“O Sabbath rest by Galilee, O calm of hills above, where Jesus knelt to share with thee the silence of eternity interpreted by love.” (“Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, “John Greenleaf, Whittier, United Methodist Hymnal 358, v.3.)
Where do you go for sabbath rest? For time with God, alone or in community? Where is the place? When is the time? How do you plan for a time when you surrender fully to the presence of God and set aside everything else?
How can we create a restful worship experience for those who worship with us this week? How can we help people be renewed? Paul speaks of being raised with Christ. How can we give people a sense of that Resurrection as we gather or worship together online? The next verse of the hymn says, “drop thy still dews of quietness until all our strivings cease.” Can we get there? Do we need some space for quiet in worship this week? How do we give folks a sense of directed silence so that they can rest in the arms of God?
Others, however, might be renewed with singing or with energy. Perhaps include some movement built into the worship experience—dance or simple ways of moving together as though you are one body. What will give your congregation a sense of renewal?
Of course, the other theme from our texts this week is that renewal isn’t always easy to come by. Jesus went home and found a disturbing environment. Sometimes the place we think will renew us does the opposite and becomes draining. Those we thought were on our side turn out to be against us. It happens in families and in communities both. How do we reinterpret the beloved community of faith? What does it mean to be one family in God?
Worship is, of course, about God and not about us. And yet there is a dimension where when we come to completely focus on God, and God in Christ, then we are renewed in the Spirit to continue our discipleship path. So, while we don’t measure worship by how it makes us feel, there is a correlation between being built up and the worship experience where we encounter God. Sometimes, yes, that means being repentant, being reminded of our flaws and failings. We’re not after just warm fuzzies when we gather for worship. A part of renewal is the ability to take an honest look at ourselves and see who we are in God’s eyes and not just by our own standard or the standard of this world. To experience Resurrection, we must be ready to die, die to self, die to this world. We must be willing to surrender even that which is most precious to us. “Who is my mother?”
This may be more than one hour can hold. Yet there can be space for reflection and reorientation and rethinking with the goal to find our ways to renewal. “Sabbath” is a reorientation time. We recalibrate our hearts, so that they beat in time with God’s. Worship is where we build up the body.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.