Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sabbath Answers

I'm in a hurry to get things done,
Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun.
All I really gotta do is live and die
but I'm in a hurry and don't know why.
--Alabama

A couple years ago
, I included that refrain from one of my favorite Alabama songs in a blog post. It's been on my mind lately. I've been thinking a lot about Sabbath because Sabbath has been the theme of our early service at FLUMC. Or maybe, because I've been thinking about Rest/Sabbath, I decided to make it the theme of our early service this fall. Something like that. Everybody everywhere is busy. But sometimes the pace here in Franklin Lakes, in North Jersey, in these communities near NYC, is really just over-the-top. It's go, go, go. I'll never forget the children's sermon where I was asking the kids about how their parents spent their time. "Work," came the exhausted, stressed, tired-sounding response, from little ones ages 4 and 5 and 6. As I was thinking about my early service, I thought: there has to be a way we can talk about rest and sabbath in this community, and really encourage examining our time, how and why we spend it like we do.

When I posed my Sabbath Questions earlier this month, John, my lone respondent (this is what happens when you start blogging so rarely - people stop reading and responding!), asked me to respond to my own questions.

Keeping Sabbath has always been difficult for me. Or sometimes, frankly, not something I've made a priority. In my early service, I feel like I've chosen themes for the group that are actually things I'm just struggling with myself: rest and sabbath, now discernment. When I was going through my ordination process, both at my in-parish interview, and in my ordination interviews, rest, self-care, vacation, etc., came up as areas where I needed to pay more attention. So, I'm really trying.

I'm reading right now Justice in the Burbs, by Lisa and Will Samson, and really enjoying it. In one of the first chapters, they talk about our excuses for not working for justice.

"It seems as though we Americans do all we can to feel busy. In fact, the prevailing answer to the question, 'How are you?' is no longer, 'Fine, and you?' but 'Busy!' This allows us to feel like a player, a bootstrap puller, not a loafer or someone without goals or a to-do list a mile long, not like someone who isn't really going anywhere far. But does all this activity keep us from thinking about the bigger issues of life?" (58)

Honestly, I think clergy are particularly guilty of trying to out-busy one another, as if we'll get some sort of extra prize if we completely burn ourselves out and attend just one more meeting, lead one more study, make one more visit, until we have no time to nurture our spirits, and, God-forbid, relax and have a little fun, or take a nap. Compared to some of my colleagues, I've actually considered myself a lot more in-control of my time, not being "too busy." But at the same time, I can't deny that I'm also sometimes overwhelmed with a sense that I'm not doing enough, that I should be busier.

And so, I'm trying very hard these days to have Sabbath time, rest time. I'm actually taking two days off each week, and trying hard to be off on my days off, and not let church work keep in, which is pretty challenging. I've fallen back in love with my favorite North Jersey hiking spot, Campgaw Mountain. I can't entirely keep myself from mentally writing my sermon or planning for Advent while I'm on my hikes, but I come a lot closer, and enjoy the turkey, deer, ducks, squirrels, etc., and beautiful views. That time is definitely Sabbath time for me. As I've advised my little congregation at the early service, I'm trying to at least claim just little pieces, here and there. Reading. Online bible study from my Uncle. Spending time with friends, family, clergy colleagues. Little pieces.

Because, truly, busy-ness is not next to godliness. What is it that you and I are hoping to acheive by constantly thinking of what's next on our list of things to do? When James said that "faith without works is dead," I think he had a different idea of work in his mind. And while we're busy being busy, we seem to miss out on the kind of relationship-building risk-taking work that James did mean.
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