Reflections on my Time at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation

From July 19th to the 24th, I spent time at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation with a group from my internship site, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, PA. We worked on some projects that needed doing around the church, and we got to know some of the people of the Chippewa-Cree tribe. Here, in no particular order, are some of my reflections and observations from this time:

Reflections on my time at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation

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The Native Americans who live at Rocky Boy’s are of the Chippewa-Cree tribe. The story they tell of how they came to this place is that many of their people were wandering around from place to place. The federal government wanted to stop them from wandering around, and offered them land to settle down in. The people did not like the land, and they continued looking for a place that they could live and they continued negotiating with the government. Finally, they settled on the land which is now known as Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation in Montana. It is named after Chief Rocky Boy. Their hopes for us in the time that we stayed at the reservation is that we would come to know that everything: sun, moon, wind, rain, and so on, is a blessing from God.

While there, our group was privileged to participate in an Indian naming ceremony. The elder who did this for us had us sit in a circle. He lit a braid of sweet grass, which is sacred to them and used for blessing, said a prayer in the Cree language, and then went around the circle and gave each one of us a name in his language, and a color. There was silence as he did this, and a sense of anticipation as he paused before giving a person a name, and then a sense of joy as each name was uttered. Although I have never given birth myself, this is what the ceremony felt like to me: that he was giving birth to each one of us as one with him and his tribe. My name is We-kus-ka-tak-o-nah, which translates to, “One Who Carries Sweet Grass,” and my color is green. Each year I am supposed to send this elder a piece of green cloth, which he will then take to a hidden place, tie around a tree, and pray for me. I’m also supposed to wear green, which is a difficulty for me since green has never been my favorite color and I have very few items in my wardrobe that are green. This elder, by naming each one of us, became something equivalent to the Christian idea of a godfather to each of us. Since sweet grass is sacred and used in prayer, I think that the name he gave me is appropriate for God’s calling upon my life as a pastor. The next day, we stopped by the place where he lives, walked down through long grass to a spring on his property, and drank of the purest and cleanest water I have ever tasted in my life.

One of the tribe who we met told us that on birthdays and other milestones in a person’s life, it is not the custom for the person who hit the milestone to receive gifts. Instead, it is customary for the person to give gifts to other people. This then becomes a status symbol in the community, and the next person to hit a milestone has to one-up the other person. I wondered if this tied in somehow to the times that we prepared a meal for people who had been invited to come and talk to us or demonstrate some aspect of Native American culture for us: that perhaps providing a meal for the community showed that the church had some status in the community.

I noticed that the people used the designations “Native American,” “American Indian,” and “Indian,” interchangeably. What they really prefer is to be known by their individual tribe: Cree, or Chippewa, for instance. But that seemed difficult for me to remember, because there were some individuals from other tribes who had come to live on the reservation. Another thing that was interesting is that, if you were from another tribe, it seemed you were somewhat accepted, but you could not get a job on the reservation.

Gambling, which is what many Native American tribes are known for, is allowed on Rocky Boy’s and there are one or two small establishments on the reservation. However, since Montana’s gambling laws are pretty loose—seriously, every gas station in Montana has a casino—these establishments are not money makers for the tribe, and often cause more difficulty and hardship than they do profit.

The reservation does have its own school; however, some people send their children off-reservation to public schools. The reason I heard given for this is that discipline is lax in the reservation school. In an effort to get people to not send their children off-reservation, school buses from outside are not allowed to come on to the reservation. But, people simply drive their cars to the border to drop off and pick up their kids from the bus stop.

The reservation is like a foreign country, but one for which you do not need a passport and one in which English is spoken. Once on the reservation, you are governed by the laws of the tribe. The ambulance, police, and other public services are run by the tribe.

The last night there, a group came to demonstrate what a powwow is like. Several people dressed in traditional Indian regalia and danced to the beat of a drum and a group of people who were singing along with the drum.

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One beautiful woman had a bald eagle feather in her hair and fan made of golden eagle feathers. The eagle is sacred to the people, and since the bald eagle is protected, it is very difficult to get their feathers. There is a complicated process by which one must apply for a feather, and that person is very lucky if he or she receives one. During the powwow demonstration, an eagle flew overhead as if to bless us.

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There is an enormous respect for elders. The elders get to eat first and they generally get the best of anything. There is also an enormous respect for those Native Americans who serve in the military: veterans are honored and those who have died are remembered often. We non-Natives could learn from the people in these two respects.

The people do believe in a Creator God, but sometimes mean different things when referring to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, so if there is any doubt in a conversation, it’s probably a good thing to clarify what each of you means. I was surprised, when I went to the worship service at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, to find the congregation worshiping according to a traditional setting in our hymnal. I guess I was expecting something a little more flavored with their tribal culture. But, aside from specific Native American decorations in the sanctuary, the service was a familiar Lutheran service.

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My biggest fear when I went to the reservation was this: How can I, as a white person, presume to be on a reservation and learn from and work with Native Americans when my ancestors did such horrible things to their ancestors? What I found was a people very gracious in receiving me and eager to tell their stories and to have me learn from them. There seemed to be a desire among the people for recovering their past while living into the future with their traditional ways. I would encourage anyone who is able to go to a reservation and spend time with the people there. I myself hope to be able to return and learn even more about these wonderful people.

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Sermon for Pentecost 7A

I love dandelions. I know the gardeners among you are shuddering right now, but I never have understood why dandelions are considered weeds. Maybe you can explain it to me after worship this morning. When my family and I lived in New Hampshire for the second time, the house that we lived in had about an acre of land with it that would be covered in dandelions during the spring. After a long, hard winter, when everything had been snowy and gray, the bright yellow of the dandelions covering the field would brighten my mood. And I’m not so far removed from childhood that I don’t still enjoy blowing dandelion spores when the flowers grow tall and seed out. Each spring, my dad would make some noise about doing something to destroy the dandelions, but my mother and I would raise a loud voice of protest. And my father, who really didn’t like to do things associated with landscaping anyway, would give in and not do anything about these weedy flowers. Our neighbor, however, did not like us during the spring. He kept his lawn immaculately treated, with the grass just the right length and the right color of green, and the springtime meant he had to work harder to keep our dandelions from encroaching on his yard.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. The kingdom of heaven is like yeast. Today we could say that the kingdom of heaven is like dandelions, because that would give us the same kind of imagery and feelings as a mustard seed and yeast did for the people of Jesus’ time. The mustard plant was considered a weed in Jesus’ day, and for someone to sow it in his field would give the impression of something sinister going on. The same thing is true of the woman mixing yeast into her bread. Today we get yeast in those nice little packets at the store and we know that without it, we can’t have nice fluffy loaves of bread. But, just about every reference to yeast, or leaven, in the Bible is a negative reference. Leaven symbolizes impurity. At the Passover feast, the most important celebration in the Jewish culture, the people are commanded to remove every speck of yeast from their homes. So why, then, would Jesus liken the kingdom of heaven to a weed that spreads out and overtakes every other good plant, and to yeast, which likewise permeates the whole loaf of bread, “contaminating” it in the process?

The thing with parables is that they can take on many different meanings, and today’s parables are no different. But they all point towards something important about the kingdom of heaven. So today I’m going to suggest three possibilities that these two parables can have, three meanings that are suggested by David Lose. The first meaning is, “Be careful! Those infected with the gospel have been known to do crazy, countercultural things!” The second meaning is, “Hang in there! God’s new reality is closer than you think, already seeping into your life even though you can’t always feel it.” The third meaning is, “No matter what it may look like, God’s kingdom will prevail.”

