"Sabbathing"

I don't know if it's a real word...but it's certainly a real need.  

The need to create Sabbath.  

We 21st Century, 24/7, strong work-ethic Americans usually associate that word most with the 10 Commandments, "Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy (Exodus 20: 8)."  In Jewish tradition, this meant to take the Sabbath day off from work, all work, of all kinds.

For Christians--at least from the middle ages on--The Sabbath was seen as a day to worship AND work.  For example, in the 1700's, it was not uncommon for folks to rise a little before dawn, work their fields for a few hours, come to worship for as long as 3 hours (!), and then spend the rest of the day doing what needed doing at home.  For Christians, Sabbath has usually meant MORE work...not less.  For Jewish practitioners, Sabbath is a practice that intentionally interrupts the work week, disconnecting you from the constant demands of a busy world...in order to reconnect you to the things that make life good: family, food, fun, rest.  For Christians, we have a very legalistic view of Sabbath....it's a particular day that we see as making MORE demands on us.  In our tradition, Sabbath is the one day a week you go to church, on top of all the other things you have to do.  For those of us with too much to do and not enough time with which to do it, Sabbath can be much more of a hassle than an opportunity.  And maybe this is why we have such a hard time with the concept of sabbath...rest...vacation...taking time off.  

My wife and I are currently preparing for our Honeymoon.  We were married last September, and now we have finally reserved a couple weeks to go away together to Spain and Italy for a once-in-a-lifetime trip...just the two of us...exploring and savoring precious time off.  We leave next week.  And things are...starting to get stressful.  Because we are like most people, I think.  I think most of us end up working harder before going away on vacation...to prepare to be away.  We want to make sure nothing slips through the cracks or goes overlooked while we're away.  So we are doing our jobs and our daily chores, plus the extra work of planning ahead, making arrangements, finding money for payments and fees that should be taken care of prior to our departure, planning the logistics of who will care for our dog, and when, and where...and we haven't even started packing yet.  We are so looking forward to this trip...but if we spend the whole time worrying about all the things that aren't being done, or the things that might be going wrong without us...it will stop being a beautiful once-in-a-lifetime fantasy and turn into a really expensive, stressful nightmare.

This is why I'm promoting the word "Sabbathing."  We can't think of Sabbath as a particular day anymore...a day in which MANY things need to happen.  We need to reconnect with the original commandment.  The commandment is not, "Remember the Sabbath day, to fit all your community life, rest, recreation, time with family, homework, to-do lists into a short 24 hour period." 

The commandment is, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."  Sabbathing is about actively engaging practices that keep the Sabbath holy.  Do you know the original meaning of the word holy?  It literally means "to set apart."  Sabbath is not another day to fit in too many things with not enough time or energy...it's a day that needs to be kept apart from all the other days.  It's not a continuing of our regular routine...it's a break from it...a pause...a rest.  It's a day to disconnect from screens and memes, so we can reconnect with family and fun.  And the reason we are called to practice this once a week is so we will be able to embrace all the days, weeks, seasons and years of our lives in which God does not call us to work...but calls us to rest.   

We are in the middle of hiring two new positions at church. In the meantime, your Pastor is in charge of administrative duties in the church office, preparing for Sunday worship, visiting folks at home and in the hospital, connecting with youth and families, preparing to lead meetings and educate lay leaders...and I'm supposed to be modeling the practice of Sabbath as well.  With all this going on...it seems like the worst possible time to go away for 2 weeks.  

And yet...that's exactly what I'm going to do.  And I encourage anyone reading this to treat yourself to the same.  This is the end of the school year, summer is fast approaching, and there are nonstop commitments and busy-ness to keep up with.  

i invite you to interrupt your normal, busy routine.  Try to disconnect from your endless list of responsibilities and appointments--if even for a short time--so that you can reconnect with family, with good nourishing food, with rich, relaxing fun.  Let the practice of Sabbath be our active prayer to God...a prayer that invites the Divine to whisk away what keeps us busy in order to bring us what we need to live, to love, to enjoy our time on this planet.  May it be so for each of us.  

Brian Gruhn