Country Pastor column: 'Summer' is for 'Sabbath' and Sabbath means to rest
By Adam W. Westrich, pastor of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Ellsworth
The programming year for most of us pastors has just come to a close. This is also true for most of our ministry partners, as Sunday School classes (for both adults and children), along with most of our other programming, often takes a break for the summer. This isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's a good thing.
Summer, for most of us involved in the ministry of Jesus Christ (this includes everyone from pastors to those who make sure our potlucks take place), brings with it the opportunity for rest—for not going to evening meetings at church, for not spending Saturday nights preparing Sunday School lessons, and for many other "nots" as well.
Summer, then, represents "Sabbath." Sabbath for many may seem like an archaic word; a word that no longer has meaning. However, that cannot be farther from the truth. Sabbath is that thing we all need to do to keep balance in our life—for sabbath is a commitment to rest. In contemporary lingo, sabbath is giving one's self permission to take care of one's self. And of course, "sabbath" has its roots in our holy scriptures.
You see, from the very beginning God intended our world to be ordered by rhythms—that when lived into—brought about balance and peace. For our Hebrew friends, that's Shalom, which means total wellbeing. For example, in the very beginning, according to our Genesis account, God created stuff for six days and then rested on the seventh. Isn't it interesting—at least, it has always interested me—that the very first full day that human beings were alive, according to the
Genesis account, they rested?
Think about it. If you were a fully grown and fully formed human being living your first full day, wouldn't you want to at least get up and explore the world around you? In Adam and Eve's case, the garden of Eden? And yet, they were instructed to rest. Then, when Israel was given their "law," we see this pattern of work and rest again. For according to our scriptures (Exodus 20:8-11): "Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it."
Beloved of God's, we all need rest. We need to work, too. And we need to rest.
It's not either or, it's both and. Thus, the wisdom of our Hebrew and Christian tradition is this. We all need to find a balance between work and rest. We all need to find balance between play, family time, and together as a family taking time to rest.
I remember while growing up that Sundays, for my family, were a day set apart to rest. We always got up on the morning and went to church. Then, we went to our local grocery store to pick up the paper, of which my favorite part was always the comics; a few things for the week, usually milk and cheese and that one veggie that had just gone bad the day before (and don't forget my stick of beef jerky at the checkout!); we often picked out a movie or two, to watch when we got home. For us, Sunday was truly a day to kick back, take a nap and watch a movie—but only after having eaten a beautifully prepared Sunday lunch. Thanks, Mom!
Sometimes, I miss those days—for being a father of three all under 7, sabbath takes on new meanings and to make it happen takes a lot of strategy.
All that said, we all need rest. So, take some time to rest this summer. Yes, go visit and travel and do all that summery stuff, and don't forget to stop, slow down and take some time to rest.
Beloved of God's, May God bless you a full measure, by giving you the capacity to accomplish more than you can imagine on those days that are less than restful, when you honor yourself, and your God, and take time to rest.
Peace and wellbeing to you!