Revisiting and Reflecting on Sabbath and Rest
As I have been reading and reflecting on the topic of rest and Sabbath a couple of things have helped me to take my need for the Sabbath and rest more seriously. I believe more than ever that rest is good, Sabbath is a gift, and it is important to make both an intentional part of life. So in this month’s musing I will briefly share some of what has struck me in the hopes that it may help you revisit and reflect anew on the topic of rest and Sabbath. Now because I choose to actually practice resting and Sabbath I did not get this musing done in a timely manner. As a result this was not edited by those who help me with such things. Good luck with that J
· Sabbath is a gift and it is the first thing God declares to be holy! Before the Sabbath God declares what God created as good or very good. But the Sabbath is special and declared to be holy. Gen 2:2-3
· Sabbath is a part of the fabric of creation. We see it each day with the setting of the sun at which time we are again invited to rest. We see it in the seasons that remind us of the need for longer periods of rest.
· Because of the importance of Sabbath, of rest, and that it was a glorious yet largely unopened gift from God – God turns the invitation into a commandment. Ex 20:8-11.
· The Sabbath begins to be practiced but rather than bringing rest it births fear. The religious leaders afraid that the Sabbath will be transgressed, for it is on the same level on blasphemy and murder, devise an extensive set of rules designed to help the people not even come close to breaking the Sabbath. The Sabbath is now about rule keeping, appeasing God, but not rest. A chore to perform not a gift to be opened.
· This brings me to a new insight. I think there is still a lot of religious baggage attached to Sabbath. When many think of Sabbath what immediately springs to mind are certain activities to engage in and others to not to engage in. I believe this is the wrong perspective to bring to the Sabbath. Sabbath offers freedom and births inner freedom.
· Jesus reframes the Sabbath bringing it back in line with the original intention of God. Concerning the Sabbath Jesus teaches; “"The Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath. Jesus reminds us that Sabbath is a gift given by God for us, for you and me. And this is a needed gift and yet it is also much more! I think of Sabbath as food for our soul but not merely healthy food but marvelously scrumptious food for our soul. It is more than a bowl of oatmeal in the morning. It a spread of various kinds of fruits and nuts, honey and brown sugar to go with it, or an omelet bar with the chef standing behind it waiting for you to order (yes, I am writing this first thing in the morning)…. It is a beaconing banquet table begging us to taste, see and experience the goodness of God’s gift of rest.
· The following is a key insight that is often not internalized. Making Sabbath and rest a regular part of your life is for the sake of others at least as much as it is for you! This brings me to a wonderful quote by Parker Palmer:
‘Self Care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to share with others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for many others whose lives we touch.’
· Now here is the insight that has turned all this around for me. It is from a verse found in Exodus. Exodus 31:17 says this: “It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested.” Now you may be thinking; and so?! What is it about this verse that helped you to see all this differently?! This is just like all the others verses in the Old Testament that speak of the Sabbath - God rested and so should we. And if that is what you are thinking you would be correct, for clever boy that I am, I failed to quote the verse in its entirety. I left out the last three words. Those three words – and was refreshed! This I believe is the unknown treasure buried beneath the words Sabbath and rest - refeshment! What if refreshment became our guiding principle when it comes to determining what constitutes Sabbath and rest? What if the question was what refreshes you and it is those activities you engaged in on your Sabbath?
· Final insight. Paul tells us in 1 Cor 10:31; “that whether we eat or drink we can do so for the glory of God.” St Ignatius defines a spiritual discipline as anything we enter into with the intention of opening ourselves up to God. As I combine the thoughts of Paul and St Ignatius and sprinkle in Brother Lawrence’s teaching on practicing the presence of God I come to the realization that it is not about the activity we are engaging in but it is about our intention of opening to God in and through that refreshing activity whatever it may be.
So here is the question for you: What refreshes you? Spend some time thinking through what is it that refreshes you and then make a list of 5-10 things that answers that question for you. Once you have that list, print it out, put it on your home page or anywhere you can easily access it when you have time for Sabbath, for rest. This past Sunday it was raining and though I was tempted to get some work stuff done, in a leisurely manner, I stopped and looked at my list of what refreshes me then choose one and did that. It was wonderful!
· Final, Final insight! Something is better than nothing. Do not think you have to immediately start with an entire day. You can start small and build. Also do not think only in terms of a Sabbath but make rest a part of your day – brief respites of opening to God through something that refreshes you – that first sip of coffee, a song, a picture on your screen…a mere moment with God can refresh and reset your soul in wonderful ways that are good for you and good for others.
Now go and be refreshed.
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