I am once again crushed and overwhelmed by this world.  When I strive to be faithful to what is truly important in this life, and willingly humble myself so God can be at the center of his universe (and mine), the self- control helps keep me on track with God and al that matters during the work week.  It gives the Lord a chance to lead me into what is good, right and true.

            One day off per week is a glorious gift, I believe, if we take advantage of that gift.  But I don’t suggest filling it with rules and to do lists.  I am certainly not suggesting that you must follow my practice; but at the same time I can’t help but wonder.  I began this piece concerned enough to wonder what kind of world we are becoming.  Now I can’t help but also wonder, if people took one day a week and focused on the things the apostle Paul called the gifts of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentle-kindness, faithfulness, humility and self-control, what kind of world might we then become?

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