Pella Chronicle

Religion

May 25, 2012

‘Dog Days of Summer’

Pella — Psalm 3:5, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.”

With a Kindergartner and 2nd grader at home we are counting down the days until Summer Break!   We are eagerly anticipating a different rhythm of life.  Namely one without morning alarm clocks and scarfing down breakfast as we rush out the door.  Actually, we hope to follow the lead of our pug-nosed dog Walter who quite naturally slows down when the days grow long and hot.  I guess they call it the “dog days of summer” for a reason!

Watching Walter and anticipating Summer Break has me wondering about the importance of rest, in the Christian life.  But when was the last time you heard a sermon that, rather than putting you to sleep, helped you develop a theology of sleep?  When was the last time you stopped to wonder, “How can I glorify God in my rest?”  Well, to discover a theology of sleep we need to start from a place that is very foreign to our culture.  In fact, we need to start where we typically end.  

Most of us start our days with an alarm clock ringing before the sun comes up and don’t slow down again until we decide to turn off the lights long after the sun has gone down.  In essence we control how long our days are.  But this is a modern phenomena – one beyond the Psalmist’s wildest imagination.  For the Psalmist each day began in the evening.  Why?  Because for the Hebrew people the day began when the sun set because that was when God began His creative act.  The rhythm of Genesis 1 starts in the evening. “And there was evening, and there was morning - the first day... And there was evening, and there was morning - the second day...”  God spoke the stars, earth, plants, animals, man and woman into being out of the darkness of night.

Drawing from this Hebrew understanding of day, Eugene Peterson writes, “The Hebrew evening/morning sequence conditions us to the rhythms of grace.  We go to sleep, and God begins his work.  As we sleep God develops his covenant.  We wake and are called out to participate in God’s creative action.  We respond in faith, in work.  But always grace is previous.  Grace is primary.  We wake into a world we didn’t make, into a salvation we didn’t earn.  Evening: God begins, without our help, his creative day.  Morning: God calls us to enjoy and share and develop the work he initiated.  Creation and covenant are sheer grace and there to greet us every morning.” (Working the Angles, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987, 68.)

It seems pretty simple, but then again the important things in life usually are.  Maybe this summer you’ll remember that the world doesn’t stop spinning when you fall asleep.  Maybe this summer you’ll awaken from a deep sleep and realize that your work is not somehow responsible for the day – because God’s already taken care of that.  Maybe this summer you’ll see how your work settles into the larger context of God’s work.  Maybe this summer you’ll receive the rich blessing of the Psalmist who so beautifully realized in Psalm 3:5 “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.”  And Psalm 4:8 “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD make me dwell in safety.”

Enjoy the dog days!

 

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