“Those infected with the gospel have been known to do crazy, countercultural things.” In the 1200s, a young man became disillusioned with the life of wealth that he had been born into, and began laying it aside in order to serve Christ. He had a mystical vision of the crucified Christ who told him to “Go and repair my house, which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.” He understood this to mean literally restoring the ruined church in which he was praying, and when he sold some cloth from his father’s store to help restore it, his father became upset with him. In the middle of legal proceedings before the bishop, this man renounced his father and all he would have inherited from him, including removing the clothes that he was wearing, and he became a beggar, throwing himself solely into the care of God. The man’s name was Francis of Assisi. Like a weed that had taken over the garden or yeast that had contaminated the bread, the kingdom of heaven had infiltrated Francis’ heart. He heard Jesus’ call to “Go and sell everything you own, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” He did the crazy, countercultural thing and followed the command of Christ literally, giving up even the clothes on his back. An order of monks would rise up that would follow him, and centuries later, a bishop from Argentina who was elected pope would name himself after Francis of Assisi and take the world by storm by emphasizing the needs of the poor in his ministry.

What crazy, countercultural thing is God calling us to do? Last week, I joined a group of people from Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, PA, at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation for a Servant Group. While I only drove seven hours, the group from Pennsylvania flew across the country for this visit. Over and over again, the people on the reservation who we met marveled at the distance that the group from Pennsylvania had come. We might think that such a trip is nothing. But think: how many people would come across the country (or drive seven hours—that was a marvel for the folks from Pennsylvania!) to spend a week of their time in a place with no cell phone reception in order to learn about a group of people that most of us know only from history books or TV or movies? And in the future, I am hoping to work with Trinity Lutheran to organize a group of youth from our congregation to go to Lancaster and experience what it’s like to be a Christian in an urban environment and do ministry with our brothers and sisters there. These servant trips are one modern-day example of how the gospel has infiltrated and infected our lives so that we do crazy, countercultural things.

“Hang in there! God’s new reality is closer than you think, already seeping into your life even though you can’t always feel it.” This month in the community of Powell, we have had two sudden and untimely deaths: first, Kaylee Spomer, and second, coach Jim Stringer of the Powell High School football team. People here in Powell still go hungry, as evidenced by the work of Loaves and Fishes and the Backpack Blessings program that runs during the school year. These and other problems can have us asking God the “Why?” question, and the “How long, O Lord?” question. We can become frustrated and discouraged when we see death still occurring and our efforts to end hunger making little headway. When we experience these low times, and when doubt creeps into our faith, we can look to these parables for reassurance. God’s kingdom is coming. It is infiltrating this world in the least likely places, and one day it will overrun everything like a weed and it will permeate everything like yeast in bread. When God’s kingdom is fulfilled, there will be no more death and no more tears. When God’s kingdom is fulfilled, there will be no more hunger, for there will be enough for everyone and all will eat and be satisfied. And so, these parables encourage us to persevere in the face of our discouragement and to look for signs of the kingdom in the face of our despair.

“No matter what it may look like, God’s kingdom will prevail.” In these two parables, God’s kingdom is pictured as a weedy plant overrunning the good plants and impure yeast permeating a loaf of bread. This is not our expected picture of the kingdom of heaven. We are more comfortable with the image of the sower extravagantly throwing seed everywhere in the hopes that some of it will grow. Or, we are more comfortable with the image we get in the last parable of today’s reading, where the good fish are separated from the bad: good wins, and evil loses. But the mustard plant and the yeast are also pictures of the kingdom of heaven. We have our own ideas of what this kingdom will look like, but I can guarantee you that the kingdom will not look like anything we expect it to.

This becomes a profound promise to us as we look around and see all the evil going on in the world: the Malaysian Air flight shot down over Ukraine. The fighting that has arisen again in Israel. The militant group ISIS arising in Iraq and persecuting and exiling Christians who have lived in that region for centuries. The waves of children crossing our southern border in a desperate attempt to escape violence and death, only to face an uncertain future here. And yet, in the face of these events and many, many other tragedies like them, we can know God’s peace even while we pray for those involved. For even in the midst of those events, we know that God’s kingdom is coming. Even in those events, we will still see signs of hope and signs of the kingdom of God, infiltrating everything like a sly weed and overtaking this world until suddenly, the kingdom has come to complete fulfillment. We can have faith that in the end, Satan and evil do not have the last word. God’s kingdom comes with justice, and God will have the last word: everything will be made right one day, and we will live at peace with one another.

