June 25, 2017 ()

Bible Text: Ecclesiaster 3:1-8, Genesis 1:31-2:8, Psalm 18:19 |

This is Ruth Boehm's sermon for this Sunday.  Ruth was sick, so Rebecca Penner read her sermon.  There was no audio recording available.

June 25, 2017

Faith Mennonite Church

Theme:  A time to play


Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Genesis 1:31-2:3,

31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

Psalm 18:19

He brought me out into a broad place;
he delivered me, because he delighted in me.


God invites us to play.

To be rested enough to have the energy to play.

In the old driving shed Ray and I would play for hours.  When we were done helping with the chores of making sure the dog and cats were fed and the filling the pails for water for the pigs we could play.  WE moved things around, we played hide and seek up in the barn, we created buildings out of the dirt, we rode our bikes on the hill.

My cousin Delphine and I would play for hours with our dolls – Floppy and Flopsy.  We would build houses and forts, grocery stores and palaces with cardboard boxes in the basement.

While we were playing there was no sense of time, just delight.  Creativity.  Possibilities.  Space.  Camaraderie.

What did you play as a child?  Who did you play with?

What do you do now to play?

Do you consider play as something God desires for us?

We will come back to these questions in a few moments (in reverse order.)

This week I have heard teachers counting down the days until summer holidays.  Ready for a break.  I have heard students saying only four more days of school then summer.

As summer is now upon us, I began by thinking I would speak about Sabbath.  Rest.  Renewal.  I began by looking for materials on how God created the Sabbath day as a day for rest and a day for remembering that we were no longer slaves in Egypt but free people.

I started with the Bible.  IN the first chapter the story of how God created the earth – and took delight in it.  Saying it was GOOD.

And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.  Genesis 2:2-3

God rested on the seventh day.  Rested.  Took a break.  Took delight.  Sat back with satisfaction, Ah.

I like the idea of Sabbath rest.

But sometimes as I read about Sabbath I find that it speaks about the Jewish practice which begins at sundown on Friday.  Soon there are lots of guidelines or rules that define work.  What can you cook or not cook.  What you can do.  How far you can travel.  Even Jesus struggled with all the rules that got placed around the Sabbath in order to help people experience the rest and freedom that was intended.

And maybe some of those guidelines would help us.

Because even without the guidelines around how to keep a day of rest I’m not sure we are finding time for renewal.

I wonder if some of us rest.

Take a day a week to rest.

I wonder if some us burn and crash.

Work hard and then flake out exhausted.  Then get up and work again.

I have to confess that I have done that.

I wonder if some of us take off a week from our work to do all the things that need to get done around the house….mow the lawn, trim the hedge, fold the laundry, shop for food, make the birthday gift.

So, even if we say that we take a day off a week are we resting?

Are we taking a day off from work?

Do we have time to take delight, look back with satisfaction and be grateful?

Do we have energy to play?

When I came upon the word play I went hunh. I stopped.   Now we’re on to something.

Do we play?

We may try and rest, we may think we are taking a Sabbath like God did, but are we taking enough of a break that we have time and energy to play.  Because if we play, then perhaps we are understanding more of what God meant with the gift of Sabbath rest.

This morning let us consider the invitation to play by looking at the following

5 ideas/aspects of play

  1. What is play?
  2. God invites us to play.
  3. God delights in our play
  4. Play!
  5. Play forms relationships

Canadian pastor Ken Shigematsu,wrote the book God in my Everything.  I will be using some of his ideas from the chapter Play like a child.    He wrote about the first question – what is play?

  1. What is play?

“Play is doing something for its own sake.  It might involve entranced absorption and even strenuous effort that leads to joy and gratitude.

Place comes in a variety of forms including crafts, painting, acting, dancing, hiking, sports, blowing bubbles splashing in water, laughing, joking.  Whatever its expression, it helps us more fully appreciate how we live, move, and have our being in God.  Pg 140.

When Charlotte and Rebecca decorated for Pentecost – they played in the sanctuary with fabric for four hours.  Trying different kinds of things.  Playing with the fabric and the light and the placement.  The result is beautiful.   When I walked into the sanctuary while they were working you could tell they were having fun.

Play is something that is just for fun.  It is not for evaluation.  Not for an audience.  Not a performance. We play for the love of the game and the companionship of family and friends.

Play has many side benefits – it is good for our brains, our creativity, our well-being, our social skills.  Our elementary schools promote play based learning.  Forest schools promote playing in nature to learn about life.  Play has many benefits.

  1. God desires for us to play.  Invites us to play

We learn this from the writings in Ecclesiastes.  God has intended for there to be a time and season for everything under heaven.  In the poem read for us earlier we hear of 14 pairs of experiences.  14 x2 is 28 – a whole number of 7 and four.  The Greek number for wholeness – the whole experiences of life.  And in the middle of the poem we find this:

4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

There is a time for weeping and grief, laughter and dance.  I know it doesn’t say play.  In fact if y you do a concordance search of the Bible you will find play mostly referring to the playing of instruments and a strange colloquial expression  ( about playing the whore).

