Genesis 2: 1 – 3 No Lists on the Sabbath June 28, 2020

Her eis today’s sermon:

And the words:

No Lists on the Sabbath

Genesis 2: 1 – 3


(preached June 28, 2020)

 It was the night of the parent-teacher conference, and the parents of an eight year old boy were hoping to hear good news about their son’s progress in school.  The teacher reported that yes, the boy was doing reasonably well.  But, she said, “Sometimes his mind seems to wander.  When he’s supposed to be doing a work sheet, I see him looking out the window, not paying attention, daydreaming.”

In the teacher’s opinion, the boy’s daydreaming was a problem.  In school, we want children to learn.  We encourage them to focus, to concentrate on a task.  But sometimes, even when school is out, we discourage daydreaming.  We see it as a lazy habit, showing a lack of discipline.  We discourage daydreaming as the kind of thinking we do when we don’t want to think.

But the Bible’s story of creation, in the book of Genesis, seems to take a different view.  In our passage for today, we can see that even God may have done a little daydreaming.   Or God at least took a break from the work of creation for the kind of rest that leads to daydreaming.  Almighty God, Creator of the Universe, didn’t spend every minute in relentless productivity.  Genesis tells us that, after making the heavens and the earth, the plants and animals, and human beings, God rested.  “On the seventh day…God rested…from all the work he had done.”  And God declared that the rest was holy: “God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.”

The seventh day, the Sabbath, is a holy day for us.  You can hear an echo of that holiness today in our word holiday.  The Sabbath is a day for rest, a day for daydreams.  It’s a day for play.

We don’t always remember that message.  Apparently, even the first human being didn’t get the message about resting on the Sabbath.  In his children’s book, Does God Have a Big Toe? Rabbi Marc Gellman offers a playful version of Adam’s life in the Garden of Eden.  The Bible tells us that everything was perfect in the Garden, but Gellman writes that actually:

“The Garden of Eden was no piece of cake, because Adam lived there, and Adam was a list maker.

“In fact, Adam was the worst list maker of all time. [His lists were mostly about the work he expected the animals to do.]  The elephant woke up one morning to find his trunk stuck through a huge leaf.  Adam had written on the leaf with ink made from berries.  The list went like this:  1.  Dump all the broken branches.  2.  Hose down the dirty dishes.  3.  Squash some coconuts for lunch.”

The elephant wasn’t the only one to get a list of chores to do.  “The monkey woke up one morning to find a banana peel tied around her tail.  Adam had written a list on the banana peel.  1.  Dump the rotten fruit outside the garden.  2.  Pick bananas for supper.  3.  Don’t eat the bananas you pick for supper.”

And so it went, with a list for every animal.  “All day long, Adam would scurry around checking up on the animals and pestering them to see how they were coming with their lists.”

But it wasn’t long before the animals got together and complained to God.  They asked God to help them move out of the garden, or get Adam to leave.

But God simply said, “Wait for the Sabbath.  There are no lists on the Sabbath.”

“On the morning of the seventh day, Adam woke up bright and early to make his lists.  He went to get his berry ink pot to write out a list for the elephant, but the ink pot was dry.”  He went to the berry patch to pick berries to make more ink, but all the berries were gone.

Then he went to the beach to write his lists in the sand, but a wave came along and erased all the lists.  Adam thought this was very strange, because the Garden of Eden was near a river.  He had never before seen a wave that big in the river.

“So Adam sat down to rest.  And he felt good just resting.  Then the monkey came by.  ‘No lists on the Sabbath!’  she chirped.  The elephant came by and trumpeted, ‘No lists on the Sabbath!’  All the animals wished Adam a good day of rest” (Gellman, Does God Have a Big Toe?  Harper Collins, 1989, pp. 19 – 21).

I have to admit I have something in common with Adam.  I am also a great maker of lists.  I make lists of jobs that need to be done, jobs that are not as much fun as picking bananas.  Errands to run.  Emails to send.  Phone calls to make.  I make lists of things for other people to do, too.  My son came for a visit last week and, sure enough, I had a list of things I wanted him to do.  Put the air conditioners in the bedrooms.  Move the heavy planter out back to the patio.

Because I’m a list maker, I get a lot of things done.  But because I’m a list maker, I have a hard time resting.  I’m not talking here about the rest that comes late at night when I’m too tired to do anything but fall into bed.  I’m talking about the rest that comes before complete exhaustion, the rest and relaxation that can lead to daydreaming.  I’m talking about holy rest:  the kind of rest that God enjoyed after making the finishing touches to the Milky Way.

You and I miss out on that holy rest when we get so busy with our lists of things to do.  We miss a chance to rest like that when we’re so consumed with the need to accomplish, to produce, to succeed.  What would happen if we took time simply to rest, to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation?  Could we begin to see that rest as hallowed, sacred time?

Long ago, at the beginning of time, when the work of creation was finished, God rested.  And by resting God hallowed the seventh day, the Sabbath.  Today God calls you and me to that holy rest.  God calls us to take time to play, to imagine, to daydream.  The holy rest to which God calls us helps us experience life in new ways.  This holy rest helps us live more fully into the lives God intends for us, as God’s beloved children.

Rev. Elva Merry Pawle

Pentecost 4



Here is the piano music:

 “Come Into Me, Ye Weary”            Lani Smith


And the organ music:

“Joy in the Morning”     Joel Raney