So, we may not see mustard plants growing around here in Powell. But, the next time you see a dandelion, and the next time you make bread with yeast in it, be reminded that the kingdom of God is coming. It is coming through those seemingly crazy, countercultural things that God calls us to be doing. It is coming through the whispers of the promise that death and hunger will not win, and we will be fully satisfied and together again with our loved ones one day. And it is coming when we make any effort to make peace and to stand for God’s justice, and when we see the small glimmers of hope even in the darkest of situations. So let’s not be so quick to kill those dandelions. May God’s kingdom come. Amen.

Sermon for Pentecost 5A

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Today’s text is one of those Gospel readings that we think we know so well,  there’s nothing more to say about it, especially since Jesus himself provided an explanation of his own parable.  It’s all about the people who hear God’s Word, we think, and why some believe and become disciples and others don’t.  We even internalize it and say that there are times in our lives when we are good soil and other times when we are rocky soil and when we are choked by thorns, etc.  We even sang this as our Gospel Acclamation today, “Lord, let my heart be good soil,” praying that we might be “open to the seed” of God’s word.  This is indeed a good sentiment.  Our constant prayer should be that we would be open to hearing God’s word and putting it into practice.  But in all of this, we have made the parable about us.  Every time we hear this parable, we beat ourselves up for not being good-enough Christians.  We vow that we’re going to be good soil, and we’re going to start coming to worship on Sundays more often. And that lasts for a little while, until our sinful natures take over again and we go back to our old habits.  But what if there’s something more to this parable?  What if it really isn’t all about us? 

When I taught this story to the confirmation kids toward the end of the year, I got a great reaction to it from one of them.  First, there was the little matter of clearing up what a sower is.  After all, the girls’ experience with farming tells them that farming is all done by machine.  In the back of my apartment complex, I watched the farmer this year go over and over the field, readying it for the seeds he would plant by making furrows, and then finally planting the seeds with a machine.  So I had to explain to the girls that, when the Bible was written, these efficient machines did not exist, and people planted the seed by scattering it into the ground.  This is called “sowing seed” and the person who does it is called a “sower”.  Once they understood this concept, they looked at the parable again.  And one of the girls said, “How wasteful!  My grandfather would never farm like that, because he would be taking too much of a risk in not getting a good harvest!”  And I got really excited and said, “Yes, that is the point!  The sower is God, and God spreads the seed in an extravagant way, knowing that some seed will take root and other seed won’t.  But he keeps spreading the seed in this manner nonetheless!” 

This is what happens when we turn the parable around and put the focus on God and not on ourselves.  Yes, the different kinds of soil are about us.  Last week we heard about how John the Baptist was doubting that Jesus was really the Messiah and how people were not believing that God was at work in both John the Baptist and in Jesus.  This week, Jesus is telling us in parables why some people believe and others don’t.  But where we get into trouble is when we try to define what kind of soil we are and what kind of soil others are.  What if, for example, we think we are good soil, open to God’s word, and God is saying, “Well, not so much.  I keep trying to talk to you about this one issue in your life, and you’re not listening.”  Or, on the other end, what if we, in despair, think we are being choked by thorns and come crying out to God to help us.  Wouldn’t that then be good soil?  After all, God desires us to repent and hear his word of forgiveness to us.  In the end, only God knows the answer to what kind of soil we might be.  So instead, we need to focus on God’s role in the story:  the God of abundance, who continually throws out seed in what seems to us a reckless, haphazard manner, but who knows, as the prophet Isaiah says today, that his word will not return to him empty, but will accomplish that which he purposes for it. 

