In the rush of our world we tend to lose touch with the still, small voice of God. Within our noisy, fast-paced, fragmented culture, we desperately attempt as individuals to fill our emptiness and find meaning. Most of us are exhausted, for we have taken on too much. Sabbath keeping rightly calls us to countercultural living.
“In an age that has lost its soul, Sabbath keeping offers the possibility of gaining it back,” writes Marva Dawn hopefully. But how can we keep Sabbath? We need to look at what the Bible says about creation, work, and rest.
In the beginning, God created a tempo for life. Read Genesis 1 aloud and the rhythm is unmistakable: “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day” (1:5). In this account of creation, the refrain is repeated as the work of each day is finished, until the Creator has completed all his work. The final refrain is: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (1:31).
Then God introduced the pattern of work and rest. “And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested. . . . So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation” (2:2-3).
Just as God rested after his labors, so are we to rest. “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy”. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:8-10).
Sabbath is meant to be a gift. Our Creator knows what we need and gives it to us. God knows that we need meaningful work, so we can make a positive difference in the world. But God also knows we must periodically pause to allow him to make a difference in us. Sabbath is permission to let go — to cease our labors and accept both our work and rest as gifts. We need to remember that we are not in charge of the world, but that we can rest in the arms of the One who is.
This is my hope as I go on Sabbatical for the summer; an eleven week period of time to cease from work. I will rest. I will think and I will be renewed. This will be my second sabbatical in almost 20 years of ministry in Thomaston (and 28 years of full time ministry). I am thankful to have been given permission to step away temporarily. The opportunity is for a broader perspective and renewal without the tyranny of the urgent or unceasing demands. I will miss my church family; but I will be better for spending this intentional time away.
My time will include planned reading (C.S. Lewis’ classics, a book by Joe Lieberman on Sabbath), times of silence, spiritual direction, and recreation. I will be at Pilgrim Pines for three weeks and at retreat centers for ministers in Ohio, Connecticut and Massachusetts. I will enjoy family time in Chicago, at home, and as I travel to Portugal and Spain. Please pray for me, as I will pray for you!
On Sunday mornings this summer, the speakers have been given the option to talk about their own Sabbath practices; what works and how carving out this time weekly is beneficial. Consider for yourself what it would mean to accept the gift of Sabbath and to keep it! A Christian model for Sabbath keeping would be some form of observance from sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday. Many resources are available for how to use the time beneficially.
Be encouraged by remembering that even a deep yearning for Sabbath rest is the first step to reclaiming it. The next step is to open our lives to receive this good gift as we cease our labors regularly and respond with gratitude to God, rest in him, and listen for his still, small voice.
In Christ, Pastor Tim