But the intention here is clear.  Take a break.  Dance.  How do you dance without playing?  Some can do carefully choreographed dances, but most of us dance with Abba (singing Dancing Queen) while doing the vacuuming or whoop it up on the dance floor of a wedding laughing and talking and smiling and having fun with friends.  Playing.

One of the dreams of the signs of the blessings of God is found in Zechariah 8:5 – when the streets will be filled with boys and girls playing.

If we follow the example of Jesus we know that he took breaks.  He went to a wedding in Cana and turned water into wine. (John 2)  He ate and drank and celebrated with such zest that he was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. Matth 11:19

Or play opens us up to new possibilities:

Once, when Alfred Hitchcock was directing a suspense film, he and his crew found themselves stuck, unable to move forward with a particular scene.  Although they had worked for hours on end, they weren’t able to come up with a creative, satisfying resolution.  As they sat there, frustrated and discouraged, Hitchcock began telling jokes, one inane joke after another.  “What are you doing?” several crew members fumed. “Are you crazy?  You’re wasting our time.”  Hitchcock intuited the problem they were facing – they were trying too hard to be creative.  “you’re pushing,” he said.  “You’re pushing and it won’t come by pushing.”

God invites us to play.  There is a time to work and a time to play.

  1. God delights in our play

As a parent,  I love watching my children play and having fun with each other.  Jumping on the trampoline.  Making up games and building forts in the basement.  Creating something out of Lego.  Playing hide and seek.  Sitting at the kitchen table and laughing over silly made – up jokes.

God delights in our wholesome play.  I love the picture of God in the form of Jesus smiling away.  I have it in my office.  So many times I think that we get these pictures of God who said – don’t play baseball on Sunday, don’t create works of beauty on the Sabbath, don’t….

But, Shigematsu writes, “The truth is that we belong to a God who loves us more than we can even imagine and delights in our joy.  He takes pleasure in our pleasure.” Pg 145

Psalm 18:19

He brought me out into a broad place;

he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

This does not mean that we get absorbed in our play to the exclusion of all else or that we make playing the most important thing in our lives.  This does not mean we turn our play into work.  Sometimes this happens when we strive for excellence in a sport.  Play ball means to play ball.  Not to be so invested that winning is the only acceptable outcome.  There is a time for work and a time for play.  It matters how you play the game.

We are to take delight in our play.

And sometimes when we are playing – we have the space to pay attention to God, the movement of the spirit, the love of Jesus and we are moved to worship.  We delight in God.  And God delights in our joy.

  1. So, then my friends, Play.

What do you do to play?

Do you play?

Do you sit on the floor and play Lego with your grandchildren or children?

Do you dance like no one is watching?

Do you sing?



Rebuild cars?

Go exploring?

Scuba Dive?

No matter what our age we get to play.

This is important because sometimes we get caught up in the activities of life that we forget how to play.

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves some questions to help us start to play again:

(from the artist’s way pg 73

What was my favourite childhood toy?

What game did I love to play as a child?

Or fill in the blanks….

I don’t do it much but I enjoy….

If I could lighten up a little, I’d let myself….

If it weren’t too late, I’d…

Taking time out for myself is…

If it didn’t sound crazy, I”d write or make a….

Last fall I realized I’d gotten myself into an unhealthy pattern.  A wise woman told me that I needed to practice taking regular Sabbath.  She was right.  As part of that I have been taking time on Monday’s to sit and stitch.  I am quilting a wall hanging for my sons.  I may show you next week as part of our service on Canada and our faith.  It has been fun for me to learn how to do this.  In the process I have had to draw on others to help me, teach me, and join me in taking a few stitches.

That leads to the last point.

  1. Play forms relationships

When I played with my siblings I formed relationships with them.

When sports teams play – you can see how they are dependent on the relationships they form with one another.

When couples are dating they spend time hanging out and enjoying things together – playing.  And when marriage relationships are stale it is vital that couples take time to play together to renew their joy in being together.

Shigematsu noted that church boards are healthy if they take time to play together.  He spoke about his own church board that has vigorous disagreements and yet is relatively unified.  They go hiking, sailing, ski and cook together.  These times of play have deepend our relationships which ahs made our work more fruitful.  After the Winter Olypics they went curling together.  Everyone said, I’ve never curled before, and it showed, but we had a great time.  Pg 146.  If people play together they are more likely to work better together as well.

I have sometimes wondered about our congregation.  I’m not sure we play enough together.  When was the last time we did something really fun together?  I wonder if God might be inviting our congregation to play more.  What might we learn about each other?  What fun might we have?

When I was learning to cross stitch I stitched a sampler.  The pattern read – the family that prays together stays together.  I stitched instead – the family that plays together stays together.

I think about our best times as a family are when we play together.  I love our vacation times – no screens and the silly songs, the adventures, the time we waste together cooking or playing dutch blitz.

So, as we are on the cusp of summer vacation know that it is time to play.

Respond to God’s invitation to play.

Play as adults.

Take a real enough break from work to have the energy to play

Play as children.  Put away the electronics and play.

Relish in the delight that God takes in our play.

Play with others - adults and children, young and old, family and neighbours.

Go and play.


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