So, what does this mean for us who follow Jesus?  It means that we trust that Jesus is the sower, not us.  It means that we have confidence in that God of abundance and trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in all that we do, even when it feels like failure.  In her book, Pastrix, Nadia Bolz-Weber talks about how she had planned a traditional Rally Day activity to try and bring her unconventional congregation all together for one day in the late summer, since attendance at Sunday morning worship had not been great.  She pulled out all the stops, including a cotton candy machine, burgers, chips and other food.  And she ended up getting fewer people than normal in attendance that day.  So, after the Rally Day event, they took all of their leftover food and handed it out to hungry people in the park.  She recounts how she grumbled inside of herself about all of the effort she had gone to, and her congregation couldn’t bother to show up.  It was only later that night, woken up from a sound sleep, that she realized the Holy Spirit had used what had seemed like a failure on her part to reach out to others who needed to hear and see the Word of God.  All of those hungry people in the park experienced God as they received food from her congregation.  This is the God of abundance at work:  spreading the Word indiscriminately, not caring where it lands, and knowing that what is planted will spring up in places where we humans will least expect it to grow. 

Therefore we too should not be miserly with how we sow the seed of God’s Word.  We tend to do this when we think, “Why have an event over in the trailer park (as an example)?  The people there won’t listen.  It’s a dangerous part of town—that’s where all the drug addicts hang out.”  This is one example of hoarding the good news that God has given us:  not going out and reaching out to people because we fear that we won’t “get a return” on our “investment”.  This is such a peculiarly American way of thinking, and it doesn’t have any basis in the gospel of the kingdom of God.  We are not called to spread the Word because God is going to show us what the results are so that we feel good about ourselves.  Instead, we are called to give of ourselves generously, trusting that God’s Word will go out—through us, the imperfect, bumbling sowers—and do what God intends for it to do. 

And, there are many different ways that we can sow the seed of God’s Word.  One example:  Over the last few months, we have had a series of meetings to come up with a master plan for our building here at Hope.  This plan will be just that:  a plan of what we think is necessary to have done and the priorities in which we would like for them to be done.  The meetings have been overall good discussions and not without some disagreement.  But one of the things that was discussed that raised some controversy was whether or not to have a room dedicated for the use of our youth.  Some people said that, “If you build it, they will come.”  Others said that it was not a wise use of our resources, because we don’t have very many youth, and the ones we do have wouldn’t want to use it.  That part of the discussion was tabled, and I will tell you that I have struggled with this idea, too.  But in light of today’s Gospel reading, I now believe that it would be a good idea to have a room dedicated for the use of the youth.  I think that, too often when we discuss something like this, we suffer from a fear of failure.  What happens if we put all of this work into it, and the effort fails?  When we ask this question, then we are not putting our trust in God the Sower of the seed.  Sowing the seed of the gospel may require a place in the church building which the youth can call their own, where they know they feel welcome, and where they would want to bring their friends.  Will we see a “return” on our “investment”?  Maybe so.  Or, maybe not.  But we never know how God will use the work that we do to touch someone else’s life with the good news of Jesus Christ.  What seems like failure to us may end up being successful in God’s eyes, just like the story of Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Rally Day experience. 

If you take one thing away from this parable today, I hope that what you take away is that God is a God of abundance.  And since God is a God of abundance, we should not fear scarcity as we go about the work of sowing the seed.  For ultimately, we are not the sowers: God is.  God works through us, through what we see as success and through what we see as failure.  When we get discouraged and wonder why we don’t see more people coming to faith in Jesus, we can return to the parable of the sower and our text from Isaiah this day to remind ourselves that God is, indeed, intimately involved with everything we do.  We may be lucky enough to see the blessings that God brings about.  More likely than not, we will not see them.  But we can have faith that God’s word goes out abundantly, landing in the least likely places, and will produce an abundant harvest.  Let us not lose this faith.  Amen.

