February 17, 2013  — Lent 2

Rev. David Boyd


Perhaps I'm feeling my age a bit these days. Or perhaps I'm trying to make sense of a busy world that involves so many layers of technology and wondering how we can make use of that technology without becoming enslaved by it.

I recently read Ian Rankin's latest John Rebus book. It's called Standing in Another Man's Grave. Essentially Rebus has retired and is working cold cases in Edinburgh as a civilian. He comes across what he thinks are related murders and involves his old partner Siobhan. What I found interesting is that Rankin contrasts Rebus' methods—old-school detecting, relying on shoe leather to investigate as well as hunches and intuition—against the modern policing world, which relies on computers, dealing with the press and budgets and administration. Rebus gets into the muck and mess of the world to figure out who the villains are and what they've done.

Just before I read the Rebus novel, Janet and I watched a TV portrayal of Peter Robinson's character, another British detective, Alan Banks. It was a similar scenario as Rebus. Banks was feeling himself out of step with the modern policing methods; his new partner is a young woman who is rising fast through the ranks and her methods are modern. Banks wonders if he should retire because he is out of step.

In the end, Banks realizes that his ways and methods are important and necessary and that he is not passed his "due by" date yet. With Rebus, while he is retired, people realize that his ways, while unorthodox and sometimes in your face, do get results.

In one scene, Detective Chief Inspector Banks is in the car with Detective Inspector Morton and they are talking about trying to become a team. Morton is a little awkward with people and relies on her gadgets in her police work. Morton says something about making connections and Banks says that connections need to be more than just electronic; we have to make connections with each other, real and face-to-face.

I'm not anti-technology. I have an iPad AND iPod that I find very useful. Apple's Face time is a great communication tool. I don't have a cell phone, however. I also have a laptop and we have a desktop computer at home. What I'm suggesting is that it depends on how we utilize technology. It depends upon our mindfulness and our intention.

It seems that this is nothing new. Jesus talked about intention and mindfulness when he looked at Jerusalem. Herod played games with John the Baptist, with the Romans, with his own family, a dangerous game of power politics. Pilate, a cynical and second-rate procurator of little account according to Roman history, was good at playing the power politics game too. And as always, people got squeezed in the middle. Jesus knew that as a prophet he'd have to go to Jerusalem and confront this power-politics. If he wanted to contrast his Commonwealth of Heaven with that of Herod and Pilate, he'd have to do that in the centre of the religious and political capital of Israel at some point. Jesus offered a lament about Jerusalem, "how different it would be if we could only pay attention to our God who desires to nurture and ensure that everyone has shelter under the wings of love, not just the so-called elite."

And Paul? Again, Paul invited the Philippian Church to resist easy answers and attractive speakers. Paul advocated remaining centred in Christ, being intentional and mindful about how we deal with our bodies and each other and how we understand the life we are called to live.

And what about that life? Last week I announced Sabbath as a means to wholeness, which is a direction the Board wants to explore. This is the fourth direction that the Board has determined and I'm beginning with it first.

Abraham Joshua Hecshel, whom I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, has written about Sabbath. He said this: "The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world."

Within 1st Century Judaism, I believe that Jesus tried to make some innovations. I believe that Jesus' program for God's Commonwealth of Heaven was the idea of Jubilee. The idea of Jubilee was an amplification of Sabbath. The Jubilee was to occur every 50 years and the Sabbath every seven days. The Jubilee was a call to return to the earth, to engage in radical hospitality, to be attuned, as Heschel has said, to holiness in time. Jesus, I believe, called his followers and all of us to live a permanent Jubilee, to live the Sabbath every moment, to practice the eternal in time, to be attuned to holiness, to pay attention to the mystery of creation, to turn from the world of creation to the creation of the world in all its wonder and wholeness!

It isn't a message of anti-technology or anti-busyness. We need to be about what we are about as human beings, and part of that is that we are busy developing and utilizing technological advances. It has ever been thus from the moments when we climbed down out of the trees and began developing tools to modern times when goodness knows what will be in our future 25 years from now! Hear what Heschel is saying: celebrate time rather than space. Become attuned to the holiness in time. Share in what is eternal in time. Turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to creation of the world. This is about being, isn't it?!

We are called to be in all that we are doing. God is the God of being, Yahweh, I am who I am or I will be what I am becoming. Sabbath is about being, about being intentional and mindful of what we are doing. It is a question of time, as Heschel points out, and how we use time. What is our relationship to time? Becoming attuned to holiness in time is to be all that we can be at any given moment.

That sounds daunting and maybe even a little, perhaps, self-righteous... becoming attuned to holiness in time. But it is part of Jesus' message of wholeness and love. The Board, with your help, will be developing some directions within this broader direction to enable wholeness. Some directions will involve teaching—how can we open ourselves to becoming attuned to holiness in time? This will involve spiritual disciplines and conversation. Some directions will involve healing and health, perhaps making use in our pastoral care of healing hands, healing touch, grief counseling, and pastoral conversation. Some directions will involve applying the Sabbath to our engagement with the world; how do we respond to the consumerist spirit of our culture? How do we respond to environmental degradation, to being overly busy sometimes? How do we resist the many empires that exist within the corporate and political world?

Being is such a threat to the powerful that rely on anxiety and fear to keep fiefdoms and power-plays in operation. When you affirm that everyone has the right to be and that in being itself is power, you threaten the status quo. No wonder Herod was afraid of Jesus, and Pilate was afraid too, for that matter.

If we are followers of Jesus, we are called to wholeness and not just for ourselves, but for the world. We are called to be agents of wholeness to one another and to our community. We are called to embody the Sabbath gift of love as a church community and as members. God is at work in our becoming and cares passionately about the wholeness of our world.