Honor the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. - Deuteronomy 5:12
Perhaps you've noticed, as I have, that the most common response to the question "How are you" these days is not "fine," but "busy!" Burning the candle at both ends is the ethos of our times. Perhaps we get a feeling of self-worth by adhering to the Protestant work ethic being gainfully busy all the time. Or perhaps being busy makes us feel important - as in, "everyone and everything wants a piece of MY time." Maybe the reality of life is that we have to work multiple jobs or have multigenerational family responsibilities. Or maybe we just keep ourselves busy in order to avoid feeling our feelings. Whatever it is, our culture is rather a rat race most of the time. So what do we make of the ancient commandment to take one day out of seven to do basically nothing at all but rest in God?
Our 24/7 culture makes following this commandment challenging. How do you take a sabbath in a culture that never sleeps? And how do you truly rest when you hardly have time to settle down from the buzz of the rest of the week? What if there's only one day to relax all week - do you use up some of it with church? With cooking? Does rest mean doing completely nothing - or is a pleasant change of pace enough of a rest? Just what is meant by taking a faithful Sabbath in a world like ours?
There are many wonderful books on keeping the Sabbath that have come out in the past few decades to address just these issues. I enjoyed Donna Sharper's book, Sabbath Keeping, when it came out in 1999, and I have worked to make Sabbath a part of my spiritual practice ever since. It's not easy to carve out Sabbath time in a culture that simply does not value rest. But I can't help but think that a church that models a true embrace of Sabbath in the midst of our over-busy culture is doing a huge and important service to us all. Imagine if St. James became known as the place where all the people are well rested and at peace? It's something to think about.
There are activities planned at St. James this summer that focus on relaxing with friends, taking a break, resting in community and in God. I hope you'll take some time out of your busy life to enjoy some of them - and, of course - being fed by God each Sunday morning. And I conclude by sharing, yet again, this wonderful prayer from our prayer book, which is the source for the name of this blog:
O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The readings for this Sunday are HERE Note that in ordinary time, we will be following "Track 2"