Sermon for Pentecost 4A

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

What does the word “rest” mean to you? My pets are very good at resting. As you can see from this picture, they are comfortable enough in my home and with one another that they can close their eyes in one another’s presence and completely relax, safe in the knowledge that nothing bad will happen to them. Until, that is, the noise of people shooting off firecrackers in the neighborhood scares the dog, and he starts shaking and following me around like he is my shadow. When the dog gets scared, I stroke him and tell him everything will be okay, and eventually he settles down again and rests, at peace once more.

Otis and Teton

This is a little bit like what Jesus is teaching us today about coming to him, learning from him, and finding rest for our souls. Today the lectionary chops up the eleventh chapter of Matthew, so it’s hard to understand what’s going on unless we look at the whole chapter. So, briefly: At the beginning of Matthew 11, which we heard in Advent, we find John the Baptist in prison, hearing about the things that Jesus was doing, and doubting whether Jesus was really the one he was expecting and that he had preached about. Jesus sends John’s messengers back to John with the answer, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” Jesus then asks the crowds what they were expecting to see when they had gone out to see John the Baptist, and tells them that John was a prophet, God’s messenger prophesied by Malachi, and Elijah returned. Then Jesus goes into the first part of today’s reading, when he compares this generation to children complaining to one another. The next part of Jesus’ teaching, the lectionary skips, because it is Jesus pronouncing various woes on cities that had heard and seen him, but did not believe. Finally, we get to the last part of today’s reading, where Jesus thanks God the Father and invites all to come to him and rest.

The general theme of this chapter, then, is Jesus addressing the question of who he is and why people won’t believe in him, even though they have heard and seen the evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the one who is to come, the Son of God. But if you notice, Jesus doesn’t answer the why question, he simply names the characteristics of those who believe in him and those who don’t. He thanks God the Father that he has “hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent” and has “revealed them to infants”. In other words, those who think themselves wise and intelligent are the ones who, like the children in the marketplace, find something to criticize about each of God’s messengers—like John the Baptist and Jesus—and believe that neither one has anything to do with God because these two don’t meet their expectations of what God would do in the world. Those who believe in Jesus are the ones who, like infants, do not think that they know better than God and trust that God is at work in Jesus based on what they hear Jesus saying and what they see him doing.

This is definitely a warning to me. I love learning new things. I think that’s one reason why I’ve embraced the Internet—if I don’t know the answer to a question, I Google it. Sometimes I wonder what in the world I ever did before the Internet became what it now is. My mother was convinced for a while that I was going to be a perpetual student, and I think that part of her is still expecting me to announce that I’m going to go back to school. Don’t worry, though: while I’ve learned to never say “never,” I am watching what a friend of mine is doing to get her Ph.D., and I have absolutely no desire to go through all of that just for another piece of paper and the right to be called “Reverend Doctor”. To be told by Jesus in today’s lesson then, that the Father has chosen to hide these things from the “wise and the intelligent” makes me nervous. Is all that education that I have received been for nothing? Do you not want me to think for myself, God? How can I do that when you have said in other places in the Scriptures that doubting is okay?

Thankfully, I don’t think this is what Jesus is saying. I think that Jesus is saying that it’s okay to have that education, but when all of that accumulated wisdom and intelligence makes you think you’ve got God figured out, this is when we have a problem. Today’s teaching tells me that God comes to all people—and all means all–and it teaches me to listen to each person’s experience of God without critiquing that experience. It reminds me that God may very well choose to reveal himself to me through another person’s interpretation or experience of God, in the process shaming all of the wisdom that I think I have. It reminds me that sometimes I can take a break from all of the striving after wisdom and knowledge that I do, and simply be a child of God. And that in itself is a wisdom sent from God: the wisdom to know when to rest from all of our striving and to simply be in God’s presence.

