Growing up in the 1970’s the now late great Casey Kasem was a regular part of my life. I could be found tuning in each week no matter what to American Top 40. And back in the day, as some of you know, it literally meant fussing with a dial on the radio, sometimes in the car, trying anything to hold on to that signal as Casey presided over counting down the hits. All those songs covered the emotions of my pre-adolescent life- new love, fresh breakups, parents who just don’t understand, the first days of summer, and more. And listening to the show you knew you were never alone- all those others were listening too, and you always had something to talk about- whether your song was #1, or how some poor soul had called in with a sappy long distance dedication to his long lost love as Casey cued up “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” Week after week, at the end of it all we’d be reminded to “keep our feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”
For a time I centered my whole life around being able to listen to that show. It was a “god” for me and I was totally tuned in.
Luther says that a “god” is the thing from which you expect all good and where you take refuge in distress. Preadolescent me called American Top 40 a “little g” god. I’ve moved on to others- and we all have our “little g’s.” A fact of which our creator is well aware- we’re not told to have no others gods- just no others that take first priority. That in order to have abundant life for all our goal should be to be tuned into our Creator first- to love God with all we’ve got.
And just like with that radio, it means working to tune out all those other things that bleed in and disrupt the signal of the song God is singing- that song of love and life that shapes the commandments we’re given.
This is not to say we should be hermits in a cave trying to exclude all of life. Rather to center ourselves on having balance so our “little g” gods don’t become the big G that takes over. To ask ourselves what controls our life and dictates our existence.
In the first three commandments or words for life, we hear that call to pay attention to what we allow to govern our lives, how we speak of God, and the importance of Sabbath time as all being crucial to being tuned into God.
When we work to center our lives around money, power, beauty, or anything else, it not only affects us individually, but those around us. Our living has a cost. When we resist saying “no” to ourselves we lose sight of God has the one who creates, redeems and empowers us.
But perhaps those concepts are well seen- whether we like it or not, we get the “other gods” thing.
What about how we use God’s name? I could speak of words I shouldn’t say here, or even how others put a lot of words into God’s mouth that are actually full of hate and take life. I’d like to lift up something else- how we speak God’s name to God.
God longs for us to call often, and to actually believe that invoking God’s name means forgiveness, or thanks and praise, deliverance, healing. God begins a relationship with us in baptism with a name and wants more than a long distance dedication.
Which brings me to Sabbath time. It’s a day. A day- to be tuned into God and God’s word- not an hour. And I know- I too am going out for lunch. But still this is a word for us. In Deuteronomy, Sabbath is about remembering what it was like in Egypt to never get a day off. That is a word for today. To recognize what no longer being slaves to that would mean for you, your kids, your workers, your animals- everyone deserves rest.
But in Exodus- we hear another piece. The story of God breaking into human existence. Redeeming people is not just about God being all powerful. It’s about God being related- to our lives- in all and with all.
Rolf Jacobsen speaks of Sabbath then being intended to show us regularly that God’s grace is breaking through. Not just once for the Israelites, or once in Jesus, or even just once a week for an hour. Regularly.
Worship is the ritual that reminds us of this. We are to here to be reminded not of usher lists or greeters or other things. We are here to be reminded that God’s grace is routine.
Grace breaking in is why I ask where we’ve seen God at work.
We have to rest sometimes to ponder that.
Sabbath reminds us that God’s law is for every day. Keeping Sabbath is keeping faith with the One who keeps faith with us. Worship is being a community centered in this Christ, and re-centering to tune in to God’s constant song- of forgiveness, and love, in praise and in mission.
And I wonder- what would happen if we all started telling all the other influences that try to bleed in, to stop interrupting our favorite song, and let God’s song be the one that gets stuck in our heads?
Again this day we’ve heard forgiveness, and we’re about to be fed as we sing of God in Christ who became more fully present in our world to show us God’s law of love.
And this is where I think Casey had it wrong-
We don’t have to keep trying to reach for the stars and hoping it works out- God’s already here and waiting for us to tune in.