Sabbath

One of the challenges of being a person of faith in this moment in history is we are tasked with both trying to understand an ancient faith, which originated in a world drastically different from the one in which we live…while also navigating the world in which we live…which is also changing drastically right before our eyes. It’s not an easy thing to do. We should respect the challenge of it.

One of the 10 Commandments, one of the most basic rules handed down from God to God’s people…one of the central practices for loving our neighbors as ourselves…is to “remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.”

Sabbath literally means a day of rest. We are commanded to remember that God made the world in 6 days…and then rested. To add some 21st Century snark to the commandment, we could say it like this, “God created everything in existence in 6 days and rested on the 7th. Do you think you can make your life better by working harder than God?”

But we have busy lives filled with many demands. Many of us have to work multiple jobs just to pay our basic expenses. The idea of an entire day of rest sounds like a luxury…something very few of us can afford.

But let’s turn the lens around and look at ourselves. The actions and commitments you dedicate your time to speak volumes about who we are and what we value. We remember that when God freed the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, the commandment to “keep the sabbath” was a practice that would help them preserve their freedom. By setting aside 1/7 o their time for rest, for family, for fun, singing, worship, games, living life to the fullest…they guaranteed that no one would ever make a slave of them again. If we feel we can’t afford to give 1/7 of our time to the fruitful gifts that make life good, then it is right and good that we ask: Why can’t we afford it? What has enslaved us? Do we want to be free of it?

I took my first Sabbath in quite a long time this last Friday. I stayed away from email and the internet, I focused on chores at home and connecting with friends. I broke my own commitment in the mid-afternoon that day…started feeling anxious about the sermon for Sunday not being what I wanted it to be yet…but then I went back to resting, and ended the day connecting with a new community of beloved people I never would have met if I had not set aside the time to meet them.

We can let our stress and anxiety run our lives…or we can embrace life in its fullness and live into the goodness God desires for us. But we have to be willing to choose spiritual practices in order to maintain our freedom. Living in the world in which we live, taking a day to simply rest and live and celebrate and connect is both the most challenging thing we can do…and probably the most important. Because it reminds us that there is more to life than being productive and earning money. There is grace…there is beauty…there is love…there is something holy and sacred.

This week, we are hoping to make it easier for busy families to take a Sabbath break. This Friday evening, kids of all ages are welcome to come to our church Parish House starting at 5:30 for an evening of movies and games, popcorn and fun. While our church staff leads the kids in sabbath play, parents are free to go spend time focused on themselves. Go out on a date…go home and clean the parts of the house that never get clean…go to a movie or a bar or a concert…plan on doing the things you never get to do, to remind yourself that you are also Beloved…you don’t have to hold the world together…the Holy has your back.

Brian Gruhn