Sabbath

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. -Exodus 20:8-11

Something about the month of June always makes me feel ready to take a rest. The school year comes to an end, and student and teachers alike rejoice at the last day of the semester. In Iowa, the planting season comes to an end, and farmers rest while seeds germinate and grow. In the Church, the season of festivals comes to an end, and worshippers settle into the long green “Season After Pentecost,” sometimes called “Ordinary Time.”

As Christians, we have a special relationship with the idea of rest: God calls it Sabbath. God offers Sabbath to the people of God as both gift and command. Out of every seven days, God says, one should be set aside for rest. What’s more, says God, the day of rest isn’t just for the well-off, but for everyone: adults and children, slaves and immigrants. Even the donkey should get a day off!

The idea of Sabbath runs counter to our culture of side hustles and 24-7 availability. Many of us were taught that our value lies in what we accomplish or that hard work is its own reward. God, contrary to our constant work, work, work, shows us the example and gives us the command to rest. Not the kind of rest where you’re just going to fold that load of laundry while you watch a movie, but the kind of rest where you truly do nothing but refresh your spirit. 

The kind of rest you get in a hammock, for instance. Have you ever tried to bring your work with you into a hammock? Trust me, it does not work. At best, the hammock gets crowded and uncomfortable. At worst, that hammock flips and unceremoniously dumps its occupant and all their stuff out on the ground. You cannot multitask in a hammock. You cannot multitask a Sabbath, either. The Sabbath is “holy,” or, in other words, “set apart for something special.” It can’t be multi-tasked AND specially set apart. Sabbath is for rest and restoration.

When did you last take a whole day out of a week to do only things that refresh your spirit? When did you last keep the Sabbath? Maybe June can be a reminder month for you as it is for me, that we all need rest. Maybe you can lay in a hammock, listening to the birds and watching the clouds float past, giving thanks to God for Sabbath.

God of rest, thank you for the gift of Sabbath. Help me to rest when I need it, and to see a rhythm of rest and work as your good and holy plan for human flourishing. Amen.