Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Beth
Thanks for the post!

I started keeping Sabbath several months ago and it has been an incredible journey. I define Sabbath as "remembering God and keeping one day holy for God." That means for one 24 hour period of each week I do no work - not work related to my occupation or to my household. I turn off the computer. I read something devotional but not work-related; this has opened me to new authors since I primarily read about church leadership, the emergent church, and commentaries. Now I'm trying to build a community of people who support one another's quest to keep Sabbath. The group is small but growing. We each pledge to keep 24 hours for God. We may each commit to a different day, but we commit to keep a regular Sabbath every week as a reminder that just as God rested we too rest, allowing all of creation to rest from our toil.

Good luck with your quest and with your focus in church!
Anonymous said…
Is not the Sabbath that Christ offers seven days a week? I'm thinking of Matthew 28:1.

Popular posts from this blog

re-post: devotional life for progressive Christians

I posted this a while back before anyone was really reading this blog. Now that more people seem to be stopping by, I thought I'd put it out there again with some edits/additons since it's been on my mind again... Do you find it difficult to have any sort of devotional time? When I was growing up, I was almost compulsive about my personal Bible Study, devotion time, etc. Somewhere along the way, I got more and more sporadic. In part, I found myself frustrated with the devotional books that I considered theologically too conservative. I find it hard to bond with God when you're busy mentally disagreeing with the author of whatever resource you're reading. My habit was broken, and I've never gotten it back for more than a few weeks at a time. So, a disciplined devotional/prayer/bible-reading life - is it something I should be striving to get back, or something that is filled by other ways I am close to God? This is a debate I have with myself all the time. On the

Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent, "Hope: A Thrill of Hope," Mark 1:1-8

Sermon 11/26/17 Mark 1:1-8 Hope: A Thrill of Hope             Are you a pessimist or an optimist? Is the glass of life half empty, or half full? My mom and I have gone back and forth about this a bit over the years. She’s wildly optimistic about most things, and sometimes I would say her optimism, her hopefulness borders on the irrational. If the weather forecast says there’s a 70% chance of a snowstorm coming, my mom will focus very seriously on that 30% chance that it is going to be a nice day after all. I, meanwhile, will begin adjusting my travel plans and making a backup plan for the day. My mom says I’m a pessimist, but I would argue that I’m simply a realist , trying to prepare for the thing that is most likely to happen, whether I like that thing or not. My mom, however, says she doesn’t want to be disappointed twice, both by thinking something bad is going to happen, and then by having the bad thing actually happen. She’d rather be hopeful, and enjoy her state of

Sermon for Second Sunday in Advent, "Peace: All Is Calm, All Is Bright," Isaiah 11:1-10, Mark 13:24-37

Sermon 12/3/17 Mark 13:24-37, Isaiah 11:1-10 Peace: All Is Calm, All Is Bright             “Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Round yon’ virgin mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.”             This week, I read news stories about North Korea testing a missile that perhaps could reach across the whole of the United States.             This week, I spoke with a colleague in ministry who had, like all churches in our conference, received from our church insurance company information about how to respond in an active shooter situation. She was trying to figure out how to respond to anxious parishioners and yet not get caught up in spending all of their ministry time on creating safety plans.             This week, we’ve continued to hear stories from people who have experienced sexual assault and harassment, as the actions, sometimes over decades, of men in positions of power have been