And this is how Jesus ends his teaching today—by inviting all to come to him for rest. It doesn’t matter who you are, how intelligent you think you are, where you are from, rich or poor, male or female, or whatever other label you or someone else has put upon you. Jesus invites all who are weary of carrying heavy burdens to come to him and rest. And these heavy burdens are not just striving after wisdom. Here is another example of finding rest:

This week, our book discussion group will be discussing A.J. Jacobs’ book, “The Year of Living Biblically,” where he talks about his experience trying to live out the Bible’s teachings as literally as possible. He writes about how he unintentionally experienced his first real Sabbath by being accidentally locked into the bathroom. Sometime during the night, the doorknob had fallen off the inside of the bathroom door. He hadn’t noticed and went into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. And no one was at home at the time to let him out. He writes that for the first ten minutes he tried to escape, with no success. He then goes through worst case scenarios in his head, wondering what would happen if he slipped, hit his head, and died. But there’s something even worse for him than the prospect of death. He writes, “Even more stressful to me is that the outside world is speeding along without me. Emails are being answered. Venti lattes are being sipped.” But after some more time, Jacobs writes that even though the world is going on without him, “. . . I’m OK with it. It doesn’t cause my shoulders to tighten. Nothing I can do about it. I’ve reached an unexpected level of acceptance. For once, I’m savoring the present. I’m admiring what I have, even if it’s thirty-two square feet of fake marble and an angled electrical outlet. I start to pray. And, perhaps for the first time, I pray in true peace and silence—without glancing at the clock, without my brain hopscotching from topic to topic. This is what the Sabbath should feel like. A pause. Not just a minor pause, but a major pause. Not just a lowering of the volume, but a muting. As the famous rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel put it, the Sabbath is a sanctuary in time.”

A sanctuary in time. True pause. A peace that comes from knowing that the world can get along without you just fine. Laying down the burdens you are carrying and giving them over to Jesus. What would it take for us to take one day a week as a true Sabbath, a major pause, so that we could truly rest, knowing that Jesus will help us to carry our burdens? There was a commercial that Chevy aired for their Silverado truck not too long ago that I would like to play for you now that captures this longing for a time to rest, to take a break from technology, and to renew friendships with one another.

http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7krD/chevrolet-silverado-getting-away

Now, I know there are lots of places here in Wyoming and in Montana where you can go to get no cell phone reception, and I know that some of you do take advantage of those spots and go camping and enjoy the outdoors. But what about those of us who don’t? What about those of us for whom technology has become our master, and who get twitchy when we’re away from the stream of communication for a while? I would like to propose the following: for those of us who are glued to our technology—and I’m including myself in that number—that we take one day a week where we unplug as much as possible and give ourselves an opportunity to rest and reconnect with God, with our community, and with nature. My day off each week is Friday. Starting this coming Friday, I pledge that I will not turn my computer on. I will not use my cell phone to check email or Facebook. As your pastor, though, I know that on occasion emergencies do happen on Fridays, so, I will answer phone calls. On Fridays, besides taking a break from technology, I pledge to use the time to retreat, reconnect with God, and explore the beauty of this area. I’m hoping that each one of you will be able to take a certain day of the week and do the same. Don’t be rigid about it, though—if you usually take the day on Friday, for example, and something unexpected comes up, pick another day to take a break. If something comes up and you can only take a portion of the day, take that portion and don’t feel bad about not using the whole day. Finally, if technology is not what has a hold on you, ask yourself what does, and discern how you can take a break from whatever it is.

Resting in Jesus means being completely comfortable with him, trusting him to want to be yoked in partnership with us, and giving over the burdens we carry to him. It’s like this picture of Otis lying on his back, tender underbelly exposed, trusting that he has nothing to worry about because someone is with him and caring for him. We can be that relaxed when we know that Jesus is with us and caring for us. When the pace of life becomes frantic, when we are overwhelmed with everything that is happening in our lives, we know that we can take a step back, breathe in deeply, and remember that Jesus invites all of us to come to him and rest. Amen.  Otis on his back