Horses dream of sleep. Horses are most content when they are napping, preferably with a full belly. Much like us, I’d imagine. Back when Kate was working for a horse magazine’s website, we went to a horse trainers’ clinic. The horse expert talked about their theory of training and then took a problem horse and demonstrated how their theory worked.

“Horses dream of sleep,” the expert said. “If they’re not doing what you want, then get them to move their feet.”

To demonstrate, a horse was brought in that resisted going into its trailer. The owner said that it would take hours to get the horse to load into the trailer. In fact, it took two hours just to get the horse on to drive the 45 minutes to the clinic. The owner tried everything, but nothing worked. Not treats. Not threats. Not anything.

The expert stepped up and talked about how we fall back into familiar patterns. We try to entice with treats and if that fails, we resort to threats. Since horses dream of sleep, then we just need to get them to move their feet. Show them the only place they can rest is in the trailer.

The expert took the horse and made it run around in circles. The expert would then show the trailer, and the horse would back away. This happened three or four times until the horse somehow understood that the only way it would get any rest was to go on the trailer. The audience gasped when the horse willingly walked onto the trailer. I have never forgotten it. It’s an important lesson.

Sometimes we fall into patterns. These patterns aren’t always helpful, nor are they examined. We are mostly water after all, and water takes the path of least resistance. Maybe we dream of sleep. We’ve fallen into habits that aren’t beneficial to our physical, mental, or spiritual health. A bad diet. Too many drinks in the evening. A sedentary lifestyle. We stopped our spiritual practice and can’t seem to get into the groove again.

Maybe you’re like the horse. You’re moving in circles and can’t find any place to rest. There’s a sense that things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. Treats or threats aren’t working, and the pattern remains. You’re stuck.

The Letter to the Hebrews might be of help to us. Today we read the words, “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…”

Another translation states, “Let us consider how to spur one another to love and good deeds…”

Spurs make me think of cowboys and cowgirls. Spurs that jingle-jangle-jingle as we go riding merrily along. We often need one another to spur each other on. We need encouragement and a different perspective because we’re running in circles and we can’t find any rest. The raucous politics. The outrage cycle. The general discontent our society is experiencing with high inflation, a strange economy where we have a new crop of billionaires and yet the middle class is shrinking. I read somewhere that Jeff Bezos is on his way to becoming the first trillionaire. This means he could pay every person on the planet a billion dollars and still have $97 billion of his own. It’s a strange time we live in. I believe Hebrews can help. We need good words to spur us on to a place of rest. To find the trailer and rest in grace. Hebrews might just help us find our rest.

Hebrews is addressing Jewish Christians who were facing challenges and contemplating a return to their former Jewish religious practices. The central theme of the Letter to the Hebrews is the superiority and finality of Jesus Christ’s work and his role as the High Priest. The author compares and contrasts Jesus with various elements of the Old Testament Jewish religious system as the author understands it; including angels, Moses, and the Levitical priesthood.

Throughout the letter, the author encourages perseverance in the faith, despite the challenges and hardships faced by the recipients. The author also warns against falling away from the faith and returning to the old ways.

Like the horse that wouldn’t go into the trailer, there was this old pattern of behavior. Folks would behave in certain ways due to a feeling of things not being the way they are supposed to be. Sacrifices were made to assuage the guilt, but the feeling remained.

Back in my late teens, I thought the purpose of religion was to straighten people out. Oh, you should have known me then. I was quite the little tyrant. I was telling this person to go to confession and that person to read the Bible and yet another person to go to church. And God forbid that anyone within my circle should drink a beer, be gay, have pre-marital sex, or express an interest in any religion besides the style of Christianity I embraced. I was determined to set the whole world straight.


I must have been driving people crazy. I was driving myself crazy. If you were to ask me about my faith, I would frame it in what it wasn’t. It wasn’t about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I had a white-knuckle faith because I held onto my views with rigidity. Yet in doing so, my faith resembled a fist. The same solutions won’t solve the problems we face, that’s just going around in a circle.


Maybe you’re here too. Maybe in your spirituality or your politics. A closed fist is not a symbol of welcome or hospitality. I slowly came to realize that my faith is about how I behave, not how someone else behaves. When faith is about how someone else should behave, it is not a religion, it is oppression. Jesus is less a fist, and more an open hand. A helping hand that leads us to rest.


Hebrews is a good word of liberation. Hebrews points to Christ who wasn’t about getting others to conform to a list of “here’s what not do to” but with stories that provoked our imaginations. That caused us to think. We had to move our feet, and we discovered that there was another solution to these unhealthy patterns we are in.


We can be like the horse, resisting where we know we need to go. We have to move our feet. Sometimes we can’t find the way forward. We need one another to spur each other on. Other people won’t move, we can only move ourselves. We can pray that they will one day move their feet, but we can’t make others move, that would be us just falling back into lazy, unexamined patterns of belief and behavior. Often, when we’re spurred to move by a good friend or mentor, we can find a solution.


I have found true and lasting peace through the grace of Christ. Not the demands of Christ or the religious Calvinist doctrine or Four Spiritual Laws or whatever list of trite rules. No. Freedom is only found in Christ. And it is a good thing to surround myself with folk who will remind me of Jesus and his ways and the love of God that surrounds us all. When I trust in that, when I move my feet and get to the trailer, I’m at rest.

This is not works’ righteousness. I’m not talking about physically doing. I’m talking about walking away from the spiral of self-doubt and self-hatred I can spiral in. Walking away from that, and into the forgiveness of God. One of my favorite bands sings, “I let myself down when I beat myself up.” Jesus takes on all the abuse we throw at him, I interpret the Letter of Hebrews as telling me, and still responds in love and grace. So let us spur one another on to love and grace and good works.

Our moderators are doing that for me. When we were talking about our budget deficit, my mind immediately when to, “It’s because of me. It’s because they don’t like me, and this is how they’re showing it. It’s something I am not doing. And if it’s not that, it’s something I’m doing. After 204 years, I will be the one who ruins this place.”

Alyson Alber looked at me and said, “Let’s try to be kinder to ourselves than that.”

Turns out, it’s that we just forgot to set up the second half of giving. We made the pledge, but REALM is a stumbling block. Stewardship is working to address this issue. Alyson spurred me on to get out of that cycle of self-defeat and onto the trailer of grace. Thank you, madam moderator. I will try to remember the message.

Let us all keep meeting. We are a church that does three things. We welcome, love, and serve. Let us spur one another on, encourage one another to continue to do these things. We welcome the you that you hide. The you that you aren’t a fan of. And we love. We love you. When you can’t love yourself. When you find yourself drawn to old patterns of shame-spiraling caused by religious trauma of God being a sin-accountant in the sky, with a list he’s checking twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. And we serve. We serve like Christ served. Feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger. Visiting the sick and prisoner.

We do this not because we think we’ll get our ticket to heaven punched, but in doing these things we find heaven right here in our midst. For we are more than church on Sunday. May each of us stop circling, and board the trailer of God’s love and find rest. Happy Labor Day Church. And thanks be to God. Amen.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *