“Six days of work are spent to make a Sunday quiet that Sabbath may return.
It comes in unconcern; we cannot earn or buy it.”
This week’s spiritual practice is keeping the Sabbath. I preached on this practice recently because Jesus instructed his disciples to rest after they went about the work of teaching and healing. Here’s what I shared (and since I can’t plagiarize myself, I’m sharing again!), “Jesus didn’t instruct the disciples to rest just so they could go out and get back to work to heal those in need. The disciples were worthy of rest because they were beloved children of God. Full stop. We don’t rest just so we can go out and be more productive. We rest because God told us to rest, that’s the whole point of Sabbath. Sabbath is a day of peace and harmony—peace between people, peace within ourselves, and peace with all things. We are even invited to rest on the Sabbath as if all our work is done. This is the invitation that Jesus was extending to his weary followers. Rest from your labor. Rest from the very thought of labor. Come to me, and I will give you rest.”
Keeping the Sabbath is a powerful spiritual practice. And it’s not easy. It’s difficult to rest when there’s so much work to do! Sometimes we may even feel guilty. We may think that we haven’t earned the right to stop our labors. Though poet Wendell Berry helpfully reminds us that we cannot earn or buy the Sabbath. Moreover, there’s always more work to do! There’s the work we may be paid to perform. And then there’s all the unpaid work that we do. We cook. We clean. We run errands. We do laundry. We shop for groceries. We take care of people when they are sick. We raise families. We care for our pets. Maybe it’s odd to think of these tasks as work. I certainly don’t mean to offend. Perhaps it’s better to say that these are caretaking responsibilities or simply what goes with the territory with having a home to keep up or a family to care for. The point is, there are many labors that we all perform day in and day out. And there’s moments when it may feel like a lot!
Keeping the Sabbath is about rest. But it’s also about feeling peace, peace within and peace with one another. One way to think about the spiritual practice of keeping the Sabbath is to think about pausing to just have fun! Maybe we set aside one day a week to focus on rest, peace, and fun. Jews keep the Sabbath (Shabbat) from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. Christians have historically considered Sunday the Sabbath day, of course. There were even laws about how to observe the Sabbath in good old New England when the Puritans were in charge. But maybe in our modern lives we think of just taking one day out of the week to keep the Sabbath however it makes sense in our context. Hear the words of Wendell Berry again, “Six days of work are spent to make a Sunday quiet that Sabbath may return. It comes in unconcern; we cannot earn or buy it.”
Thursday Thoughts 8/12/21