What is Sabbath
What is Sabbath? One way to understand Sabbath is by looking at what it is
Sabbath is not just a day off. I for one am careful to declare my one day off
per week. This day off is when my husband and I let go of all things work
related and tend to other aspects of our lives. But very often what you'll see
at our household on this day of rest is me climbing up and down stairways with
baskets of laundry to be cleaned or my husband flat on his back outside in the
driveway, under the carriage of our car, changing the oil. Or one of us rushing
to the dump before it closes with piles of leaf bags from hours worth of raking,
or checkbooks being balanced, bills being paid, countertops being cleaned,
library books returned, hours at the computer returning e-mails, then catching
up on phone calls, often beginning the conversation with a bit of guilt and the
preamble, "I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you, it's just
been so busy around here…." Does any of this sound familiar on your days
of "rest?" Usually by the days' end, I'm frustrated that not even half
of the "to do's on my list have been checked off. I've run out of time…
And so it goes.
Sabbath is not just one's trip to church or even other houses of worship.
Things get so busy in houses of worship, don't they? I'll never forget two
Easters ago, the CE committee was gangbuster busy that morning before the 10 AM service. There was one poor parishioner in the narthex, blowing up balloons
frantically with Alleluias logo on them, so they'd be ready when the children
came, another running around the church looking for more ribbon to tie up the
balloons. Still another stuffing Easter goodie bags with cookies another
parishioner had just baked and brought in last minute. There were others who had
stayed up late the night before stuffing Easter eggs, then youth and adults
running around early outside hiding eggs, preparing for the pre-worship Easter
egg hunt. People were scurrying about up and down the aisles of the church. One
person on our committee went against the tide by just sitting in the pew, of all
things, quietly, centering herself for worship. A month later she declared at
our committee meeting, "Why is it on the holiest day of the year, people
are exhausted before the service even starts with almost no energy left for
A poet from the Celtic Iona Community writes:
When the world tells us
We are what we do with
Our activity, our acumen, or achievement,
Let us learn
We are what we do with our silence.
Time is often such a vicious animal, we have aggressive ways of talking about
it in our culture -- killing time, stealing time, carving out time? Sabbath is
not killing time. It is holiness in time. It is God's time. Rabbi Abraham Joshua
Heschel even refers to Sabbath as a "palace in time." "To create
the seventh day all over again, the majesty of holiness in time, a day of rest,
a day of freedom…"
Sabbath is not busyness. Sabbath means rest. "Come to me," says Jesus,
"and I will grant you rest." Sabbath isn't restricted to houses of
worship; our Jewish brothers and sisters show us that Sabbath can begin in the
home, the place where our faith is to be nurtured and celebrated publicly, not
just privately. Sabbath begins in the Jewish tradition with a family meal on
Friday and the lighting of a candle 15 minutes before sundown.
Sabbath is not unintentional. Sabbath moments are best when anchored with
prayer. A little seven year old girl in our church knows what this means. She
pledged for Lent that she would turn off the TV during the week, and before
turning it on again, remember to say a prayer.
Sabbath is about loving God. "You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart, and all your soul and all your might." What if the
mightiest way we can love God is offering to God what is so very precious in our
lives. What if we offer more of our time to God by loving the creation God has
draped around our lives, creation that flourishes in our midst like garden beds
in June? Can we think of offering time to God by slowing down to love the people
God has blessed us with in our homes, through our friendships and through our
human ties -- with gratitude and lots of Amen's. What if the mightiest way we
could love God is by taking time to discover that we love because God first
Abide in God as God's love abides in us. This, my friends, takes time, this
takes Sabbath - that palace of time, ready for each of us. I close with a poem
by Edwina Gately, Let Your God Love You:
Before your God.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.
God loves you
With an enormous love,
And only wants
To look upon you
With that love.
Copyright © 2008
Gretchen L. Elmendorf. Used by