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Sabbath Day – The North 40

March 2, 2018

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It has been good long while since I have written a Sabbath Post. There is so much going on in my life that I do not know how to write about, and at the end of most sabbath days I have simply wanted to go to bed rather than reflect in writing. 

Readers of my blog will also have noticed that I have not posted a sermon in over a month. I have been trying something new at church – entering the pulpit with only a few notes and perhaps a quotation or two. It has been tremendous fun, though incredibly nerve-wracking. I feel confident while speaking, but always uncertain about what I have said when it is done. The response, however, has been quite positive. By giving up the idea of ‘writing’ the sermon, I have found that I can relax and spend more time with my family on a Saturday, and can even go to bed on Saturday evening and sleep peacefully (which I have never been able to do before without a written manuscript). 

Last fall I started a new Bible study with my church on the Gospel of Mark (which is the organizing text for Lectionary Year B). I have not led a weekly Bible study for seven years now, and the folks I gather with each Monday evening have reawakened all kinds of hopes and confidences in me. I used to work through this gospel personally, with adult small groups and Bible studies and confirmations classes on an annual basis over a decade and a half in my previous congregation. It is still the lens through which I read the rest of scripture. I have been catching up on more recent scholarship, especially recent archeology and history, and find I am doing exegesis with part of my mind seemingly all week long. The challenge in the pulpit is to stay focused. My upcoming trip to Palestine has also fired my imagination.

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Today’s sabbath hike was special, and the banner photo at the top of this post requires explanation. I took today’s hike with my son (our first together this year) on a trail known as the North 40. It was the best part of my day. The significance for me is twofold. I am currently in the midst of a Lenten Sermon Series called “Forty Days in the Wild with Jesus.” Assuming (with good reason) that what Jesus was doing during his period of testing in the wilderness was working through his people’s history – reliving decisive moments, mistakes made, and making new decisions – I am exploring in my sermons each Sunday that same people’s history through the lens of other biblical figures who also spent 40 days in the wild: Noah, Moses, Elijah and Jonah. Moses and Elijah in particular were favorites in the “northern” tradition of Ancient Israel, centered in the Galilee where Jesus was from. This tradition emphasized leadership and liberation, rather than law, as the center of community life. Thus the significance of our hike today – the North 40, for the Northern Prophetic Tradition.

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We met lots of animals on the trail, but the most interesting was this skunk who we followed for a while at what we hoped was a safe distance. 

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All in all, a beautiful day to have been outdoors and together in creation.
– Happy Sabbath

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