VIEW VIDEO  Last month, Frank Gladden, bemoaning the scarcity of rain, questioned whether I had any pull with the Lord.

I said, “I don’t know. Why do you ask?”

He said, “My beans need rain. A real preacher would get me some rain.”

So to save Frank’s beans and my reputation, I planned a two-day vacation at the farm, knowing, despite what meteorologists say, that rain is not caused by the confluence of certain atmospheric weather patterns, but is the result of my going on vacation.

I went with my friend Jim, and sure enough, when we arrived at the farm, it began pouring rain, cats and dogs. Since I couldn’t do anything outside, I went out to the garage to change the oil in the riding mower and sharpen the blades, except I couldn’t get the blades off and had to use a long piece of pipe slipped over the end of the wrench to give me more leverage. It was the Greek philosopher Archimedes who said, “Give me a firm place to stand and a lever and I can move the Earth.” Archimedes said that while taking the blades off his lawn mower. So there I was pulling that pipe with all my might and the socket slipped off the nut and my knuckles hit the mower deck and boy, did that hurt.

It hurt so bad tears came to my eyes, and I began saying certain words out loud. Jim heard me and came outside and said, “What in the world happened to you? Are you crying? Why are you crying?”

“I’m crying because I’m happy for Frank and his beans. Look at all this rain.”

It settled into a nice steady rain, a farmer’s rain, so after working on the mower I went inside and took a nap.

Jim said, “Were you just going to lie around all day?”

I reminded him of the Bible story about God working in his garage and being worn down to a frazzle, so taking the day off. “Even God took naps,” I said. “Genesis 2:2. Look it up.”

You all remember that story, don’t you? How God worked six straight days building the universe, then on the morning of the seventh day, God needed to mow the grass he’d created on the third day, so was working on his mower, busted his knuckles, and said, “That’s it. I’m taking a nap. Today, I rest. Today, I enjoy life.”

God named that nap Sabbath, which comes from the Hebrew word “Shabbat” which means “to cease and desist.”

So God took a nap, and some years later when God met with Moses on Mount Sinai, God suggested it might be a good thing for us to do also, and consequently made it the fourth commandment.  “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

We’ve been talking about those maps, both people and paper, that form and shape our lives, and how various characteristics of maps parallel our own lives. Today, I want to talk about rest stops, about stopping to rest, which God called the Sabbath.” Shabbat. To cease and desist.

Our Puritan ancestors thought the Sabbath was a day for sitting around quietly miserable and somber. There was to be no laughter, no joy, no beauty on their Sabbath. Just gray, sober, earnestness. But the Hebrews had no objection to the Sabbath being a day of joy and fun. Indeed that was the point. For six days they had labored, now was the day to savor, enjoy and appreciate the beauty life had to offer.

The naturalist John Muir was once asked if he enjoyed hiking. He said, “I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike!”

Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Way back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ (pronounced sont tear). ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers.

Muir believed the mountains were America’s holy land, that we should saunter through them reverently, not hike through them hurriedly. Consequently, he was usually the last person to reach camp because he never hurried. He stopped to get acquainted with individual trees along the way. He would invite the people he met on the trail to get down on their hands and knees to see the beauty of a microscopic flower or variety of moss. Usually he arrived at camp with flowers in his buttonholes and sprigs of fir branches in his hat. His life was lived in a spirit of Sabbath. Not just one day a week, but every day.

Think how often we’ve been taught the Sabbath is a day to honor God, as if adoration and submission are something God requires of us. But what if the point of Sabbath is to acknowledge and honor our humanity, to immerse ourselves in the reservoirs of rest and creation, to learn again what it means to be human, what it means to be grateful. In this sense, the Sabbath is a day of rejuvenation, a pause that refreshes.  That’s what the Hebrews believed, and they took it to heart. When Nehemiah discovered certain type-A people were slipping into the Jerusalem to make an extra buck on the Sabbath, he got himself put in charge, locked the city gates, and sent them home to take a nap.

The Sabbath is the one day of the week we are asked to resist the urge to work. One day out of seven that isn’t about making a buck or expanding our wealth. One day when we’re not hell-bent on getting ahead, rushing down the trail. It is a day for joy, a day for slowing down, for ceasing and desisting, so we could savor the beauty God has given us. And God called that day Sabbath.

I remember one Sunday, years ago, when Dawn Sheets stood during worship and invited everyone to stop by their home after meeting and look at their flowers. That is Sabbath.

Sabbath is dressing beautifully, eating delicious food, delighting our souls with gorgeous music.

It is not sitting down at the computer to prepare for Monday’s presentation.

It is not dusting the house.

Sabbath is avoiding fast food and enjoying a slow meal.

Sabbath is poetry.

Instruction manuals are not Sabbath.

Sabbath is curtains blowing in the breeze.

Sabbath is pitch-and-catch in the side yard.

An iPad is not Sabbath.

Sabbath is a bicycle ride.

Sabbath is kissing your spouse when the kids are watching.

It is not kissing someone else’s spouse.

Sabbath is a game of golf without keeping score.

Sabbath is the hammock in our screenhouse.

When rightly understood, the motives for Sabbath and Quaker simplicity are the same. They both are a corrective against our tendency to fill our lives with more and more and more.  Both Sabbath and simplicity are our way of putting the brakes on our frantic rush to accumulate, of slowing us down, of calling us back to our Center and Source.

We are an ironic people. We work overtime to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like. We go on vacation to renew ourselves and come home spent and depleted. We begin a hobby to help us relax and before long we’ve made it an obsession, a contest, a measure of our wealth and status.

We sacrifice our relationships at the altar of money, convincing ourselves our families want the things we buy them more than the time we give them.

“Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.”

How is that done? By being grateful for life, by enjoying life, by doing something wonderful with our lives besides racking up more wealth. By stopping, every now and then, to lay down our levers, and say, “This is the day the Lord hath made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”