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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Today’s Reading | Exodus 23:10–13

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed. Be attentive to all that I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips. (NRSV)      

This biblical text was common, everyday knowledge where I grew up. Although as a young boy I saw it kept fairly “religiously” throughout the farmland in the State of Iowa, I have grown up watching the majority of this message dwindle and fizzle away, both in the land and in our world. I do remember a time when farmers gave their land a period of rest time every seventh year. Some crops would still grow during the seventh year even though no seed had been planted. In some of the fields you could see deer and other wild animals feasting off of the corn, soybeans, and wheat that were left to sit on the land’s resting year. For many farmers, it used to be a sense of pride that they were doing “the right thing” by letting the land rest.

As corporations have grabbed up the land in my home state and the family farm has all but disappeared, I think the days of the seven-year rest have diminished as well. I would be surprised if any farmers are still financially able to let land rest for even a minute. I believe that with the advent of the world market that the days of built-in practices of rest are all but gone unless we choose to seek them out in our own lives.

In a world of soccer Sunday, 24-hour convenience stores, emails and technology that never rest, and greater and greater output expectations of our society, where do you manage to find rest? I always think about this passage on national holidays. I go into a grocery story on Thanksgiving and witness a person working so that I can have a day off. God states, “Be attentive to all that I have said to you.” What are we hearing from God regarding our ability to seek rest in this world, both for ourselves and for those around us?

Hear our prayer, O Lord, that we may find peace. Hear our prayer, O Lord, that we may find rest. Amen.

Written by Mark Eldred, Coordinator for Worship and Adult Education

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