What does observing the Sabbath mean in your life? Next Sunday we will read of God’s injunction to “observe the sabbath day and keep it holy,” but what does that actually mean for us today?
For many, the word “sabbath” brings to mind dark images of silent Sundays stripped of ordinary pleasures and confined to prayer and Bible reading. On the other hand, just as many people long for times stripped of frantic activity and obligations that never seem to end. The pendulum, it seems, veers between one and the other.
It may help us to look more closely at what is intended here. Deuteronomy justifies the instruction by reminding the Israelites of the reason for the observance. “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.” Sabbath then is a space for recollection – a period set aside to remember
who we are, where we have come from, and how God has set us free
. It is an opportunity to care for the core of our true selves and to re-set the compass for our lives.
We are familiar with those times of being overwhelmed and even lost in the mess of our living.
How gracious is God to remind us we can step aside and reconsider what is at stake. How gracious is God to remind us that the tasks in hand, the obligations we meet, the responsibilities we bear, the energy we expend is of little value if it is not grounded in an understanding of who we are and whose we are.
The setting aside of one day each week may feel like an unrealistic, even impossible, goal. But we might choose to begin with a few mini-sabbaths for practice. Permission to exhale. Five minutes in a car pool line, ten minutes before a meeting, fifteen minutes in a waiting room, twenty minutes for a walk, and maybe (eventually) a whole day that is sabbath; a space to consider those things close to your heart. A place to move towards the peace that passes all understanding. A thin place, touched by holy love, where we come to know ourselves as beloved and can act out of that love.
The Rev. Susan N. Eaves