When we hear the word Sabbath, it is not just about Sunday. Sabbat(ical) is not just about what clergy or professors do for a few months after years of service. It is about who God is and what God did. Remember, after six days of creation, on the seventh day, God rested. Genesis describes the seventh day of rest not as something that happened after creation. Genesis refers to this rest as the final act of creation. And in that God has built rest into the warp and woof of creation.
Rest is not what happens after creation. Rest is the final act of creation. Like the fields lying fallow on my grandpa’s farm, it is as basic as planting and harvesting. Rest, the Bible tells us, is commanded by God because it is hard-wired into lives. It’s not a helpful suggestion or useful technique. It’s not a sluggish pause before a demanding stretch. It is not even a pat on the back after a busy, fruitful season.
This is worth hearing after we have been so productive. Just now, Benjamin is officially our Minister of Youth and Pastoral Care. Just now, our youth missioners return from Scranton, PA. A holiday is here. We have all worked hard to reach this point. We have extended ourselves to the maximum of God’s calling. We enjoy glad accomplishment. With summer we prepare for a time of sabbath rest.
Walt Brueggemann describes Sabbath as resisting the tyranny of always having to be productive. That tyranny is tempting in a land where productivity equates with wealth, status, and success. Sabbath rest is the chance to pause, breath and take it in. In her book, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, Marva Dawn describes the 4 movements of keeping Sabbath: ceasing, resting, embracing, and feasting.
Ceasing is not only the cessation of physical labor, but resisting the addictive qualities that come with output and accomplishment. Ceasing is putting aside the dark mix of anxiety, worry, and tension that accompany our constant striving. Ceasing is letting go of the idea that we are so very righteous because we are so busy. Ceasing is the pausing for reflection and repose despite more items on our checklist. Because, the fact is, more items will always appear on our checklists.
Resting is next. Resting in all aspects, physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual rest. “Be still, and know that I am God,” invites Psalm 46. And if we will not be still and rest we might never know God. At least, the serene God of peace.
Then the practice of embracing. Embracing creation’s fullness. Dawn writes that the shalom of embracing means being “at peace with ourselves, health, wealth, fulfillment, satisfaction, contentment, tranquility, and—to summarize–wholeness.”
Finally is feasting. Feasting first and last upon the Eternal, on God’s own self. But feasting also on music, beauty, affection, and let’s not forget the food, either! Turn off the alarm. Settle into a hammock. Live in the moment. Fire up the grill. That is the best benediction I can possibly muster as I send you off into summer.
-Rev. Dale Rosenberger