Here we are at the end of July. The county fair is winding down and school is just around the corner. Which means there is really only a few more opportunities to enjoy some rest and relaxation this summer.
I read recently, that in the United States, we take less time off from work for vacations and holidays than virtually all the rest of the industrialized world. Which has made me think — what happened to the concept of a full day of rest weekly, where one did no work at all, where all one did was rest and re-energize and reflect on all the goodness that God has given. It was called “Sabbath” in scripture and was mandated by God in the first creation story in Genesis.
Perhaps, if we all did a true Sabbath, there would be less tension and anger in the world. Perhaps, with a true day of rest we could empty our minds of daily worries and focus our minds on daily gifts. Perhaps we could rest our bodies from the strains of life and enjoy the blessings of healing. Perhaps our emotions would find some quiet solitude and be turned from contempt to love. Perhaps our fears could be tempered with hopes and our discourse could become dialog.
In short, without a Sabbath (or even a “sabbatical,” a fancy term which Webster defines as “a recurring period of rest or renewal”; i.e. vacation) we become victims of fatigue, and of frayed nerves, and of chasing after our own tails in a treadmill drudgery that we pass off as life. With a Sabbath comes the ability to retool our thinking, to renew relationships, to reform actions, and to begin anew to work toward solutions. Indeed, one of the key components of Sabbath worship is the component when we ask for forgiveness, receive it freely from God, and then share what we have received with others – friends and adversaries alike! Sabbath helps us break down barriers and build bridges to the future.
What we need is true Sabbath rest! We tend to forget that Jesus rested often, that he went to places apart from the crowds, that he rested and prayed, and that he found renewal and energy in his restful times. And so can we! And with rest comes strength to face the days ahead, and hope to meet the challenges, and love to dispel the fears.
The writer is the pastor at St. Jacob Lutheran Church, Anna, Ohio