The Rev. Zina Jacque recalled a homiletics professor at Boston University, who told his students “if you will open your eyes, all around you are holy items meant to be preached about.”
“I remembered this and looked around my desk, and the five objects I saw will be the subjects of this week’s sermons,” Jacque said.
Her sermon title was “Holy Objects — An iPhone,” and the Scripture text was Exodus 31:12-17.
She said that Anthony Campbell, the homiletics professor, would tell his students “at any given moment, there are 10 sermons around you.” Campbell would walk around the class and pick up an object from a student’s desk, and require the student to stand, and “for three minutes say something holy.”
“I never took that class on purpose,” Jacque said.
She held up her iPhone and said that after having it for 10 months, “It got wonky, so I took it to the Genius Bar.” A young woman looked at Jacque’s phone and told her how often she used it, when she turned it off, and when it rested with nothing running.
Then the young woman “tsked” at her and Jacque said to herself, “Honey, I have shoes older than you.” But the young woman told her she did not have to turn her phone off, but Jacque did have to turn the programs off and let it rest.
“It was an epiphany,” Jacque said. “The iPhone must rest, and if it does not, it will die.”
When Moses was with God on top of Mount Sinai, God gave the Israelites rules about keeping the Sabbath. “Three times in that passage God says to rest or ‘I will kill you, or put you out,’ ” she said.
This was a covenant that God made with the people. God told Moses when the Israelites rested, they would know that “I am God and they are not.”
“They were not wearing Yahweh Jr. buttons,” Jacque said. The Sabbath is holy, set apart and the people are set apart for God’s work. God told them, ‘you are set apart by me, for me, and I will supply all your needs. Let them know I am serious.’ ”
She told the congregation: We won’t rest or turn off our minds or devices because we have a fear of missing out.
“I might miss my Groupon coupon I have been waiting for,” she said. “I might miss the fact I need to win the contest I am playing.”
You think you are indispensable, but you have to believe the improbable, she said to the congregation: “The world does not revolve around you.”
Not being willing to rest can come from a good place. People have agency, and they can make things happen, “but we won’t rest because we are afraid,” Jacque said. “We have come of age in a culture where we always have to be on top. Excellence has become an idol, and that excellence is for ourselves and not for God.”
She told the congregation when we refuse to rest, we don’t allow God to do God’s perfect work in us.
“God needs the space where we are doing nothing for the re-creation of our minds and bodies,” she said. “When we rest, our bodies heal, we become more fully who we are.”
If we don’t rest, Jacque said, God will put us out. If we don’t rest, others around us don’t rest because they feel they can’t rest.
“You never know who is watching you as a role model,” she added.
Several different Hebrew words are translated in English-language Bibles as the word “rest,” and these words describe different kinds of rest.
The first is sabaoth, commonly thought of as sabbath in English.
“This idea is rest from activity, to let the self be,” she said. “This could be considered sinful at Chautauqua given the schedule of activities here.”
Jacque said another Hebrew concept is shaqat, to rest from internal anxiety.
“This is when you take a problem and say to God, ‘Here, you take it. I can’t deal with it; oh, and have it solved by morning, please,’ ” Jacque said.
The third concept of rest is noach, to rest from external anxiety.
“Caller ID is my best friend,” Jacque said. “If a call comes that will cause anxiety, I can move away from it.”
The fourth concept of rest is mnuwchah, a resting place.
“These are the thin places in the Earth where we go and our cares fall away,” she said. “We should go often, because without them, we will die.”
Our bodies can’t sustain the pace of the modern world, Jacque said. Jesus came with a yoke of love and “he will wrap us up in this love and cradle us and rock us,” she said. “God loves us enough to say enough is enough. Come into rest, God says, because you are his and he is yours, and be refreshed.”
The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, vice president of religion and senior pastor, presided. The Rev. Carmen Perry, pastor of Hurlbut Memorial Community Church, read the Scriptures. The Motet Choir, under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, sang “Come to Me,” by Craig Courtney. The Randell-Hall Memorial Chaplaincy and the Geraldine M. and Frank E. McElree Jr. Chaplaincy Fund provide support for this week’s services.